Why Salvage Yards are Inspirational

Way back in the 1990s, I was a young driver with my first vehicle. It was a little pickup truck that was only a few years old. It had a standard (stick-shift/manual) transmission and was void of any options except for a day/night rearview mirror. I loved it!

Normal Daily Driver

The truck was not a drop-dead attractive exotic car that teens dream about. But it was my truck. So, I took care of it. I made sure that all the regular maintenance on it was done, either myself or at the local shop. I loved it!

I Loved It

Did I mention that I loved it? Well, I loved it so much that I took care of it almost obsessively. In fact, I would wash it more than once a week, and then wax and polish the vehicle monthly, or more often. I did that so often that, at one point, the waxing and polishing I was doing had started to thin the paint. So, I would wax the primer underneath the paint. I loved that truck!

I said all that to say this, over time, and as a young driver, I was not afraid to wrench on the vehicle myself, or with help, as I came across little things that needed repair. These were things outside of the regular maintenance, more like annoyances. But, I could not sit there and let something on my truck remain broken. So, I would wrench away, or ask my father for help.

Stacked Cars at a Scrapyard
Cars are stacked at the scrapyard of a car recycling company in Berlin, Germany, 04 January 2013. | Photo: Paul Zinken | usage worldwide | Photo by Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Salvage Yard

Let me give you an example. A broken speedometer cable meant a trip to the… salvage yard. Did you think I was going to say a trip to the “Parts Store”? Here’s where things got interesting. The new part from a parts store would cost regular retail. But, my father, in his wisdom, knew that speedometer cables rarely break. So, he postulated that we could get a used replacement cable from the salvage yard and expect it to last for many more years, without having to pay full price at the parts store.

Fixed It

After a quick stroll through the salvage yard, my father pulled the speedometer cable off a truck he found, and we took it to the front desk of the yard to see how much they would charge us. When the worker saw it was just a cable in his hands, the worker waved him off, no charge. My father would then teach me in our driveway the basics of installing the replacement cable. Voila, the truck was fixed. My truck was operating properly, and I was happy. Did I mention I loved my truck?

Over time, my father and I would return to the local salvage yards to get replacement parts for the same truck. There was a broken grill, an air conditioning slide from the dash, etc.. Every time we returned there, I would get inspired on how to change things on my vehicle. You see, the salvage yard is not just a place to get replacement parts, but also a place you can pick up upgrades for your vehicle.

2019 BMW 3-Series M Sport brakes and wheels
2019 BMW 3-Series M Sport brakes and wheels | BMW

Time To Upgrade?

What do I mean? Well, manufacturers will often differentiate trim levels within a model line with different wheels. For example, a Toyota Camry with the L trim may have hub caps, while the XLE trim may have special shiny wheels. On still another trim level, the Camry TRD might have blacked out wheels.

At the salvage yard you can pick up those Camry TRD wheels, and most times, there are savings over buying them at the dealership or from Toyota. That’s the upgrade I referred to. As you can already surmise, this same principle applies to more than wheels. That’s why I referred to trips to the salvage yard as inspirational.

Your Experience May Vary

All salvage yard experiences are going to be different. The particular day I mentioned above happened to be a day where the front desk worker was overly kind to my father and I. We enjoyed the freebie. But, the truth about salvage yards remains, paying full price at the local parts store is not always necessary. There are other options. In our case, it was the salvage yard.

Buyer beware though, not all salvage yards will charge you reduced prices. So, do some research before showing up to get your replacement parts. Most times, however, they do and a trip there will not only yield that part that you’re looking for but also leave you wondering is there something else I can do to my car.


You know, I don’t have LED headlights. I wonder if I can find those at the salvage yard for my vehicle. Or, maybe I’ll pick up the different colored seat belts… Ahhhh, the dreams begin again!