History Shows 2011 Was The Best Time in The Last Decade to Scrap a Car

Most people are used to prices going up, so it can be a bit of a shock when this rule of thumb doesn’t always apply. Scrap metal prices have actually been declining over the last decade, making the offers that people receive for their ‘hunks of junk’ a lot lower than they expected. We’ll look at how prices have fluctuated over the years and how that’s had an impact on the wider industry.

What Was the Value of Scrap Metal in 2011 for a Junked Car?

If you hauled your car in during this year to a junkyard or called a scrapping service, you could have expected a reasonably nice haul. The scrapyard could have expected to extract over $800 worth of metal on average that year. The average car is about 2,150 pounds of scrap metal and it would have gone for an average of $866. No other year since then has been that high.

Of course, that’s the value for the junkyard or scrapping service, as opposed to the value of the cash in your hand.

But if you had a car sitting in the back of your yard that hadn’t been driven in 15 years, that’s not too shabby. Plus, you get the vehicle off your property, which is often every bit as valuable as the actual cash.

What Affects the Price of My Scrapped Car?

Plenty. The local market, regional market, national balance, tax policies, and subsidies can all factor into how much a car is worth. In other words, it’s at the mercy of forces from just outside your front door and around the world. We’ll look at the three major metals that you need to know about.


In 2011, steel scrap price was nearly $400. In 2016, it dipped to about half that. Since, then it’s been ping-ponging, going from $323 in 2018 to $266 in 2019 before dropping yet again in 2020 to $251. 


As for aluminum, the price went from $1.14 per pound in 2011 to $.72 in 2020. Much like steel, the prices never went any higher than in 2011, and we saw an all-time low of $.70 in 2016 before landing at $.72 in 2020. The price of aluminum is correlated with the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so it’s more dependent on the international economy than the local one.

The more growth there is around the world, the more prices for aluminum will climb. So a metric ton of the metal would have gotten a seller $2,752 in 2011 and $1,456 mid-way through 2020. It’s amazing how many variations can be found in the world of scrapping! 


Lastly, we’ll look at the prices of copper. Peaking in January of 2011 at $4.58 per pound, the average for that year was $4. In 2016, the average price was $2.20. In 2020, the prices bounced back some with an average of $2.70.

An Unpredictable Recovery

The pandemic pushed prices down even further, though we are starting to see a rebound thanks to the recovery of China . Still, because we likely won’t see things go back to normal for a while, the future is less than predictable.

There are other factors when it comes to extracting all of the value from your car. For instance, your converter will have other valuable metals. But that platinum group is still not enough to get your price anywhere near what we would have seen in 2011.

How Much Will You Actually Get?

It’s tough to get more than $500 for a scrapped car today, and even getting that much would be unlikely. It takes a lot of resources to separate the metals from a car, which needs to be factored into how much you’re offered. After the scrap yard or service has deducted the labor and equipment used (plus any profits), they’ll offer you what’s leftover.

In other words, if you had sold a Honda Civic in 2011, you could essentially expect about half the price for the same car in 2020. It can be slightly easier to swallow the reality when you understand the reasons for it.

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