A junkyard, also commonly known as a salvage business, collects items consumers no longer deem usable. This “scrap” is then transformed to meet the requirements of specific buyers. Scraps and raw materials can be acquired from junked appliances, vehicles, furniture, and demolished houses. Junkyard owners dealing in automobiles acquire decommissioned vehicles from individuals and companies. They serve as either a short-term collection and storage facility for vehicles on their way to another destination or as the auto’s final resting place. For the latter, junkyard owners remove any valuable parts for resale and crush the rest.
Learn how to start your own Junkyard Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.
Start a junkyard business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Junkyard Business
- Form your Junkyard Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Junkyard Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Junkyard Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Junkyard Business
- Get Junkyard Business Insurance
- Define your Junkyard Business Brand
- Create your Junkyard Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your junkyard business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Junkyard Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a junkyard business?
Many junkyard business owners report minimal start-up investment, citing land as the largest upfront cost. If you already own several acres of land, check with local officials to determine if it is commercially zoned. If not, you will need to invest in a plot of land that is.
Once you have acquired land, there are a few additional items you’ll need to invest in:
- Fencing - This serves to protect your investments. Owners are urged to include multiple gates to allow for easy access to larger items.
- Security - Many owners choose to invest in security systems that include motion detectors and cameras to ensure their inventory is safe after-hours.
- Facility - A building large enough to store inventory and disassemble items is necessary. The space should have adequate ventilation, and must be large enough to have multiple sorting areas for recyclables. There should also be ample space for an office. This is where administrative tasks, sales, and inventory will be handled.
- Equipment - Since dealing in scrap car steel can prove quite profitable, consider investing in a forklift and car crusher. A truck for hauling parts would also prove to be a worthy investment.
- Administrative equipment - In addition to the standard office equipment, start-up business owners are urged to invest in software that will help in managing the finances, inventory, and customers.
Once you have your workspace in order, you will need to invest in your initial inventory. Experienced industry professionals report spending approximately $2,500 on start-up inventory.
What are the ongoing expenses for a junkyard business?
Your business’ largest ongoing expense will be centered on the salvaging process. This includes purchasing the product, materials used to process it, and processing labor. Additionally, your budget should include insurance, marketing expenses, and the standard administrative costs that come with running a business.
Who is the target market?
Ultimately, a junkyard’s target market is anyone seeking an affordable option to fix or replace an item they need. The specifics vary based on the needs of the community. Conducting thorough market research prior to developing a business plan is recommended. This will help understand market needs and identify niche markets your business should target. Once you’ve defined your niches, you can then determine what types of individuals and businesses might require your services. Grocery stores, factories, building contractors, construction companies, automobile outlets, homeowners, and electronic companies are all potential clients to consider.
How does a junkyard business make money?
This business is about buying and reselling for a profit. Therefore, it is critical that business owners are able to identify any usable parts, as well as their value. Parts and components must be accurately priced to ensure the business recoups their investment, labor costs, and ongoing expenses. Teams with the proper skill set typically repair salvageable items, generating a larger return on their investment.
How much can you charge customers?
Prices are set based on demand, condition of the item, and region. Operating expenses should be a factor in your pricing formula.
How much profit can a junkyard business make?
Since the goods and services offered vary significantly from one to another, published junkyard profitability numbers cover a wide range. One owner reported earnings as low as $1,000 per month. Owners in larger, more populated areas report six-figure profits.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Entrepreneurs in this industry have successfully increased their profits by selling inventory on eBay. Depending upon your area, carving out a niche in farm machinery could significantly increase your profits. Collecting non-ferrous items, such as lead, copper, aluminum, and brass is also profitable, yet often overlooked. If selling salvaged car bodies is part of your business plan, be sure to watch the value/sales rates, as they fluctuate monthly. Stockpiling these items to sell when the offers are high will boost profits.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your junkyard business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a junkyard business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Certificate of Occupancy
A junkyard business is generally run out of a piece of land. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a junkyard business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your junkyard business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Junkyard Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Junkyard Business.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a junkyard business
The most successful junkyard owners have strategically placed the location of their business. Visibility serves as the backbone of their marketing strategy. A large, well-placed sign that can be read from the road is a constant reminder of the services you offer.
