Salvage or Scrap: What is the Difference?

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: August 1, 2023

In this article, we delve into the dissimilarities between scrapping and salvaging, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of each practice. By grasping the disparities between these two terms, you can make informed decisions for your specific needs. So, whether you’re a car enthusiast or a casual owner looking to retire your old vehicle, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to make the best decision.

What is a Salvage Car?

car written off after accident

A salvage car refers to a vehicle that has been declared a total loss by an insurance company due to circumstances such as accidents, theft, flood damage, or other incidents. Salvage cars are typically damaged to the point that the cost of repairs surpasses a substantial percentage of the vehicle’s market value, making it economically impractical to restore them to their original condition.

Salvage cars come with a salvage title that indicates their damaged history. These vehicles can be purchased by individuals or businesses, intending to repair and resell them or extract usable parts. Salvage cars can be great resources for auto enthusiasts, mechanics, and those hunting for rare parts.

How is a Salvage Car Assessed?

When assessing a salvage car, professionals use a categorisation system to determine the extent of damage and the feasibility of repair. These categories, commonly referred to as “cat write-offs,” provide a standardised way to classify salvage vehicles. Here are the main categories used in the assessment process:

Category B (Unrepairable Break Cars):

Vehicles classified as Category B have sustained severe damage, rendering them beyond repair. Although the car as a whole cannot be salvaged, certain parts and components may still be salvaged and recycled for reuse in other vehicles.

Category C (Repairable Cars):

Category C vehicles have suffered damage where the cost of repairs exceeds the market value of the car. While they are considered uneconomical to repair, salvageable parts and components can still be recovered and recycled.

Category D (Repairable):

In the case of Category D, the estimated cost of repairs is deemed lower than the market value of the vehicle. This means that although the car has been damaged, it can still be repaired and put back on the road. However, the cost-benefit analysis suggests that the repairs should not exceed the vehicle’s market value.

Category S (Repairable and Structural):

Vehicles falling into Category S have experienced structural damage, such as damage to the frame or chassis. While the structural integrity of the car has been compromised, it can still be repaired and made roadworthy. After repairs, Category S vehicles can be resold.

Category N (Non-structural):

Category N classification applies to cars involved in accidents where no structural damage has occurred. However, there might still be a need to replace safety-critical parts for the vehicle to be considered roadworthy.

What is a Scrap Car?

scrap cars

A scrap car, often referred to as an ‘end of life’ vehicle, falls under the ‘Category A’ write-off. These vehicles are beyond repair and none of their parts are reusable. Cars in this category have typically been involved in severe accidents, failed an MOT test, or simply reached the end of their lifespan. You can run an online car check to find out more.

The process of car scrapping, however, has a positive environmental impact. Each car is fully stripped down, and the materials are repurposed and reused, which contributes to reducing waste and conserving resources.

What is the Main Difference Between a Scrap and Salvage Car?

The distinction between a salvage and scrap car primarily hinges on the vehicle’s condition and the usability of its parts. While salvage cars are damaged, they still harbour parts that can be reused. On the other hand, scrap vehicles are damaged beyond repair, and their parts are unfit for reuse. In essence, a salvage car represents potential value through parts or repair, while a scrap car symbolises finality – it’s only value lies in its raw materials.

What is the Difference Between Scrap and Salvage Cars for Buyers?

For buyers, the key difference lies in their intentions. If you’re looking to salvage useful parts or invest in a repairable vehicle, a salvage car is your best bet. However, if you’re primarily interested in the weight of the vehicle for the value of its raw materials, a scrap car is a more suitable option. Here’s the difference between scrap and salvage cars for buyers:

Scrap Cars: Scrap cars are typically vehicles that are considered to have reached the end of their useful life. These cars are usually inoperable or have severe damage, making them uneconomical to repair. They are often sold for their scrap metal value rather than their potential to be restored or driven. Buyers of scrap cars are typically interested in salvaging usable parts or recycling the vehicle for its raw materials, such as metal.

Salvage Cars: Salvage cars are vehicles that have been damaged to the extent that an insurance company has deemed them uneconomical to repair. While salvage cars may have significant damage, they still retain some potential value for buyers. Salvage vehicles can be purchased by individuals or businesses with the intention of repairing or rebuilding them. 

