If you are in the market for used car parts or looking to sell your junk cars, you're in need of a quick rundown on junkyards. Finding the most suitable yard for your situation requires more than a quick search on Google Maps. There will likely be many options nearby, and each local auto salvage yard or car flipping dealer has unique services and amenities, but how will you know which is most suitable? To make it easier, we have created this complete guide to help you find the junkyard and car parts you need.
Types of Junkyards
Junkyards typically fit into one of three categories (or a combination of them).
Self-Service: Cars are out in the open, waiting for you to search, find and remove the part yourself. The yard should have a list of locations for all the vehicles and state whether a car has been ‘well picked' (i.e., had many of its parts removed). These yards are the cheapest, but the part you need might not be available, which would waste your valuable time and money. (Read on to get our best tips on self-service junkyards.)
Full-Service: This is the next level up, where the parts have already been removed and stored, ready for you to collect. The process is much simpler; you can call ahead to ensure the junkyard has the right part for you.
Online: Similar to Full-Service is a website-only option for you to search for the part and have it shipped directly to you. (Generally, this is the most expensive option.)
It's also worth searching for specialist yards, depending on your car. Often yards specialize in foreign makes and models.
If you are still looking for a suitable yard, try expanding your Google search to ‘Salvage Yard,' ‘Used Auto Parts,' or ‘U Pull It.'
What's The Best Junkyard?
The best junkyard for you is the one with the part you need at a price you are willing to pay. But as you search, look for factors that will increase your chances of locating the correct parts. Yards with the most cars and trucks, with options for the year, color, and trim, are what you need to search out.
What To Expect When You Get There
The first thing to note is that some junkyards will charge you an entry fee to ensure they make a little, even if you don't pull or purchase a part. Usually, it's less than $10. Others will let you roam the yard for free.
You will find the cars organized by make, model, and year. At the better yards, how long the vehicle has been in the yard, and the (Vehicle Identification Number) VIN will also be available, which allows you to search the car's history.
The location of each car will be in an inventory, so they can tell you exactly where to find the vehicle you need.
What's The Car's History?
As we mentioned, some yards provide the VIN information, or you can pull that from the car and search on your phone while in the yard.
The VIN is the car's passport to its past. This important string of numbers tells you the manufacturing details, what type of engine it houses (e.g., gasoline engine), and unique features like color combinations and trims. The information can be used in many ways, including tracking recalls, registrations and warranty claims, and insurance details.
However, the VIN might not be helpful if the car is a wreck. Obviously, if you pull parts from a wrecker, try to avoid parts from the most damaged area. For example, if it was rear-ended or impacted from the side, parts from the front might still be in good condition. If the car was from a head-on, you should look for another donor for your used auto parts.
As well as totaled cars, some will be abandoned and bought through auctions, tow companies, insurance companies, or the general public. It should be easy to find where the car came from, which is also useful information that can help you choose between a couple of options.
Are Parts Cheaper in a Junk Yard?
A great junkyard will give you significant savings–up to 80% on parts compared to buying a brand new one from an auto parts store, even discount auto parts. The best of the lot will confirm the part works and offer you a warranty for an additional fee.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for special offers. Only some people want A/C units in winter, so if you know you need one or yours is playing up, winter might be a good time to replace it.
Average Used Car Part Prices
Prices vary wildly, so it's worth researching and checking a few yards.
The average price for a complete engine is $3500. It might be worth looking into the cost of an engine rebuild if you have the time to get it done. If you need your car or truck back on the road quickly, though, you may need a complete engine swap and pay the money.
Common parts like an alternator go for around $20, and doors can start at approximately $50 and go up from there. The general rule is they'll be 80% cheaper than an auto-parts store.
Here is a list of the most common parts purchased from Junkyards and items always in high demand:
- GPS and/or stereo unit (high demand)
- Catalytic converter
- Exhaust pipes and muffler
- Body Panels (high demand)
- Starter Motor
- Ignition Coils
- Rims and Tires (high demand)
- A/C units
- Fenders (high demand)
Do Junkyards Buy Cars?
The answer is generally yes, but it will be a meager price. Junkyards will offer you the scrap metal price, based on the curb weight of your car, with a bit knocked off. This price will be linked to scrap metal market prices.
You can get a quote quickly for your junk car online. Just make sure to be accurate with the description so there are no surprises if you sell them the vehicle.
The scrap metal price is the starting point, and you need to negotiate up. So do your research. Check the lowest values of the car in the Kelley Blue book.
Try to establish if parts for your car are in demand. Does the yard already have a similar stock? If they do, what's the quality of that stock? Are you offering something better? Does the location of the yard mean certain cars will be more valuable to them?
Get clear on what their price includes. Can you remove some items to sell separately on e-Bay? For example, if the rims are decent, swap them out for old steel rims before the sale. It would be best if you decided this before they see your car.
Will they collect the car? Some offer free towing, others will charge. Other yards don't offer this service, so you have to find a way to get the car to them (which can be difficult if it's totaled or kaput).
If towing, watch out. Ensure you have the price agreed, documented, and, ideally, cash in your pocket before the vehicle is towed. Once it's at the yard, it's harder for you to do something if they offer you a lower price and hold back on the payment.
Remember, buying junkers is their business, so negotiating will be tough. You will almost certainly get a ‘take it or leave it offer.' As a rule of thumb, expect something between $200 – $500.