While location is enough to propel some junkyards to success, consider the following when outlining a marketing strategy:
- Develop a website that keeps an up-to-date list of your inventory.
- Make sure your business is listed on all online and printed directories.
- Network with others in the community. Make sure they understand the value of your services and encourage them to spread the word.
- Make use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
How to keep customers coming back
Your market research should prove invaluable in identifying the needs of your customers. A deeper understanding of what they expect from you, as well as what you should expect from them, will ensure you consistently deliver quality goods and services.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
TRUiC's Startup Podcast
Welcome to the Startup Savant podcast, where we interview real startup founders at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey, from launch to scale.
Is this Business Right For You?
To realize significant success in this industry, one must possess strong technical knowledge regarding the nuts and bolts of the items they wish to salvage. They have a thirst for knowledge, continuously seeking out new opportunities to expand their services and further serve their community. Additionally, this person must have a genuine love for working with people and helping them see the beauty in another person's junk. Entrepreneurs who are passionate about reducing our carbon footprint and who enjoy helping others stretch their limited budget would be the most fulfilled in this profession.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a junkyard business?
As a junkyard owner, your business will primarily be serving the local community. Depending upon your skill set, you will salvage everything from automobiles, motorcycles, and appliances, to furniture. You and your team will spend the majority of each day acquiring these new items and breaking them down for parts, also known as sorting. Once this process is complete, you will need to repair items slated for restoration and junk any unusable materials. These are typically crushed and sold to other salvage yards for processing or further recycling. Parts and restored items must then be inventoried. Maintaining a complete list of all inventory is critical to your business’ success.
Prospective customers will come to you, via telephone or in person, to determine if you have the parts they need. Once you have either located the part or removed it at their request, the client will pick it up at your facility.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful junkyard business?
There are two driving factors that will determine your success in this industry: price and demand. Therefore, it is critical that you understand the rise and fall market needs and are able to purchase/price accordingly. You should also be adept at restoring items, or hire a staff member that possesses this knowledge. The American Salvage Pool Association is a great resource for members who wish to gain insight into environmental issues.
As the business owner, you will also be expected to work with a variety of people within the community. Strong interpersonal, organizational, and delegation skills would prove all beneficial, offering the confidence needed to communicate with each individual.
What is the growth potential for a junkyard business?
As an important part of this country’s green efforts, the junkyard industry has seen a spike in growth. Automobiles are the most recycled product, with virtually 100% of all dead vehicles being recycled. This niche records annual sales of over $32 billion and is represented by businesses of every size. The key to long-term growth is understanding your community’s needs and possessing the right connections to deliver.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a junkyard business?
Individuals with years of success in this industry offer the following advice:
- When identifying market needs and ways to affordably acquire inventory, think outside the box. For example: one junkyard owner lives in a Navy town. The sailors purchase old vehicles, drive them until it’s time to ship out, and then simply leave the cars on the street to be picked up. With a little paperwork, the junkyard can take possession of the vehicle.
- If your business plan includes auto salvage, invest in the Hollander Parts Interchange reference books.
- Contact the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if you need funding or guidance when getting your business started. They will also arrange an environmental impact study, which will determine your business’ impact on the community’s ecosystems and groundwater.
- Set a profit margin percentage and stick with it.
How and when to build a team
The size of your team depends upon the size of your operation. Your skills and knowledge should also be a factor in who you hire. If you have a background in mechanics, it may not be necessary to hire a mechanic until the business grows significantly. Each team member should be a professional, committed to helping the business expand. A background check is recommended. To ensure the safety of your crew, make sure all procedures and safety policies are communicated.