What’s the difference between a scrap car and a salvage car?

It’s not unusual to hear these terms used interchangeably, even by customers browsing our online car auctions here at RAW2K. However, although both types of car are generally considered to be in a state of less than pristine repair, there are actually tangible differences between a scrap and salvage car, which can often serve as key indicators of how useful you’ll find them. Below, we’ve covered some easy ways to tell the difference!

What is a scrap car?

In a nutshell, scrap cars are end-of-life vehicles that have, as the moniker suggests, reached the end of their useful lifespan. They’re usually at least 10 years old, but this isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule, and in the vast majority of cases they don’t have any parts that are worth recovering or re-using. For that reason, they tend to have less value than salvage cars, which tend to have at least some components with some practical or financial value. 

Since most dealers understandably prioritise cars with salvageable parts, it can make vehicles classed as ‘scrap cars’ notoriously tricky to sell. Instead, most of the time the entire car is simply recycled at specialised facilities and scrap yards - all of which need to be legally licenced by the Environment Agency as Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs). During this process, the scrap car is depolluted, with all its toxic and dangerous chemicals and fluids removed, and all its internal parts removed to be broken down into their component materials, which can then be re-used for other purposes. (The rubber from car tyres, for example, is often used as asphalt for roads and racetracks.) 

In terms of salvage categories, scrap cars tend to fall under Category A or Category B vehicles. Category A cars are defined as being strictly scrap only, and therefore not safe to be driven on the roads again. Category B cars, on the other hand, can still have parts salvaged, but the main body of the car has to be crushed. 

What is a salvage car?

As we’ve touched on above, salvage cars differ from scrap cars in that they still have practical and financial value to buyers, sellers and owners. Salvage cars are typically scrap cars that have been made roadworthy again, or (if they’re non-runners) still have parts that can be re-sold or reused. They’re usually, but not always, less than a decade old. 

As you might expect, professional mechanics and hobbyists tend to take more of an interest in salvage cars, as they can be used to repair similar makes or models of car. They might even still have a viable future ahead of them as roadworthy machines themselves. Salvage cars typically fall into the Category N or Category S headings. Although these vehicles are frequently salvaged for their parts, one of the questions that we often hear from people is: should I buy a Category S car?

Well, that’s really up to you! Here at RAW2K, we’ve got a huge range of auction cars and salvage cars in our online car auctions, as well as van auctions, and even a fair few motorcycles. It’s easy to get started - all you have to do is search, sign up and start bidding!