Auto junkyards and salvage yards are an excellent source of affordable car parts. If you have a discerning eye and you’re a bit handy, learn to make use of your local salvage yard and save a ton of money on expensive car parts and repairs. While we don’t deal parts, the majority of auto salvage yards across the country do. It’s just a matter of finding the right one, being selective, and negotiating a fair price.
You can find plenty of salvage yards near you by searching on Google, Yellow Pages, Yelp or another directory. Simply search for "junkyards near me" and you're bound to find more than a handful. The salvage yard that you choose should have reasonably good reviews and be professional and reputable. Give them a call and ask them if they deal with parts before you head over.
In general, salvage yards that do sell parts to consumers may either be one of two types:
Full-Service Auto Salvage Yards
Full-service salvage yards do the work for you. You are paying for customer service and for someone else to do the dirty work of hunting for the part that you need, and you’ll just wait for them to bring it to the front desk. Obviously, their prices are higher.
You-Pick Auto Junkyards
These are sometimes referred to as “Pick and Pull, ”“U Pull It,” or Do It Yourself salvage yards. Here, you do all the work. Because you are doing what full service yards pay someone to do, they are operating at a lower budget and their parts will be cheaper. At these yards you are responsible for locating and extracting the parts that you need. With their prices, they’re a pretty attractive option if you’re a bit handy.
Expect to go into the city and out of the suburbs when you go to these yards. You will park out front and pay a small fee - usually just a dollar or two - to go into the yard. What you will see will look like a vehicular graveyard. There will be rows of cars – mostly old and rusted – piled sometimes one on top of the other. There will be no order. There will be no organization. It is literally a dumping ground for the no longer wanted car. Make sure you are aware of potential scams at these yards before you go.
FINDING THE CAR PARTS YOU NEED
Some you-pick auto junkyards yards will simply hand you a paper map of the salvage yard and let you figure it out from there. You’ll need to locate the make of the car and see if you can find any parts you need, and you’ll also need to remove the parts yourself. Other salvage yards, though, make it a bit easier by offering parts locators through Car-Part.com. This website allows you to search a directory of millions of car parts.
With or without a car part directory, do yourself a favor and know the part that you need beforehand.
This sounds like a given, but if you have paid little attention to what’s under the hood of your car because you’ve paid for your local car service salesman to do all of your repairs, then you might need to do a little research. When you go to the salvage yard, you will have to know:
- What the part looks like
- Where it’s located inside the car
- What types of cars you will find it in
- How to get it out of the car
Do your research so that you’re not standing in the middle of the yard for hours scanning your smartphone to figure out this information.
COME PREPARED WITH YOUR TOOL BAG
As this handy visual guide explains, you’ll want to bring a few tools with you if you’re going to a you-pick salvage yard, since you’ll be on your own searching the salvage yard for the relevant parts and removing them from the car. They might be quite rusted into place, so be prepared to use some elbow grease!
Make sure you bring:
- Safety glasses
- Assorted screwdrivers
- Wire cutters
- Pry bar
You should carry a bag into the yard with you with small items but have some of bigger items that you’re not sure that you’ll need in the car. You don’t want to get caught without the right tool.
CHOOSE PARTS CAREFULLY
If you take a minute to imagine the typical junk car -- lots of rust and other damage -- then you’ll understand why you need to be careful when choosing parts. In most cases, these are not gently used car parts. You need to make sure that the part is in good enough shape to work for your needs. In some cases, though, you may find some absolute gems for a good bargain.
Keep in mind that most auto salvage yards don’t offer a refund for car parts, so what you choose is what you get. Save yourself some stress by being picky in the first place.
Once you find your treasure, you’ve got to get it out. You’ll use the tools you brought to get it out of the car. This is where some of the research you did before you came pays off. Hopefully you already know how to get the part out of the car and what tools you need to do it, but if you’re lost, there is probably a YouTube video that can walk you through it. Once you have your part, take it inside to pay.
NEGOTIATING A FAIR PRICE
Once you find the part you need, you can head to the check out center. Depending on the salvage yard, you may be stuck with whatever price the clerk gives you. Some salvage yards have standard pricing for parts with no room for negotiation. Most salvage yards, however, will allow you to haggle for a lower price. It’s worth asking -- but be reasonable, of course. The whole point of buying parts from a salvage yard is to save some cash, so make sure the price seems fair before you hand over your money. Remember, you likely won’t get a refund.
FIND A MECHANIC
Most auto-repair shops will not allow you to bring in your own parts, so you’re going to have to find an independent mechanic to do the labor for you. Many mechanics that work in full-service repair shops do work on the side. Check out Google, Angie’s List, or Craigslist to find a good mechanic nearby.