Self-Service Used Auto Parts Yards Save You Big Money

by Don Elliott on August 8, 2012

If you have a little mechanical ability, repairing your own car can be a rewarding experience. Online resources can help diagnose a mechanical problem but actually making the repair means getting your hands dirty. Complicated jobs that require special tools are best left to your auto repair shop. However, there are plenty of simple repairs that can be easily handled by the do-it-yourselfer.

Often the cost of the part is the barrier to making automotive repairs. One of the fastest growing segments of the automotive business is the self-service used auto parts facility. These places used to be called junkyards, but not any more. Pick-A-Part, U-Pull-It, Pull-A-Part, Pick-N-Pull or whatever it is called in your town, you will be surprised at how customer friendly the “junkyard” has become.

The lots are pretty much all set up the same. The cars and trucks are neatly arranged in rows, sorted by manufacturer. All the cars are up off the ground, sitting on old car wheels or blocks. In most cases, the model year of the car is written somewhere on the car along with the date the car was brought into the yard.

Most self-service used parts facilities charge an entry fee, usually a couple of bucks. You will have to bring your own tools, but wagons and hoists are available to help pull bigger parts like engines, body parts and seats. Facility staff can look up parts for you to determine which car models have the exact part that you need. The same part may have been used on several different cars.

Parts are sold at a fixed price per part. For example, alternators are all $16, power door mirrors are all $25, a medium tail light assembly is $12 and a complete engine is just $250. In addition to the published part cost, there is a core charge for some parts, waived if you bring in your old part for credit. Parts are “as is”, but can usually be exchanged for free within 30-60 days.

Typical pull-your-own parts yards have hundreds of cars on hand. Parts are easiest to find for cars that are 8-15 years old. The inventory changes every day. Once the major parts are sold off and the used car value is gone, the carcass is sent off to the recycler to be sold for scrap, replaced almost immediately by another car with plenty of fresh parts.

Cars come from insurance companies, salvage auto auctions , towing companies and dealer wholesale auction . Well-managed facilities maintain a good selection of the most popular models. Self-service parts yards will also buy your old car once you give up on trying to make it go. Recent price quotes are $200 per ton. A mid-sized car would be worth $325 or so, regardless of its condition.

One last point! Even though the self-service parts facilities are cleaner than the junkyards of old, pulling your own parts can be a dirty business. The cars are all outside in the weather, hot or cold, rain or shine. Put on some old clothes, pack a few basic tools and a couple of shop rags and head out to pull a few used parts. You will save some money and just maybe have a good time doing it!

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