Generally speaking, scrap cars have always tended to be worth a few quid. Especially back in the old days when it was considered acceptable to salvage the metal for its value and simply discard the rest. But today things are quite different, with environmental pressures resulting in higher processing costs. This first article in our ‘Lifting the bonnet’ series takes a look at the different things that need to be considered when working out the value of a typical scrap car.
It’s long been understood that the best form of recycling is re-use. So if a car has any parts that can be salvaged, these are removed wherever possible and made ready for sale. The types of parts that can be salvaged varies hugely. Let’s say your car is only a few years old, you’ve maintained it well but someone has driven into the back of you at the lights. Your car may very well be a write-off, but if your engine has survived intact and it’s in good condition, it could be worth somewhere in the region of £1,500. Or perhaps, in a desperate attempt to keep an older car on the road, you’ve just spent a fortune with the local garage fitting brand new parts, but, to no avail, another problem crops up which is beyond repair. Quite understandably you might be a bit put out at the prospect of losing the replacement parts fitted only five minutes ago. But it might cheer you up to know that in some cases you could get something back for any re-usable parts.
The older cars get, the less likely it is that any of its parts will have a value. With the average scrap car being thirteen years old, most are simply too old and worn out. This is made more of a challenge as there just isn’t the demand there once was for spare parts due to the wide availability of cheap, brand new, after-market parts. The unfortunate truth is that when most cars reach the end of their useful life, they’re destined straight for the scrap heap.
Around three quarters of your car is metal, and as metal doesn’t lose any of its qualities when recycled, it has a sales value comparable with newly produced material. Each of the various types of metal in your car has a different value.
The bodyshell and various parts of the drivetrain are usually made of ferrous (iron-containing) metal, which is of a relatively low value. To give you an idea what it’s worth, over the last five years the average value of ‘light iron’, which has been used for body panels, comes in at just over £120 per tonne. However, this is far from stable, as over this period the value has dropped by two thirds!
Non-ferrous metals make up just under a third of the metal content. These more valuable metals are used in higher performance parts, where strength and weight saving is important, such as in the engine, gearbox and alloy wheels. The lead in lead acid batteries is also of significantly higher value, with scrap batteries being worth around £500 per tonne and the average battery weighing in at 4.5 kg.
At the far end of the value spectrum, the catalytic converter that forms part of your exhaust system may contain precious metals such as Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium. These materials are worth in the region of £13,000 to £22,000 per kg – that’s right, per kilogram! However, they are only available in minuscule quantities and require highly specialist, very expensive extraction techniques.
Perhaps the most important point to note is that all of these metals are traded on worldwide markets, which means their values fluctuate from one day to the next, in line with supply and demand.
With the value of parts and metal being so unpredictable, this doesn’t make it easy to work out how much a scrap car is worth. But at least the costs associated with recycling scrap cars are more consistent.