For some people, buying used parts is the only affordable way to keep their trucks on the road. For others, used components are a great source for performing low-buck upgrades and swaps. And then there are the guys that just can't resist a deal, scouring the ads and salvage yards on a regular basis figuring they'll someday use whatever gem they find. Whatever the reasons, buying used parts is big business. But it's also a tricky business, and it's easy for one person to pay good money for another person's junk.
So how does a novice bargain hound avoid getting stung? Of course, there are a lot of reputable people and salvage yards willing to stand behind what they sell, but as usual a few bad apples spoil it for everyone. The key is being able to tell good parts from scrap. With help from the owners at four wrecking yards: Arrow Truck Salvage, Pacific Truck Salvage, Pick Your Part, and Truck Parts, we'll tell you what to look for, what to check, where to get it, and the right questions to ask.
First, study the check list we've put together for this article and memorize it. Second, check out the captions for tips and tricks on seeing the difference between quality used stuff and junk. Do the research and find out what will work on your application and what won't. The grizzly old guy in the back of your favorite wrecking yard may be a valuable resource, so listen to him. Keep your eyes open for deals, but also for warning signals. Don't forget to inspect, check, and double-check a part before laying down cash. If you follow the tips we show you here, you'll be ready to dig through the wrecks and hulks searching for prized treasure at a bargain price.
Used Parts Buyer's Check list
1. Know as much as possible about the part you're looking for, especially if you're planning a swap. Do your homework on the variations, different parts that look similar to the part you want, and the model years that the part was used on.
2. Learn quick inspections and tests you can perform to find out if the part is in good working order. Thoroughly examine any prospective purchase before you buy.
3. Check into the cost of rebuilding a part before looking for it used. Many components are reasonable and sometimes even cheaper rebuilt than used. Knowing the price of a rebuilt item also gives you a gauge on just how good a deal you're getting.
4. Ask around the local clubs and people you trust who have experience in buying used parts. A good reputation counts in the salvage business.
5. Ask about a guarantee. Many salvage yards offer 30- to 90- day warranties on its parts, but some may only offer exchanges. Also ask about a core charge.
6. When buying a used engine, ask about hearing the engine run. A reputable salvage yard will run and even drive a truck before it's dismantled if it has not been hit. Engines should at least receive a compression check. Watch them perform one on the engine you want to buy.
7. Be leery of buying from private parties. Ask where the parts came from. If you suspect the parts are stolen, walk away. Check out the components as much as possible, especially engines. If possible, try to only buy things from people you know.
8. Screaming deals usually aren't. We know you've heard this before, but it's worth repeating. If something is radically cheaper than normal, find out why.
9. Don't let your emotions persuade you to buy something simply because it's a good deal. Even if you've spent a year searching for a rare part, don't necessarily buy the first one you find.
10. Trust your instincts. If something doesn't look right, it probably isn't. Always look for possible red flags that indicate a problem with the component.
Bonus tip: Focus, but don't limit yourself to truck salvage yards. Depending on what you're looking for, the parts may be interchangeable between cars and trucks.