6 Steps to Buy Used Car Parts at a Do-it-Yourself Salvage Yard

Buying used car parts from a salvage yard can save you money. But if you plan to search a do-it-yourself salvage yard for the parts you need, it helps to know what you're doing before you head out to comb a site. Otherwise, it could cost you time and won't be as convenient as going to a local auto parts store to buy the parts new. Knowing how to prepare for the search, as well as what to expect when you get to the junkyard, can make the job of finding the parts you need easier.

6 Key Steps for Buying Parts at a Self-Serve Salvage Yard:

1. Call ahead.

Contact a salvage in advance to find out if there are vehicles on the lot with parts that will match those of the model you drive. Check back with the salvage yard often so you know when new junked vehicles come in and there is more inventory on the lot.

Know how long your particular model was made. Some models are manufactured for several years; therefore, parts from that model, but a different year, may still fit your vehicle. Certain makes of vehicles also have interchangeable parts.

2. Sign a release form.

When you arrive at the salvage yard, you won't be allowed to go on the grounds to look for parts until you sign a waiver form releasing the scrap yard of liability if you get hurt. Don't be surprised if you're also asked to pay a minimal fee to enter the junkyard.

3. Ask about warranties.

Ask up front if the salvage yard allows exchanges if a part doesn't fit. Some yards offer warranties for a specified period of time at little or no cost. You can't return a part to get your money back, but you can exchange it for another part. Salvage yards normally mark warrantied parts you buy. Keep the receipt since you'll need to show it to make an exchange.

4. Take your own tools.

Don't count on the salvage yard to provide tools or labor. Bring the tools with you that you'll need to remove parts. Basic tools you may need include work gloves, safety glasses, vice grips, pry bar, hacksaw, tin snips, screwdrivers, socket wrenches, and a hammer.

It's likely you will be working on the ground, so wear old clothing or a pair of coveralls in case you get dirty. If you need a large or heavy part like an engine or transmission, bring along someone to help you remove and carry it.

5. Inspect before buying.

Avoid buying the first used part you find that matches what you need. Look it over carefully to make sure it isn't damaged. If you don't know enough about vehicles and their parts, take someone with you who does. Better yet, if you're on really good terms, ask your mechanic to come along.

6. Get prices.

Many salvage yards post a list of prices where you enter to let you know how much different parts cost. Prices generally are based on the type of part and not the kind of vehicle it comes from.

While some yards allow you to negotiate a lower price, buying an entire assembly, such as a rear axle or front hub assembly, may be cheaper than buying individual parts. Have cash in your pocket because not all salvage yards accept credit card payments.

For more tips, contact resources such as Automotive Specialties.