Navigating the Junkyard

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A guest post from our friends at Junk Car Medics.

Navigating the Junkyard

So you need a replacement part for your car, but you don’t want to pay full retail price for a new component. One option is to buy it from a local junkyard that offers consumers decent prices on parts from scrapped cars.

Buying from a yard in your area has the advantage of letting you see the part before you fork over cash. (Not to mention you’re supporting a local small business.)

Once you understand the process, use the system confidently. You know you’re getting a good part at a fair price.

Be prepared

To get an idea of what you should pay for a used part, check out Car-Part.com. They literally have millions of components, so chances are pretty good you’ll find a match.

Input the component you’re interested in, and see what the going rate is. You may not pay the exact price locally, but you’ll know if a charge is in the right ballpark.

This or that

Some junkyards have you pull your own parts. If you like the hands-on approach and have the time, this option costs less.

But if you have neither the time nor inclination to DIY, go to a yard that does the work for you. Ask for a part, and they’ll hand it over. Of course, you’ll pay more for this service…but time is money, too.

Make sure the junkyard you got to handles the part you want. Some yards specialize in certain types of car, such as domestic, foreign, or classic. If you’re not sure about a local yard, give ‘em a call or check their website.  

Don’t waste your time. You wouldn’t go to a kids’ shoe store to buy steel-toed work boots. (If you would, that’s on you.)

Get organized

If you decide on a you-pull yard, find out how it’s organized (if it is). If you’re really unlucky, you’ll have to wander aimlessly, hoping to spot the make and model of your dreams.

However, lots of yards categorize their vehicles: Hondas over there, Chevies over here. If you’re really lucky, someone super-organized runs the yard, and you receive a map. That helps you get in and out in a flash.

Some yards even have online inventories that let you check for the part you need. That can save you an unnecessary trip. Are they organized or what?

Take your tools

If you’re going the you-pull route, you’ll probably have to bring your own tools. Certain yards do rent or loan tools, but don’t count on it.

The gadgets you need depend upon the part you want. Some commonly used ones are:

  • pry bar
  • screwdriver set
  • hammer or mallet
  • ratchet wench set
  • tin snips
  • C-clamps
  • hacksaw

Penetrating oil helps loosen parts that are tight-tight-tight. And work gloves are always a good idea.

Look around

At a you-pull yard, don’t jump at the first part that seems to fit the bill. Walk around a bit to see if you can find something in even better condition. It costs you a little more time, but you may find a stellar deal.

Price it out

This isn’t a grocery store; there won’t be price tags on parts or labels posted on shelves. Often, there’s a price list with the cost of parts by category. That means that a battery is a battery is a battery, no matter if it’s from a high-end vehicle or a budget-level car.

Prices are typically posted on-site. Sometimes they’re on the yard’s website, as well. And don’t be surprised if you have to pay a buck or two as an entrance fee.

Are you sure you’re sure?

Before buying, be 100 percent absolutely positive you’re getting the right part. If you don’t verify the part number, you might be stuck.

Some very thoughtful yards have return policies in case customers mess up. Be sure to check the guidelines at your local yard.

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About Author

Felix Maxwell is the creative director at Junk Car Medics, a national network of auto junk yards that buy junk cars for cash across America.

1 Comment

  1. I never would have thought to bring all of my tools to a junkyard. I’ve never been to a junkyard before, but I had a friend suggest it to me, and after looking at my options, I wasn’t sure how I hadn’t thought about it before. All of your tips were super helpful though. Now I feel ready to be effective when I go to my local yard. Thanks for sharing!

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