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Pros and cons of buying from car wreckers

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Updated 14 Feb 2020

Rowan Johnstone

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First off, if you’re wondering what a car wrecker is, you might want to have a quick read of this article here, before you continue on.

If you don’t want to read that article, car wreckers are basically the place where cars that are no longer suitable for the public road go to get a second life.

By second life, I mean they get completely dismantled and any salvageable part is removed and sold individually as a used part.

So, as a car owner, what are the pros and cons of purchasing a part from a car wrecker?

Pros

Price
Parts sourced from wreckers are usually the cheapest you can access. If you’ve got an older, out of warranty car with a broken part, you might be able to find a replacement in a wrecking yard for a fraction of the cost of a new one.

Rare parts
The benefit of car wreckers is that they generally source cars from all over the place. This means that they could possibly have, or help find, a hard to find part for your car. These parts may be hard to find either because your car is very old, or very few were made.

Both of these reasons would mean that finding new spare parts can be extremely difficult, so the wreckers would be your best bet.

Doing your bit
What do I mean by this? Parts found in wreckers have already been manufactured, obviously. Car wreckers are basically recycling plants, but for cars.

So when you purchase a part from a wrecker, you’re purchasing a part that has already cost the environment in terms of its use of resources when being manufactured, therefore reducing the need for new parts to be made.

I know, it’s small, that’s why it’s called a ‘bit’, but it all counts!

Quick fixes
Wreckers are great for sourcing cost-effective, quality parts that can get you out of trouble for the short-term. If you’re far from home, and your regular mechanic, and something goes wrong with your car, a wrecker might have the parts that can have your car safely back on the road until you’re able to get it to a mechanic.

Cons

Unknown history
Buying parts from a wrecker comes with risks, and not knowing the history of the part you’re buying is a big one. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the wrecker will have recorded how many kilometres the car had driven when the part was taken off. For some parts, it doesn’t matter at all, but for others, such as mechanical parts, it would be nice to know. You’ll need to be happy to take this risk.

Warranties
The previous point leads us to warranties. Some wreckers will offer a warranty, but some won’t. Don’t expect anything too long though, those that do offer a warranty might only offer it for a few months at best.

Self-service
There’s not many of these around, but some wreckers are of the self-service variety. This means you rock up to the yard with a tool kit in hand, maybe pay a fee to enter, and then it’s up to you to do everything. And I mean everything.

Basically, in these yards, the cars in their entirety sit there and aren’t dismantled by the wreckers. The customers are responsible for finding the car they need, checking to see if it still has the part they need, and then removing the part themselves. Once you’ve removed it, you take it to the checkout and they’ll tell you how much it is.

Whilst not all self-service wreckers operate exactly the same way, that’s the general gist of it.

Not the easiest way to buy car parts
A lot of wreckers don’t have an online inventory available to customers where you can see prices and availability. If you want to know if a wrecker has a certain part, you need to call up and often wait for them to find the part in their system if they have one, or manually find it in their yard. This all relies on the fact that there was no communication mixup between yourself and the staff member.

Your mechanic may not fit your second-hand parts
Due to liability, warranty and insurance concerns, mechanics may not fit second-hand parts that you have provided. Why? Because this causes a grey area in terms of who’s responsible if something goes wrong.

If that second-hand part was to fail and cause you to crash your car, who’s responsible? Is it you for providing the second-hand part, is it the mechanic for fitting the second-hand part, or is the wrecker for selling the part? We’ll let you know now, that’s a conversation that most mechanics are not willing to have, so they’ll avoid it altogether by choosing, which is completely in their right, to not fit customer supplied second-hand parts.

In fact, many mechanics will not fit any customer supplied parts, whether they’re brand new or used.

If second-hand is the only option, mechanics will often have their own second-hand parts contacts who they know source reliable and quality parts, which often come with a guarantee, so it’s best to leave the sourcing up to them in this regard.

It’s worth noting that most of these cons aren’t just unique to wreckers. You’ll experience these drawbacks in any used parts market, no matter what industry!

All in all, wreckers are a great way to access cheap parts, just try to find out as much as possible about the part you’re buying and if you’re getting a mechanic to install it, check with them first that they’re happy to do it.

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Written By

Rowan Johnstone

On weekdays Rowan can be found in the AutoGuru office, driving content and growth with the rest of the marketing team.

On weekends you’ll probably find him in the garage with his father restoring a 1958 Ford Star Model Customline or enjoying a cruise through the Gold Coast hinterland on his Suzuki GSX-R600.

Despite his passion for being behind the wheel (or handlebars), he looks forward to the day when he can commute to work in his own driverless car.