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Auto Salvage

Learn the ins and outs of auto salvage yards.

Most auto salvage yards divide their lots by make and model to make searching for parts easier. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Most auto salvage yards divide their lots by make and model to make searching for parts easier.

Auto salvage yards are essentially junkyards filled with old, damaged and dilapidated vehicles and many auto parts. Auto salvage yards can be a great place to find specific, hard-to-find car parts for a fraction of the cost of new parts. Those who are trying to rebuild, refurbish or repair a vehicle on a budget should search local auto salvage yards for the parts they need. Though it takes time and effort to track down specific parts, the financial savings makes it worthwhile.

How Auto Salvage Yards Work

Auto salvage yards are businesses. Every year, auto salvage yards buy thousands of used cars and trucks that are mostly demolished. Those working for auto salvage yards examine vehicles at auto auctions for usable parts that they can resell for a profit to auto shops or to walk-in customers.

Individuals who come to auto salvage yards are usually looking for one or two specific parts. Auto shops, on the other hand, tend to buy in bulk from auto salvage yards. They purchase these parts for a fraction of the cost of buying the same part new.

Most cities have at least one auto salvage yard in operation -- but today it is much easier to find salvaged parts online. Websites such as AutoSalvageYards.com, PartsHotlines.com, and Junk Yard Dog have databases that customers can search to find a specific part at auto salvage yards across the country. These websites also feature detailed listings of local auto salvage yards by state.

What to Expect at an Auto Salvage Yard

Those who choose to visit auto salvage yards will discover that they cover several acres and have rows and rows of stacked, demolished cars. Since the lots are typically dirty, it is important to dress appropriately. Customers should be aware that each salvage yard has different policies and the level of service they will receive varies.

Some salvage yards require customers to get the part on their own, so it's a good idea to bring tools. Other salvage yards will retrieve a part for a customer at no additional cost, and many will haul larger parts for their customers. Most auto salvage yards divide their lots by make and model of vehicles to make perusing for a particular part easier. Prices are typically negotiable, so customers should expect to bargain for a part.

Most auto salvage yards do a thorough assessment of each vehicle for viable internal and external car parts to resell, including old tires. They usually keep a record of what parts they have available, so customers can call ahead of time. Many salvage yards will work with others in the area to help customers find the part they need if they don't currently have it. While most salvage yards claim to have a record of every part available, it is possible for them to overlook certain parts, so a customer should be aware that the part may still be somewhere on the lot.

Auto salvage yards can be a great place to find parts that are expensive and/or difficult to locate. Many customers discover parts for classic cars and foreign cars that would otherwise be costly to purchase. Instead of having to place a special order for a costly part from a foreign distributor, customers can find what they need at a salvage yard. They can also find working parts for newer models at a fraction of the cost.

Problems and Concerns

Perhaps the biggest concern surrounding auto salvage yards is environmental. Auto salvage yards are often accused of causing pollution by releasing hazardous wastes into the soil with fluid spills. Storm water and runoff can become contaminated by fluids from brakes, engines, transmissions, batteries, radiators and power steering systems. Most states have policies and guidelines for auto salvage yards to follow to ensure that they don't harm the environment.

Unfortunately, fraud is a real threat to customers purchasing parts from an auto salvage yard. If a customer appears to be wealthy or doesn't seem to know much about auto repair, he or she may pay an inflated price. Customers should come to auto salvage yards prepared or accompanied by someone knowledgeable who can help them negotiate a fair price.

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