How to Find The Best Used Auto Parts

Replacing damaged or worn out auto parts can be a costly endeavor. One way to reduce this cost is to look at used or reconditioned parts as opposed to buying new. Used car parts are available in high abundance due to write-offs from all sorts of accidents. A small portion of the vehicle will usually be damaged beyond repair while the rest of the vehicle may be perfectly functioning. Here is where you can look to to compare the best used parts, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each:


  1. Self-Pick Scrap Yards – A self-pick scrap yard (also known as a wrecking yard, junkyard, or recycler) can be a handyman’s dream. Many contain hundreds, if not thousands of vehicles that are ready to be dismantled by a do-it-yourselfer. Self-pick scrap yards (also sometimes known as you-pick) are unique because they allow customers to dismantle any car on the spot and take home whatever parts they need. Since the labor is performed by the customer (you), the company can keep costs down and prices low. Customers pay a fixed pre-determined price for every part that they leave with (e.g. $150 for an engine, or $50 for a door) and aren’t required to take any precautions while extracting the parts. Cars at self-pick yards are often older models and are sourced from insurance write-offs and scrap trade-ins by customers who may sell their car to the yard for a few hundred dollars. Once a car has had most of its parts picked and sold, the scrap yard with then crush the remaining metal and send it off the be recycled. Although parts may be very cheap here, the downside is twofold: parts are obviously not tested, and you might have to spend a large amount of time searching for the exact car and part that you need.
  2. Inventoried Scrap Yards – This is the more traditional and well known type of scrap yard where you can search from a long list of parts. The company has already done the hard work of dismantling, cleaning, and testing the part to ensure that its in working condition. Parts are very easy to search for and can either be done online or with the help of a salesman via telephone. Many yards will also offer a basic warranty on their parts to ensure that they do not fail prematurely. The downside: since there is a significant amount of labor associated with taking apart vehicles and carrying inventory, prices can be significantly higher (sometimes even rivaling the dealerships). Therefore, you are more likely to find newer and more expensive cars here that are usually not available at self-pick scrapyards due to the relatively high value of their parts.

  3. Parts Rebuilders – Some used parts (such as alternators and driveshafts) can be reconditioned or “rebuilt” using new parts and resold for much cheaper than the equivalent all-new part. Rebuilders will take a used part and dismantle it while paying close attention to the wear and tear. Where necessary, they will replace worn out bearings, bushings, and other moving parts with new ones so that the unit operates like new again. After reassembly, they will thoroughly test the part before placing it for sale again – usually for much cheaper than buying a brand new part. Rebuilders will offer an even further discount in exchange for your “core” which is your old non-working part that they can use to fix and re-sell again. In addition to getting a great deal on a reconditioned part, a warranty will usually be offered to cover any damage or premature wear.

  4. Local Online Classifieds – With the advent of the internet, private sellers can now list car parts that are sitting and taking up valuable garage space. The advantage of local classifieds is that you can go see the part before you commit to purchasing which reduces the risk of buying a wrong or faulty part. Options here can be limitless but parts are usually more readily available for popular vehicles since people are more likely to have them sitting around. More obscure models might not be found as easily and you may have to expand your search to a scrapyard or international classifieds.

  5. International Online Classifieds – Much like local classifieds, international classifieds (such as eBay) can be a great place to find used parts but they come with a few downfalls. Buyers are unable to physically see the part before they purchase which means that they have to take the sellers word on the condition of the unit. This can be somewhat mitigated with buyer protection from eBay and Paypal but can still cost the buyer precious time and resources. The second disadvantage is that there may be high shipping costs associated with larger or heavier items. Depending on the distance between the buyer and the seller, the total cost can sometimes exceed the price of a new part which would make the transaction counterintuitive.


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