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Salvage yards are little slices of heaven for frugal, used car owners who are their own mechanics. Pick-n-Pull has several junkyards scattered across the U.S., which are composed of rows of salvaged cars that customers can take parts from. It was the best place to go but apparently has gone under different management, which has resulted in some locations charging higher prices and wanting for better customer service, depending on location. Be sure to check all salvage yards in the area to ensure the best deal.

How do junkyards work?

Dismantling cars at a salvage yard in Oakland, CA
Salvage yard in Oakland, CA | Getty Images

Customers pay a small fee to enter the yard, and with their own tools, they can remove parts of the salvage cars. They pay a small price for the parts and go on their merry way. For example, if a Pick-n-Pull customer wants a seat for their Mustang, they can go to the yard, find a similar year Mustang, and remove the seat. It’s a wonderful business and one of the cheapest ways to get factory parts.

What parts are available?

a man pushes a cart through a slavage yard in oakland, ca
A man pushes a cart through a salvage yard in Oakland, CA | Getty Images

When someone wants to get rid of their car, they can sell it to a junkyard. Some yards only buy running cars, and in that case, new inventory can be complete. Of course, it depends on how the previous owner treated and kept the car. After it arrives, what parts are available on the car depends on who gets to it first. Assuming the car is complete, customers can take anything from a door trim to the entire engine off of the car. Project owners can buy an entire engine for less than $400. 

How to find a car at the junkyard

overhead view of a salvage yard in windsor, ca
Thousands of vehicles at the “Pick n Pull” automobile dismantling yard | George Rose/Getty Images

Some customers arrive and wander until they see a car with compatible parts. This can take hours, as junkyards can stretch for several acres. For customers who don’t have a lot of time, some junkyards keep an updated online inventory. Customers can check the site for the car they’re looking for. The inventory’s accuracy depends on how the yard is operated. Some yards don’t update their online inventory for up to 45 days. 

Does the junkyard sell complete running cars?

man removes a seat from a car at a salvage yard in Oakland ca
A man removes a seat from a car at a salvage yard in Oakland, CA | Getty Images

If on the lookout for the next project, certain junkyards are viable options. Some yards sell complete running cars for a fraction of their worth. These cars would hold salvage titles, but for someone looking for a donor car to aid their project, it’s a perfect option in terms of price and convenience. Customers can go through the motions with the DMV as well and try to make the car street legal. Salvage title cars must pass an inspection before they’re granted clearance to operate on the street.

Are there specialty salvage yards I can go to?

specialty salvage warehouse
Specialty salvage warehouse | KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

The short answer is yes, there are specialty yards available. Some specialize in Japanese cars, some only dabble in Mercedes-Benz. Parts will be more expensive, however, these yards can offer warranties. If buying an engine or drivetrain, these yards are a safe bet. Some will even ship the part for an extra fee. Be sure to check all salvage yards in the area for the best deal.