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Rookie Guide to Buying Used Car Parts

Buying auto parts from your dealer is secure and reliable, but sometimes, it isn't possible. Learning to navigate the market for rare, expensive and replacement parts takes a little bit of time, but it saves you so much money in the end.

Before you go running to an unknown address that you found on Craigslist, soak in some insight from experts who have been scavenging the nation for the best parts on deals for decades.

Not all parts are best off in a used condition. Sometimes, handing over the higher payment to your dealer is worth every bit of hassle you would assume in finding the part elsewhere. There are also ways to go about buying- the research you conduct beforehand, the verification of the vendor, when to meet in person, etc. Check out our master tips below to get up to speed on which parts to buy used and how to buy them best.

These car parts are generally safe to buy used:

  1. Alternator. Using a rebuilt alternator is an awesome way to save money. Replacing is simple and keeps your battery capacity at optimal function.

  2. Interior Parts. Definitely explore used parts for interior pieces like floor mats, steering wheel or car seats. You will be surprised at how many of these parts are available in your local area.

  3. Mirrors. Mirrors can cost close to $200 to replace! Definitely scope out used replacements.

  4. Power Locks. Power locks are some of the most common parts to lose function and their replacement can be insanely expensive. Look for used power lock parts. They will run you a fraction of the cost and still work just as well.

  5. Rims. Corrosion happens. Between weather and using a car- you know, outside- forces greater than our cleaning habits inevitably lead to corrosion which can lead to air leaks. Check out your local junkyards for steel rims. Keep your eyes peeled for wrecked cars- you will often find nicer alloy rims here. Inspect the rims before you take them! A bent or corroded rim will only recreate your initial problem.

  6. Spare Tires. A spare tire will be used short-term so feel free to save a little bit of money by buying a used one. If you head to your local junkyard, you will likely even find one on newer car, granting it a longer lifespan than your original.

  7. Tires. Consider the lifespan of your car and how many miles it is clocking year in and out. Always check out the date of manufacture- the code is stamped on the side of the tire. Tires are hard to gauge by looking- go with the age of life to determine the tire’s reliability. Look for codes that are stamped less than six years ago.

  8. Transmission. Take a pair of expert eyes with you on this purchase run, but a rebuilt used transmission can serve you just fine.

  9. Windows. Finding used window glass is pretty easy and great for replacing a shattered window or sunroof on your car. If your windows are automatic, you can find replacement power window motors and hardware to go with, too.

There are some rules of thumb that can help guide you throughout the discount auto parts search and sale.

  1. A parts car isn’t a terrible idea. Depending on how many parts you need, consider visiting a local impound lot auction and bidding on an inoperable version of your car. You might just find everything for which you were hunting.

  2. Always buy rare parts in person. Rare parts come with highest price tags and for older cars, it just might not be worth the investment. Search for items in person, it will always be your best bet.

  3. Be wary of Craigslist. Sometimes Craigslist is a godsend, and sometimes it is a nightmare. But it is isolated those couple of hours. With Craigslist, you can find yourself running around town, meeting with people to see parts that look different in person than they did in their photo. When you head to a junkyard, you have a pile through which to rummage (arguably a time suck, too). Just be careful where you spend your time.

  4. Check for coupons. Always check and see if there might be a coupon code for the part you are purchasing. There are usually offers that extend to minimum purchases- like “$25 off of $100 purchase.” Add items to your cart that you know will need and use.

  5. Enlist online help. If you are worried about a purchase or cannot draw a reasonably conclusive price range on a part, ask for advice on online forums. People who have been in your situation will put in the right direction.

  6. Negotiate smartly. Research other parts nearby to determine the deserved price point on the item you are replacing. Be polite in your approach with the vendor and name-drop Car-Part.com to prove that you know what you are talking about.  

  7. Research. Research will ultimately steer your experience with the automotive industry. Educating yourself a little bit a time is so beneficial to you as a driver and automotive consumer! When it comes to buying car parts, put in the time to research what (and at which price points) parts are available in your area.

  8. Self-service junkyards are a thing. If you’ve got the time and you are up for a challenge, try searching at a self-service junkyard. Bring your own tools, find the part you need and claim it for your taking. You can disassemble the vehicle yourself to extract the item you need. This avenue is for the true automotive hobbyist.

  9. Verify. Before you complete a purchase, verify the part’s number with your dealership. You might run into parts that do not specifically align with your engine or transmission. It will be a pain to find the match, but not as big of a pain as purchasing a useless part.

For the most reliable used auto parts and most personalized shopping experience, check out Discount Parts Monster!