How to buy a car or parts from a junkyard

Many junkyards maintain an online database of in-stock vehicles and parts. If you know what you're looking for, consider checking online before you go to see if the junkyard has the car you want or the part you need. Otherwise, you can typically browse a junkyard's vehicles and available parts in person.

What to look for when buying a car from a junkyard

You should first determine whether the vehicle(s) you're looking at are salvage or not. If you have experience fixing up cars yourself, a salvage vehicle can be a great source of spare parts or possibly even a fixer-upper vehicle. If you intend to repair a salvage vehicle to make it road legal, you'll need to get a rebuilt title. If you're looking for a vehicle that you can drive off the lot, you should look at the junkyard's inventory of repaired or used vehicles instead. Learn more about if you can get insurance on a salvage title car.

The staff at the junkyard typically know the extent of the damage to a particular vehicle and can tell you what happened to the car. Steer clear if a vehicle was sent to the junkyard because of water or fire damage. It's likely more trouble than you could repair without completely rebuilding the vehicle. Learn more about water damage to cars.

What used parts are good to buy from a junkyard?

While the parts you may stumble across at a scrapyard are endless, you might want to focus on certain exterior components to be on the safe side, such as:

  • Mirrors
  • Bumpers
  • Fenders
  • Doors & body panels

If your car suffered slight body damage, you could find the above parts in near-perfect condition for a fraction of the price at a junkyard.

Used car parts you shouldn’t buy at a junkyard

Just as some parts are perfectly safe to purchase at a junkyard, there are some you should never purchase there:

  • Seatbelts: Seatbelts are inexpensive to purchase new, and you can't always spot damage to a belt with a visual inspection. Don't take the chance on buying a safety belt that has wear and tear.
  • Spark plugs: Spark plugs are inexpensive and easy to replace. There's no need to go to the additional effort of looking through a junkyard for a spare spark plug.
  • Filters: It's better to buy new filters to ensure you aren't introducing unwanted particulates into your vehicle.