How to find auto parts in a junkyard and save (Pt. 1)

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A cat sits atop a car in an auto parts junkyard.

Buying auto parts outside a junkyard would be a cat-astrophe. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Downtowngal/Wikipedia)

Hate what it costs to buy auto parts new? You aren’t alone. Thanks to automotive salvage, however, there’s a cheaper way that requires just a little bit of initiative and elbow grease: the junkyard. Here’s how to find car parts in a junkyard and save big.

Frugal junkyard magic

Whether you’re a full-time gear head, weekend warrior or auto parts neophyte with a sense of adventure, going to the junkyard takes some time, but makes great financial sense. Online resources like eBay and Craigslist may have horned in on the action just a bit, but often there’s no substitute for finding the parts and inspecting them in your own hands before buying. At the very least, you won’t be facing any pushy sales tactics or expectations that you’ll reward a seller’s time and effort with a purchase. Paying pennies on the dollar compared with what your neighborhood mechanic will charge for good auto parts doesn’t hurt, either.

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Salvage your courage and dive into savings

There are two kinds of junkyards in which you can find auto parts. Those types are self-service (you-pick) and full-service. At the former, you bring your own tools for dismantling cars and removing parts. With the latter, you inform an employee at the front desk which parts you’re looking for and the employee procure the auto parts from whatever the yard has in stock that fits. The convenience of having the junkyard employee do the work for you costs more, and you do have to know what you’re looking for in advance. It isn’t a browse-the-aisles affair, often with a small fee charged for entry to the yard. Hey, it’s cheaper than a movie, and a movie won’t help you get parts for your car.

When you’ve found a junkyard to your liking, call ahead to discern the types of vehicles in which they specialize. Some junkyards offer domestic choices, others Japanese or German, and still more opt for high-performance or vintage vehicles. Fortunately, still more are of a general variety. If you already know a junkyard carriers your model car, you’re ahead of the game. Wrecks and salvage vehicles come and go, so fluctuating inventories at junkyards are common. Get to know the employees at your local yard and perhaps they can tip you on when new stuff is coming.

The junkyard is not liable

Be prepared to sign a legal document before entering a you-pick yard that absolves the junkyard of legal liability in the event that you drop an engine on your foot while you’re dismantling a vehicle. You pick auto parts at your own risk. In many cases, a junkyard’s proprietors will make it somewhat easy on the spelunking parts scavenger by placing the most in-demand auto parts near the front. That way, more people will save time and perhaps even potential injury for which the junkyard will not accept responsibility. Conversely, the rarer the part in demand will be filed in the back. Thus, if you already know that what you’re looking for is a bit of an oddity, you can save yourself time by hiking straight for the back of the lot.

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