Auto Salvage – A Big Business

by Don Elliott on August 17, 2011

Have you been to the junkyard lately? To be politically correct, junkyards are now called auto recyclers. And to be precisely correct, the business has changed to match the more correct name.

Whatever we call them, your dad’s old junkyard is now big business. New replacement car parts have become very expensive. This caused the business of used car parts or salvage auto parts to become much more sophisticated. Computerization has made it easier to find the car part you need at the best price anywhere in the country.

According to the Automotive Recyclers Association, automotive recycling generates $22 billion in annual revenue handling 7-8 million vehicles. The auto salvage process recycles 85% of each used car by weight. High demand parts are removed and sold as used car components. Car fluids are drained and reused wherever possible. For example, used motor oil can be burned in oil furnaces.  The highly toxic mercury, found in remote car switches to open trunk lids, would be very bad for the environment. It must be carefully collected during the vehicle salvage process. The remaining car carcass is shredded for use by the steel, copper, aluminum, glass and plastics industries. This saves an estimated 80 million barrels of oil each year.

For the auto repair shops, insurance companies, collision repair facilities, and do-it-yourselfers, the sophistication of the auto repair industry has saved plenty of time and money. Entire companies have been developed to help locate the right part at the right price.

Hollander Interchange provides reference information online regarding parts that can be used on more than one vehicle or application. APU Solutions is an industry leader providing a web-based search engine for recycled “parts availability, description, pricing and online procurement options.” This search engine replaces the inefficient search via phone to salvage auto yards and dismantlers. LKQ Corporation is the “largest nationwide source for quality recycled auto parts.” It has over 300 locations in five countries. These companies continue to thrive as the recycling industry becomes international and interconnected via computer.

Redistribution of wrecked and damaged vehicles has been the job of salvage car auctions. Consolidation of independent salvage auctions behind big auction chains, like Copart and Insurance Auto Auctions, has made it easier for auto recyclers to source the right cars for their operations. 3-4 million vehicles pass through salvage auto auctions each year. Auto part dismantlers, rebuilders, used car dealers, wrecking yards, and auto recyclers search auction inventories nationally. They bid online for the wrecked and damaged vehicles to fill their recycling pipeline.

Yes, you can still go to your dad’s junkyard. Every town has at least one. Auto locksmiths and car repair shops are still needed for replacement keys or special repair services. However, if you know your way around a car, the salvage auto yard may be exactly what you need!

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