About 1.8 million cars are scrapped in the UK each year, but doing so responsibly isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. The EU has strict regulations on scrapping cars in an environmentally friendly way, and there are heavy penalties for firms and consumers who break the rules.
Here’s our guide to the best ways to part with a car that’s beyond repair.
Find a buyer
Even if you think your car is not worth repairing, someone else may disagree so it’s always worth simply trying to sell an old banger. Advertising your car on Autotrader.co.uk, Gumtree.com or Motors.co.uk could catch the eye of a mechanic looking to fix old cars and get them back on the road.
Another option is to sell it using Tootle.co.uk, which enables sellers to list vehicles for free and receive offers from professional car buyers.
Gordon Tulloch, chief executive of Tootle, says the site puts consumers in control of how much they get for their car. “The prices you get are genuine offers to buy rather than the ‘online valuations’ common on other sites,” he explains. “Unless the seller misrepresents their vehicle, the price you’re offered is likely to be the price you’re paid on handover.”
Rival firm WeBuyAnyCar.com offers online valuations for old cars, but it reserves the right to reduce the price after the car has been assessed at a depot.
Once you’ve found a buyer, you’ll need to complete sections six and eight of the car’s V5C registration certificate (also known as the ‘log book’) and send it to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You’ll also need to complete and hand over the ‘new keeper’ part of the V5C to your buyer.
Recycle your car
If you’re certain your car’s days on the road are over, you could get cash for scrapping your vehicle. But only scrapyards with certain licences – known as authorised treatment facilities (ATFs) – are legally allowed to scrap your car.
All ATFs must have a licence issued by the Environment Agency or Scottish Environment Protection Agency showing they comply with the standards laid out in the EU end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) directive. This states that 95% of car materials must be recycled.
Car recycling websites such as CarTakeBack.com, Sellyourjamjar.co.uk and RewardRecycling.co.uk take the hassle out of finding an ATF and getting a quote for your car.
“Everything can be sorted out online,” says Kathryn Byng, spokesperson for CarTakeBack, which has a nationwide network of around 300 registered ATFs. “By entering the postcode and the registration number of the car you'd like to scrap into the CarTakeBack website, you'll be given an instant online quote and offered the option of either delivering the car to a local centre or having it collected free of charge.”
Scrap car prices vary depending on the vehicle and location, but average £60 for a medium-sized car. Prices vary on a monthly basis because the value of your vehicle is linked to the global price of certain commodities such as recycled steel.
Some motorists might be tempted to sell off parts such as tyres and batteries individually and then negotiate directly with a scrapyard for the remainder. This can be tricky, however, as many scrapyards only accept vehicles, which have all their essential parts – so it's a strategy best left to experienced amateur or professional mechanics.
Take care of the paperwork
It’s important to get the paperwork sorted properly when scrapping your car. If legal ownership isn't correctly transferred, you remain responsible for the vehicle and any unpaid tax or fines associated with it.
The Scrap Metal Dealers' Act 2013 states that customers in England and Wales need to prove their identity when selling their car as scrap. The ATF will need to see, and keep a copy of, photo ID (such as your passport or driving licence) and proof of your address.
Car owners should retain section three (notification of sale or transfer of a vehicle) of the vehicle’s V5C certificate, and give the remainder to the ATF. It will arrange for a ‘certificate of destruction’ (CoD) to be generated by the DVLA, which absolves the previous owner of any further responsibility for the vehicle.
“All CarTakeBack's recycling centres are ATFs and use their secure electronic link to the DVLA’s registration database to promptly issue a CoD,” explains Ms Byng. “If the customer delivers the car, this can be done while they wait. Alternatively, it can be sent via post or email as soon as the car arrives at the recycling centre.”
Once the DVLA receives the CoD, it should automatically refund any unused vehicle excise duty (road tax). However, it’s down to you to call your insurance company and let it know your car has been scrapped. It should give you a refund for any unused months of insurance, but may charge an administration fee for cancelling the policy.
If your car is being scrapped because it’s an insurance write-off, your insurance company will usually deal with scrapping the car. You’ll need to send your V5C to your insurance company, but keep the yellow slip (V5C/3) from it.
Your vehicle will be written off if it’s beyond repair or would cost too much to repair. However, the damage to your vehicle doesn’t have to be serious for it to be written off. In some cases, the insurance company might give you an insurance payout and then sell the vehicle back to you.
Avoid dodgy dealers
Despite the strict rules surrounding car scrapping, there are still some unscrupulous operators around. If you hand over your car to them, they’re likely to patch it up and sell it abroad or strip it of its valuable metal and illegally dump the rest.
Only licensed ATFs can provide a genuine certificate of destruction so watch out for fraudsters trying to con you with a fraudulent 'certificate of disposal' or 'destruction certificate’.
Tracey McBain, of automotive specialists Lookers, says alarm bells should start ringing if anyone offers you cash to scrap your car.
“It is illegal for anyone to pay cash for a scrap vehicle since the Scrap Metal Dealers Act was introduced in 2013 to prevent metal theft. A genuine dealer will pay by cheque or a direct payment into your bank account, and they can only take the vehicle off your hands after they’ve seen your passport or driving licence,” she says.
Don’t be tempted to simply dump a car you don’t want any more – the local authorities could prosecute you.
“If your vehicle has been abandoned in the open air, the local authorities will search its registration plate in the DVLA’s database,” says Ms McBain, “Once you’ve been identified as the owner, you’ll be given seven days to either collect the vehicle or pay the cost of its removal and storage.”
Donate your old car to charity
Another option is to turn your old car into a cash donation to charity. Giveacar.co.uk is a not-for-profit social enterprise that can arrange free collection, then either sell your car at auction or scrap it with the proceeds raised going to a charity of your choice.
Since its launch in 2010, Giveacar has raised more than £2 million for about 2,700 charities and coordinated the collection of more than 22,000 vehicles. Charitycar.com offers a similar service.
Cash incentives for diesel car owners
Diesel car owners could soon be offered a cash incentive to scrap their cars as the government is keen to reduce pollution and encourage ownership of more environmentally friendly vehicles.
Air pollution, caused largely by diesel cars emitting high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), is thought to attribute to 40,000 deaths in the UK every year.
Various environmental groups are campaigning for the government to introduce a cash incentive to persuade diesel drivers to trade in their car for an environmentally friendly alternative. But despite predictions to the contrary, the diesel scrappage scheme didn’t form part of Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s spring Budget.
“The work needed to fix my car outweighed its value”
Claire Ryman, 43 (below), a foot health practitioner from Oxfordshire, used CarTakeBack to dispose of her Peugeot 307 hdi.
“It had done nearly 170,000 miles as my job involved a lot of driving. I had spoken to a friend who I completely trusted regarding mechanics with my car and he advised me it needed a new fuel pump and injectors. It also needed new brakes, and two tyres were on the point of needing to be changed – so that amounted to roughly £1,500 worth of work. With the mileage on the car, the work to fix it outweighed the value of the car as it was a ’57 plate,” says Claire.
“I went on the internet and found CarTakeBack. I entered the registration number then it asked me basic questions and gave me the total of what they would pay. I thought it was good value, so I went ahead.”
CarTakeBack paid Claire £235 for her car and collected it from her home. The money was transferred to her bank account within three days.