How to Buy Used Auto Parts

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Buy used auto parts to save on money and waste. (Photo: @Fancycrave via Twenty20)
Buying used auto parts can save you money and is more eco-friendly than buying new parts. Make sure you know the make, model, and year of your vehicle before you start shopping. It’s also a good idea to know exactly what part you are looking for, and the part number. Nobody will be able to help you if you are looking for that “doohickey that goes next to the engine behind the battery.”
You may be surprised by how much you enjoy digging around junkyards and getting to know fellow car repair enthusiasts who are selling their parts. Here’s what you need to know to buy used auto parts for your ride.

Find Used Auto Parts at Local Junkyards

Materials Needed
  • Allen wrenches
  • Hacksaw
  • Hammer
  • Heavy gloves
  • Pipe wrench
  • Pliers
  • Pry bar
  • Ratchet set (3/8-inch — both metric and standard, if possible)
  • Safety goggles
  • Screwdrivers
  • Sunscreen
  • Tin snips
Step 1: Go online and search for nearby junkyards. Even if you think you know where all the junkyards are in your area, there could be a hidden gem that you haven’t discovered yet.
Step 2: Find out if it is a “full-service” or “you-pick” junkyard. A full-service junkyard will find and retrieve the part you’re looking for. A you-pick junkyard will just turn you loose to find and retrieve your own part.
Step 3: Load up your tools and head over to the junkyards during regular business hours. Be prepared to do some serious searching, walking up and down aisles (if you’re lucky and they have clearly defined aisles) and picking things apart. You will most likely have to sign a release form that says you won’t sue the junkyard if you lose a finger or toe, and pay a small entry fee.
Step 4: Let the junkyard attendant know what you are looking for. They will likely at least point you in the right direction.
Step 5: Take your part to the attendant and pay for it. Yes, you still have to pay for it. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and junkyard owners know this. Don’t try to pass the part off as something that’s heavily used and almost worthless, either. They know their parts and what they’re worth.

Check the Local Classifieds for Used Auto Parts

Step 1: Pick up a newspaper and read through the classifieds. You may be surprised by the used car part that someone two blocks over might be selling.
Step 2: Call the number and ask about the part. Make sure it is the exact part you are looking for and that it still works, or at least did work prior to being removed from the car. There is always some risk. A part that worked just fine before it was removed may not work again after you get it installed in your car.
Step 3: Ask the seller if they will take the part back if it doesn’t work. This is not likely since the seller really has no control after the part is sold. You could damage it during installation. It doesn’t hurt to ask, though.

Buy Used Auto Parts Online

Step 1: Go online and take a look at what’s listed. There are many sites where people list used car parts. Some of the more popular sites are:
  • Car-Part.com: Accepts returns for exchange or money back
  • eBay: Accepts returns for exchange or money back
  • Craigslist: Buyer beware — this is basically the same thing as buying through the newspaper classifieds
Step 2: Check the expected delivery date. Many parts sold online are shipped from overseas. Some could take a month or more to arrive.
Make sure you have good insurance on your car, even if it is down and awaiting repairs. A comprehensive car insurance policy will cover damages incurred either on the road or in a garage.