If you love to work on cars and are looking for inexpensive used automotive parts or parts for older cars an automotive salvage yard is the place to go. I kept my old Dodge Dart going for years on salvaged transmissions and spindles when I was first starting out after college (I also burned up the clutch a lot). My brother, who is now a master mechanic, helped me a lot with what to buy and where to get it.
A salvage yard is a treasure trove of parts when you have an older car. If you have a newer car, been in an accident and would rather fix it yourself then call your insurance company, go to a salvage yard. You can get bumpers and fenders to install and paint to match your car. Had a run in with a rock from a dump truck? Go to a salvage yard to get a cheap windshield. Need a radiator, starter motor or a whole engine for those with motor oil in their veins go to a salvage yard. Smaller things like tail light covers and other small parts usually go quickly so they may be harder to find. Some things are more fragile and my have already been broken before it reaches any salvage yard so if you are looking for headlight or tail light covers, call ahead.
If you are looking for parts for a specific make and model car it is always a good idea to call ahead to see if they have a car like it. They don’t have every make and model of every junk car in every salvage yard. If they tell you they don’t know it may be worth a morning or afternoon to walk through the yard, if they allow it, to find what you are looking for. If you have a “classic” car made in the last century you may be out of luck but it is still worth a try rather then having parts made.
Some salvage yards allow or even require that you go get the part yourself. Some yards will not allow you in the yard for liability insurance reasons but will go retrieve it for you. Some yards will actually salvage the more popular items as the cars come into their business so you can choose the part you need right in their shop.
Using salvaged used car parts is also environmentally friendly. Things like car seats and other plastic parts are not as easy to recycle as metal. Reusing these kinds of parts will save them from being added to landfills. Only about 41% of the plastic in cars is recyclable. Around 75% of a car is made of metal that can be smelted down and the metal reused. Some tires can be reused and often are sold to businesses that sell used tires. My daughter has been keeping her car moving on used tires for 6 months now. Not a bad deal at all.
Whether you are just cheap or are a real motor head salvage yards also known as junk yards are the place to go for used automotive parts.