Selling a Car That Has Collision Damage

by Don Elliott on August 16, 2012

Selling a wrecked car is much harder than selling a car that is all in one piece. Establishing a fair selling price and getting the car in front of the right buyers can be overwhelming for consumers who are not exposed to world of damaged and salvage vehicles.

Finding a Selling Price – Right up front, understanding of the severity of the damage will be necessary to evaluate how much the vehicle is worth with the unrepaired damage. Full disclosure about the damage in advertising or communication with potential buyers will make closing the sale more of a sure thing. If an estimate of repair is available, it is a fairly simple matter of determining the used car value for a similar undamaged car and subtracting the amount of the estimate. The fair market value will be something less than that number depending on the severity of the damage.

Total Loss – On an older car, the amount of the damage could be more than the car is worth. For example, a minor front end collision with the airbags deployed can easily cost $3000-4000 to repair. If the car was only worth $2800 before the accident, the damage on the car is more than the car is worth, or a total loss. The car still has value, but more so for parts than for a car that could be repaired. Salvage yards and dismantlers are probably the best potential buyers for a car that is a “total loss”. They may not pay the most money, but they have access to tow trucks and a national exposure to used parts buyers.

Damaged But Drivable – Minor damage can mean a great car buy to someone who doesn’t have much money to spend on a car. Rarely will you see a car with sheet metal damage on a car dealer’s lot, even at the low end dealerships. Most dealers will fix minor damage and could be buyers for your car if the damage is not too significant. Craig’s List is one website where shoppers will buy cars with problems. Another website that caters to buyers willing to buy damaged cars is At any of these sites, it is critical to explain as much about the damage as possible. Multiple pictures will tell an important story about the used car value of your car to a buyer of cars with collision damage.

Auto Auctions – Depending on the worth or your car, consigning it to an auto auction  that specializes in damaged vehicles is a good alternative. Copart auto auctions specialize in selling damaged and wrecked cars for insurance companies. They have recently added a consumer consignment opportunity that is a good option for a car that still has some value. Through their Copart Direct program, they will make an offer to buy your car regardless of condition. ADESA car auctions are not yet ready to accept consumer consignment, but they have recently begun buying cars, including wrecked vehicles.

Salvage – If all else fails, particularly if the car isn’t drivable, you can sell your car for scrap value. Scrap dealers will pick up your car but will charge for their tow. Be sure to ask for an estimate before agreeing to have your car picked up for salvage. Salvage values are market priced, currently $200-250 per ton.

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