4 Tips for Buying and Selling Salvaged Cars »
Salvaged cars present a unique opportunity to sellers and buyers.
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Salvaged cars present a unique opportunity to sellers and buyers.
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Automobile owners have plenty of avenues to explore for making quick fixes to their vehicles. You don't have to wait for costly repairs if you are resourceful enough to know exactly what needs to be fixed and are sure of the parts required. By heading to your nearest salvage yard, you'll find the parts you need and more.
Salvage yards collect old vehicles and the accompanying parts. Depending on the condition, the materials can either be repaired or sold. Parts are then made available for you to purchase.
Salvage yards play a big role in ensuring old vehicles are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. The auto industry is the largest in the world and therefore generates the most waste.
Junkyards tend to operate on a local basis and typically purchase damaged cars from insurance companies, auto owners or cities looking to tow abandoned vehicles. Salvage yards then dismantle cars for sellable parts, while unusable components are scrapped and recycled.
You'll first need to identify exactly what parts you need. You can sometimes use generic parts, whereas other instances will require you to stick to the specific manufacturer.
Not every driver has detailed knowledge about specific parts, and that's understandable. Luckily, you can take advantage of various tools to narrow down your search. If you know your car's model, year, make and more, head to the online database carparts.com to search through categories ranging from alternators to suspension.
You can also speak to a mechanic or someone with detailed knowledge about the inner workings of a car to specifically get a better understanding of the parts you need.
You are not out of luck if you bought your car from the secondhand market and didn't get specific details regarding the year, model or submodel, or if you misplaced the owner's manual and no longer have access to that information.
Since 1981, every car has contained a vehicle identification number, otherwise known as a VIN. This 17-character code is comprised of three sections:
Where Do I Find the VIN?
The VIN is commonly found on these locations:
After you find this information, you'll have an easier time finding the necessary parts from the salvage yard.
Once you've confirmed your car's model, the next step is to locate the nearest salvage yard. While a quick online search will yield plenty of results, not all junkyards are the same, and the differences will have an effect on how you obtain the parts.
The first type of salvage location is known as a you-pick yard. Here, you bring your own tools and walk around with full reign to take any parts you find. You can set out to find a specific part for that much-needed repair, or you may stumble upon an item that is harder to find and carries a high market value.
A you-pick yard offers endless opportunities and costs very little to run, which directly benefits salvagers because so many types of salvage yards are popping up, according to Popular Mechanics.
The second type of salvage yard is known as full-service. Here, you can directly request certain parts and workers will deliver them to the front desk. No tools are required, nor will you spend time wandering the endless car piles. The catch: You'll have to pay a fee for the added convenience.
Important Steps to Take
Once you decide on the type of salvage yard to visit, your best course of action is to call before arriving. You can get a better idea of what the yards offer. For example, some salvage areas only have domestic cars for you to look through, while others may deal strictly with foreign, high-performance or vintage cars. After all, you don't want to make the trip to the salvage lot only to discover the cars will not have the parts you're looking for.
Luckily, most yards are generalists, meaning they carry what most scavengers demand. If you happen to own a rare car, chances are the yard will not carry that part simply because the demand is not nearly as high.
What to Expect
Entering a salvage yard can be an overwhelming first experience. With so many cars spread out over a wide stretch of land, the feeling is understandable. Most yards operate the same way, so you can expect the same general experiences throughout each location.
For you-pick salvage yards, you'll have to sign a liability document and pay a small fee, typically around $1. Think of this dollar as a worthy investment, particularly if you stumble across a rare component that can net you a high sale.
Navigating the Lot
Once you enter the lot, look for the ground maps to make your scavenging life a bit easier. According to Popular Mechanics, most lots are organized by keeping the in-demand parts near the front. Here, you'll find parts for vehicles that have a tendency to break down, which works to your advantage if you own a similar car.