Buyers of salvage cars may include professional mechanics, car enthusiasts, or those looking for a cost-effective project. The salvage title indicates that the vehicle has been declared a total loss by an insurance company.

It’s important to note that the requirements and regulations for buying and owning scrap or salvage cars can vary by jurisdiction. Before purchasing a scrap or salvage vehicle, it’s advisable to familiarise yourself with the local laws, regulations, and potential challenges associated with obtaining necessary documentation or re-registering the vehicle.

The Main Benefits of Salvage Cars

Cost-Effective for Buying: Salvage cars are often priced significantly lower than their undamaged counterparts. This affordability can be a major advantage for buyers on a budget or those looking for a cheaper alternative to buying a new or used car from a traditional dealership.

Some Salvage Vehicles Are in Good Shape for Buying: While many salvage cars have significant damage, there are instances where salvage vehicles may have minimal or manageable damage. These cars can be a great find for buyers who are skilled in vehicle repairs or have access to affordable repair services. Purchasing a salvage car in relatively good condition can save you money and still provide a reliable vehicle.

Cost-Effective to Sell Parts: Depending on the extent of the damage, valuation, and market demand, it may be more cost-effective to sell salvaged parts from a salvaged car rather than selling the entire vehicle. Some salvage cars have salvageable parts that are still in good condition and can be sold individually. This can be a profitable endeavour for individuals with knowledge of the automotive parts market or connections to potential buyers.

It’s important to keep in mind that salvage cars come with certain risks and challenges. The extent of the damage may not always be apparent, and repairs can be costly and time-consuming. Thoroughly assessing the condition of a salvage car and considering the potential expenses involved are essential before making a purchase decision.

The Main Benefits of Scrap Cars

Scrapping cars benefits the environment by reducing landfill waste and promoting recycling. The reuse of scrapped parts in new vehicles also lessens the energy used in car production. Depending on the vehicle’s condition and weight, you may find that scrapping your car nets you more money than selling it outright.

Scrap Your Car Online Today

man holding a scrap claw

Looking to scrap your car? RegCarCheck is offering a new car online scrapping service. With just a few clicks, you can get a quote and initiate the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is salvage value and junk value the same thing?

While they might sound similar, salvage value and junk value are not the same. The salvage value of a car refers to its estimated worth after all depreciation is accounted for, which is generally considered at the end of the vehicle’s usable life. This value can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the make and model, the vehicle’s condition, and its age.

Why do scrap cars cost so much?

The price of scrap cars primarily depends on the current market rate for scrap metal. Cars contain various valuable metals like steel, aluminium, copper, and sometimes even precious metals like platinum in catalytic converters. These metals are recyclable, and their value can add up to a considerable amount. 

However, the process of scrapping a car involves labour, machinery, and facilities, which all cost money. These overhead costs are factored into the price offered for scrap cars. Lastly, the fluctuation in scrap metal prices, driven by supply and demand dynamics in the global market, can lead to changes in scrap car prices.

How can I scrap my car?

If you’ve decided to scrap your car, there are several steps to follow. 

  1. Firstly, research and choose a reliable scrap car service, like RegCarCheck’s online scrapping service. 
  2. Get a quote for your vehicle by providing the necessary information, such as the make, model, age, and condition of your car. 
  3. If you’re satisfied with the quote, arrange for a convenient pick-up time. 
  4. Ensure you have all the necessary documentation ready, including proof of ownership and any relevant insurance papers. 
  5. After the car is collected, you’ll receive a Certificate of Destruction, confirming that your car has been scrapped legally and responsibly.

Remember, it’s crucial to inform the DVLA that you’re scrapping your car to avoid any future liability.

Do I need to notify the DVLA that I am scrapping my car?

Yes, it’s essential to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) when you’re scrapping your car. When a vehicle is scrapped, the DVLA must be notified so they can update their records and stop taxing the vehicle. Failure to do so could result in a fine. 

Once the vehicle has been collected for scrapping, the scrapyard will issue a Certificate of Destruction which you can use to notify the DVLA. Alternatively, you can also do this online using the 11-digit number on your vehicle logbook (V5C). After notification, you should automatically receive a refund for any full month of the remaining tax. 

In summary, understanding the process and responsibilities of scrapping or salvaging your car will ensure you make an informed and legal decision that suits your needs.