Auto Junkyards Q & A


photo courtesy of MichaelEClarke @ creative commons

  1. Does your dog bite?
  2. Can a recycler figure out what parts I need?
  3. My mechanic will be doing all the work for me. Should I ask him to look into using parts from a recycler?
  4. How do I find the part I need?
  5. Are there some parts I should avoid getting at a recycler?
  6. How much should I expect to pay?
  7. I'm pretty sure I just saw a rat dragging what appeared to be a human body part of some kind across my local recycler's yard last week.
  8. Can I negotiate on the price?
  9. Should I shop around?
  10. I dropped by my neighborhood recycler last week and my car disappeared. Do you know what happened to it?
  11. Can I get a warranty?
  12. What about rebuilt parts? When does it make sense to get a rebuilt part instead of using a recycler?
  13. Okay, I'm ready. How do I find the recycler in my neighborhood?

 

1: Does your dog bite?

No. But that's not my dog. If that's of primary concern to you, maybe you should just take your car to the dealer.

 

2: Can a junkyard — oops, recycler — figure out what parts I need?

In most cases, recyclers are not in a position to tell you what parts you need. Recyclers can't diagnose problems for you. They're strictly in the parts business. You should know what you need before you arrive. If you don't know what the part is called, but you are able to point to it, a dealer can probably identify it for you and tell you what it is.

 

3: My mechanic will be doing all the work for me. Should I ask him to look into using parts from a recycler?

Sure. In fact, if a mechanic is going to be doing the work, you should let him deal with the recycler.

Unless you ask, your mechanic may shy away from using a recycler, since the risk and hassle to him are increased. For example, he makes the same markup on a used part as a new part, and the same amount on the labor, but since a used part is intrinsically less reliable, his chances of having to do the job again increase, so he's taking a greater risk. However, some mechanics deal with recyclers on a regular basis, in which case the yard may be more careful about the quality of parts they sell him, not wanting to lose his future business. That works to your advantage. They also may give him a better price. Plus, he can help advise you on which parts are good to get at a recycler and which parts should be avoided (i.e., used Christmas tree air fresheners and upholstery from the back seat of New York City taxis).

By the way, most dealerships will be much more reluctant to install recycler parts compared to independent mechanics, since it's far more profitable for them to mark up new parts from the factory. Dealerships will hardly ever volunteer to use parts from a recycler, so if you're doing a major repair and are interested in used parts, you'll have to be sure to ask. They might agree to your request, however, rather than lose your business.

 

4: How do I find the part I need?

Just ask for it! Some recyclers remove parts from salvage vehicles, catalog them, and then store them more precisely than Google's indexing servers. In this case, they will already have it sorted and will bring it to the counter for you.

Other recyclers will remove the part you need from one of the cars out in the back 40 while you wait.

A few recyclers still operate on more of a "buffet style" system, allowing you to wander around the yard with a set of tools and pull off the parts you want. This is also known as a "you-pull-it" yard.

 

5: Are there some parts I should avoid getting at a recycler?

There is no part that you should absolutely not buy at a recycler. However, some parts are so inexpensive to buy new, such as belts, hoses and brake pads, that it's hardly worth getting them at a recycler.

There are some parts about which you should be careful. If parts like brake calipers, starter motors and alternators sit outside, exposed to the elements for years on end, they can seize up or otherwise fail.

The mechanic who's installing the part will be a good judge of whether the part you need should be purchased at a recycler.

 

6: How much should I expect to pay?

Very roughly speaking, you should try not to pay more than 50 percent of the cost of the new or rebuilt part.

So the first thing you want to do is call a dealer and find out what the part costs new. Then call around. Most recyclers know the prices of new parts and will price their used parts accordingly. But some won't, and that can lead to great deals or horrific rip-offs.

Research is key, and you may discover, after shopping around, that it makes more sense to buy a new or rebuilt part. Lower control arms are a great example. Some are $300 new...and others cost a measly $19.

 

7: I'm pretty sure I just saw a rat dragging what appeared to be a human body part of some kind across my local salvage yard last week.

Impossible. Recyclers perform a rigorous 10-step check on each vehicle for evidence of mob hits before it's disassembled. Next question?

 

8: Can I negotiate on the price? 

Like most businessmen who are interested in sending their kids to college and paying off their bookies, you'll find that recyclers don't like to negotiate on the price — but it never hurts to try. (But first do your homework. See question 6.)

In our experience, recyclers will quote you a price...and that's it. If you're really down to your last peso, you might try clutching your chest and feigning a massive heart attack, but don't count on getting a break. Recyclers have to make a buck just like everyone else.

 

9: Should I shop around?

Definitely. Call a number of recyclers. In some cases, there might be only one recycler who has the part you're looking for — but he doesn't need to know that. There's still a chance you can negotiate on the price.

 

10: I dropped by my neighborhood recycler last week and my car disappeared. Do you know what happened to it?

You parked it in the wrong lot. At this point, all you can do is sign the title over and collect your 50 bucks at the front desk. And when you're there, check out that huge pile of crushed cars out back. You might recognize the cube on the top. If you can, you might want to repurchase it to use as a lawn ornament.

 

11: Can I get a warranty?

Absolutely. This is the thing that most surprises recycler newbies. Almost all recyclers offer a warranty on the part. We surveyed recyclers around the country and found that most offered 30-day-to-100-day warranties, with longer warranties available at additional cost. (Warranties are not usually available on electrical parts, however.)

Some recyclers will even offer a labor warranty, often for a fee. A few recyclers even offer the additional service of actually installing the part and will usually offer a warranty on labor costs at no charge.

Ask about a warranty when you buy the part. When you get your sales slip, be sure the warranty information is written on it.

 

12: What about rebuilt parts? When does it make sense to get a rebuilt part instead of using a junkyard — oops, recycler? 

In some cases, it might be worth buying a rebuilt part. Here's a good example: A computer for a Chevy might cost $50 at a recycler and $75 if bought rebuilt. In that case, you're better off with the rebuilt computer.

If you own a high-end European car, however, there may be no one that makes a rebuilt computer for your car. So you may be forced to choose between a new one for $950 and a used one for $75... and in that case, even if the used one doesn't work, you can buy and try out a dozen more before you match the cost of a new one.

 

13: Okay, I'm ready. How do I find a junkyard — oops, recycler — in my neighborhood?

Find the guy on your block with a rusting hulk of a jalopy, and tail him on Saturday mornings. Alternatively, search for a national auto parts recycling database. There are a number of commercially-available options. We're not in a position to recommend one over the other, though. If you have a preference, let us know in the comments section below!