The used auto parts salvage business has come a long way in the last few years. Many of them use computer databases to inventory available used auto parts. Old vehicles are brought in, and most of them are pre-stripped and the parts stored in similar lots (i.e., fenders). Digging through heaps of rusty old cars is a practice of the past. Finding a part in a modern salvage yard is like shopping in any other retail store. In most cases, the fast-moving, popular parts like radiators, alternators, and seats are ready-to-go on display shelves.

These days, salvage yards are linked together by a telephone system called the Hot Line. When you need used auto parts, contact a yard near you to check their inventory. If they don’t have the part, ask them to “run it on the Hot Line.” They can literally get you information about parts available at other salvage yards within seconds. The Hot Line can save you hours of aggravation calling around yourself. When a salvage dealer finds a part for me on the Hot Line, it’s a good idea to ask him what he would have charged me for the part if he had it in stock. That way I have an idea of what I can expect to pay another dealer.

You will probably pay about half the price of a new part at a used auto parts salvage yard. Everything is negotiable to an extent, so you are welcome to try to negotiate … but always expect to pay in cash. If it’s an item like a seat that’s only in “fair” condition, you might be able to talk down the price even more. A word of warning: if at all possible, take the old part to the salvage yard with you to make sure they match. Sometimes, parts aren’t tagged properly, and what they think will fit your car won’t fit your car. Returns are almost always exchange only – there are no refunds. The standard poster you will see in the salvage yard says, “You have a spare if the part you bought from us doesn’t fix your problem.”