close of wheel on blue car

5 Most Valuable Car Parts For Recycling

New cars made from recycled parts were unheard of decades ago. But with corporations under immense pressure to cut their carbon footprint, some car brands have taken steps to make their models with recycled materials. ‘Circular manufacturing,’ as industry experts call it, may be the future – and you, the car owner, have a part to play.

A car is a treasure trove of raw materials, whether broken or has seen better days. Carmakers will pay top dollar for anything that can be smelted and moulded again, from the steel frame body to the rare earth metal coatings in the catalytic converter. Car recyclers can salvage about 80% of a car, generating more than 23 million tonnes of salvaged material annually.

Take advantage of the fact that cars are the most recycled consumer product in the world today. You can earn a fortune by selling the following car parts for scrap:

1. Infotainment system

Depending on how old the car is, a car’s stereo or infotainment system for modern models can net you a substantial sum. For one, there won’t be a shortage of buyers looking for a functional second-hand system to replace their built-in ones. Don’t worry if the unit isn’t working anymore; car recycling disposal services can still recover the metals for cash.

Even if it’s working, it’s unlikely that you’ll get the full market value for an infotainment system. The actual numbers vary wildly, but you’ll be lucky to sell one for at least a few hundred dollars.

2. Engine

As the beating heart of every vehicle, the engine will most likely command a high value. If it’s still working and you know someone needs a replacement, selling it won’t be too difficult. For most cars, a complete swap-out is so costly that owners are better off buying a brand-new ride. That’s why they go for second-hands whenever possible.

There’s still a fortune for non-working engines, as car part recycling services are after the aluminium that comprises most engine parts. As of this writing, the global price for aluminium costs around four times as much as steel per tonne. 

close up of mechanic hand

3. Catalytic converter

This component along the exhaust pipe underneath initiates reactions that make a car’s emissions less dangerous to the Earth. Three metal coatings are necessary for this: palladium, platinum, and rhodium. If two or all these metals seem unfamiliar to you, it speaks volumes about their rarity.

Of these three rare earth metals, platinum is the most abundant. According to the University of California Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources, the Earth’s crust contains about a millionth of 1% of the metal. Only five countries produce nearly all of the world’s platinum, and mining it is easier said than done, so it’s only normal for them to charge a premium.

These metals make catalytic converters so valuable that they’re a target for thieves, with police in Canterbury reporting several cases last year. It even urged the New Zealand Association of Metal Recyclers to set up an online portal where car owners can report such crimes. 

4. Alloy wheels

Another source of valuable metals is alloy wheels or rims. Manufacturers create these out of a vast array of metals, but pure aluminium or alloys will get you the most money. You already know how valuable aluminium is, so here’s a brief about the other metals.

Magnesium alloy wheels – known as mags – aren’t as common as aluminium, but it makes them worth a lot. Most mags combine magnesium and calcium, primarily to mitigate the magnesium’s tendency to catch fire. They don’t last as long as aluminium on the road but can be sold as a collectable.

Titanium wheels benefit from being as strong as it’s lightweight. However, the titanium here is limited to the hub and spoke portions, whereas the barrel is mainly carbon fibre. Moreover, the complex manufacturing process involved limits their quantities in the market.

5. Undeployed airbags

Believe it or not, there’s a market for airbags that haven’t deployed, especially the ones by the driver and front passenger sides. But don’t attempt to remove one yourself unless you know what you’re doing. The explosive charge inside can activate at the slightest mistake, leading to injury. 

The dismantling process is delicate enough for scrappers to call in Explosive Ordinance Disposal units for help. Any damage sustained during the dismantling can cause the airbag to lose value.


Don’t let this brief list limit what you can sell at the scrapper. A car is an array of complex parts working together to bring people from one place to another. There’s no shortage of anything car owners can get to car recycling for cash, provided someone else will find a use for it.