The rear of the lot will typically contain items for cars that don't suffer from as many breakdowns. As you walk from the front to the rear, the middle of the lot will gradually progress from cars that frequently suffer mechanical issues to vehicles that don't.
Some lots will even have manufacturers grouped together to help simplify your search. However, not every salvage lot will have this type of organization - some will have no organization whatsoever. While you may spend more time searching for a specific car and an accompanying part, you also have the chance to find some hidden gems.
Don't go into the salvage yard expecting to find price tags on each individual part, as that would be a tedious task for the lot's owner.
Instead, salvage lots will usually have a price board containing necessary information. Different parts will have a generic price, and this method is generally beneficial to you and your wallet.
For example, say you drive a luxury car and are in need of a radiator. When visiting a salvage lot, the pricing for a luxury car's radiator will be around the same amount as a cheaper car's radiator.
Now that you know how the layout and pricing structures work, you have to actually find the parts, which for some, represents the most tedious and exhausting task - and for others, the most fun. You don't want to just grab the first component you need.
After finding something you think can be useful, carefully inspect it. Make sure the part isn't damaged. Likewise, check for interchangeable parts. You will then have an easier time searching for parts because you open up the number of cars to look through.
Tools Are Needed
Salvaging for auto parts is labor-intensive and sometimes dangerous. You'll want to stock up and go to the yard with the necessary tools to help pry loose much-needed parts, such as a full door.
Keep in mind though that you'll carry home any and everything you bring along. While you do want to have the tools, you also don't want to tire yourself out from the weight. Luckily, you can carry along some equipment while leaving heavier items in the car for when you get back.
Typical gear includes:
Keep these tools in the car:
Getting the Parts
Not every part will be easily accessible in a junk car. The tools you bring along will be helpful if you need to destroy portions of the vehicle - just make sure you don't accidentally destroy the part you're looking for because some areas of the car are easier to take apart than others.
When rummaging through a car or walking around the lot, stay aware of your surroundings. Remember, you aren't the only visitor looking to salvage parts. Other individuals are also looking for components, and not everyone works as safely as possible.
If you find a car you'd like to inspect, make sure working conditions are suitable, and if anything looks suspicious or dangerous, don't hesitate to find a safer vehicle to tear apart.
Buying a Specific Component
Instances may arise where you find yourself looking for a smaller component of a larger part, such as the latch to a door. It is in your interest to call the salvage yard before arriving to see if they sell smaller components individually, because some yards do not.
Some owners choose to not sell small components for financial reasons. According to Car-Part, owners will find difficulty selling the higher-priced assembly. If salvage lots come across a door without the handle, they will have to pay extra to get the handle and attach it to the entire assembly. It is therefore cost-effective for salvage lots to sell entire assemblies.
After you've successfully found a part or multiple components, take everything up to the clerk. Inform them of what you have and pay. It is in your best interest to avoid lying about what you have as a way to to pay less. You will potentially be banned if you're found lying.
Parts May Be Expensive
You-pick salvage yards will display the prices for categories of parts. However, prices may fluctuate depending on the demand. Harder-to-find items may carry a higher price tag than a brand-new one. In such instances, you have to use your best judgment to decide on which route to choose. Keep in mind that if you are salvaging for auto parts, you may also stumble across items that are difficult to find and subsequently be able to sell them for a profit. Doing so can offset the cost of the price you're paying for the parts you personally need.
Salvage yards will have different policies regarding warranties, but in most instances, the parts you find will be covered. Some salvage yards will offer warranties of anywhere from 90 days to six months, and may even offer the option for extended coverage.
Automobile owners looking to fix up their cars and save money will benefit from visiting a salvage yard. Time and dedication will be needed on your end, but the payout will be worth it because you'll save money and may even find old car parts that can be useful for non-auto purposes. You may even find rare parts you can then sell.
Before visiting the salvage yard, call ahead and ask questions about warranties, pricing and the types of cars they have for you to look through. Then, gather your tools, and get the most out of your auto salvage trip.