Remember to remove any personal information from the car before you sell it. Did you transfer your contacts to the car? You will also need to return the license plates and cancel your insurance before the junkyard can legally buy the vehicle.
How Do Junk Yards Make Money?
As we mentioned, junkyards make money from buying cars for the absolute rock bottom scrap price, based on the weight of scrap metal in the car. They then strip the car of parts in the hope of selling each one individually, making a profit on each piece.
When the car is fully stripped, they then sell the chassis for scrap metal, where it will be melted down and reused. Therefore you can be proud that you are contributing to being an auto recycler and environmentally conscious, saving the planet while saving your hard-earned dollars.
What Kinds of Vehicles Are in a Junkyard?
If you think about the top-selling cars in the US over the last decade, that's what you will likely find in a junkyard. The majority will stock cars, trucks, and SUVs. You will also find some that specialize in motorcycles and certain ones that range up to semis.
Here is a list of the top-selling cars in the US from the last decade to give you a feel for what you might find:
- Ford F-Series
- Chevrolet Silverado
- Ram Pickup
- Toyota Camry
- Honda CR-V
- Toyota RAV
- Honda Civic
- Toyota Corolla/Corolla iM/Matrix
Tips To Get The Most From Your Visit to a Junkyard
- Remove the part you need to replace at home. Take it and the tools you used with you. Doing this helps you identify the exact part you need, and since you have the tools required to pull it yourself, you can get it at the lowest price.
- Take additional tools in case you find anything else of interest. These can be left in your car as you want to avoid carrying tools around the yard or risk leaving them there.
- Take your work clothes, boiler suit, and an old rug, sheet, or carpet. Removing the part may involve getting down and dirty under the car.
- When you remove the part from the car in the junkyard, keep all the fasteners – nuts, bolts, washers, etc. You will certainly need these to fit the part to your vehicle.
- Take some penetration oil to help you remove any stuck parts. If you forget, take a bit of brake fluid from one of the junkers.
- Need some extra torque? Any exhaust pipe will double up as a breaker over your wrench when you can't shift a nut or bolt.
- Always keep your tools tidy and put them away as soon as you have finished. It's easy to get distracted looking around junkyards and forget them.
- Look around the cars next to your donor if the part you need is missing. Often parts get removed and left on the ground. These can then get thrown in any car by clean-up crews, so it never hurts to look.
- Keep an eye out for hidden gems that you can sell through e-Bay, like parts you have had to buy before, in-demand parts, or parts from rarer models.
- Test your electrical parts. You will not be allowed to haul a car battery around, and the junkers will not have one. But you can take a small lithium battery, like the ones from your drill or yard tools. Attach two crocodile clips, and you have power. The clips are perfect for testing small motors, piezoelectric injectors, and even lighting up the dash to check the mileage.
- Buy a wiring harness, so you have a stock of wire when working on projects at home. This wire will be the cheapest to buy and will contain yards of multi-colored wire.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Return a Junkyard Part?
The answer is generally yes. The yard may mark the part you buy with a dab of paint so they can quickly identify it if someone tries to pull a switcheroo on them and swap it for their broken part.
However, this isn't Amazon. You are unlikely to get a full refund. Instead, the yard will offer you an exchange or credit for your future used vehicle parts.
What Are The Best Tools To Pull a Part?
If you have a well-stocked portable toolbox, throwing it in the car is always a good idea to have access to a wide range of tools when pulling, but here are some items you might want to take:
- Socket Set (SAE and Metric, ideally 1/4 and 3/8″ drives, short and deep sockets)
- Combination wrenches
- Screwdrivers (various tips)
- Spark plug socket
- Hex key set (Standard and Metric)
- Pliers (Standard and long nose)
- Magnetic pick-up tool
- Mini Hacksaw
- Wire snips
- Penetrating oil
- Breaker bar
- Impact driver (can also use the battery for testing)
- Flashlight (some yards may not allow)
What Are The Most Popular Junkyards?
Located nationwide, they keep over 2000 vehicles at each site. The inventory focuses on cars rather than at a spare part level. However, they try to rotate the vehicles through quickly to keep the yard fresh. New cars will be put out every day. They also offer vehicle cross-referencing services to help with your parts search, even if it comes from a different make and model. No jacks or torches allowed.
Pick-n-Pull has 50 stores nationwide, selling parts and cars and buying cars. The stores stock an average of 1200 cars. Again they offer an online inventory and parts-checking service. You can exchange parts within 30 days and purchase an additional warranty for up to 12 months.
Leading the way with over 70 salvage yards, LKQ Pick Your Part stocks thousands of trucks and cars. Cars are grouped by make and model on stands to make part removal easy. The sales staff will also help you find the part you are looking for through their car part interchange. You can even buy cars here.
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to buying used auto parts from the best junkyards near me. You should now be ready to find all the parts you need.
This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.
Chloe is the creator behind It’s Not Your 9 to 5, a UK-based personal finance blog that teaches moms how to take control of their finances by saving money and diversifying income outside of their 9 to 5s. A mama, wife, and side hustler herself, Chloe is passionate about helping women gain financial confidence and achieve their dreams. Her writing style is witty and relatable, so her readers feel like they are having a conversation with a friend.