Guide to Buying Used Car Parts

There are times when buying used car parts makes more sense than buying new parts.  Sometimes, it isn’t even a matter of being stingy; there may be times when a specific part that you need is unavailable, so you would need to scrounge around for a used one. This usually means a trip to the local junkyard and searching the damaged cars for what you need.  If you are driving a vehicle that is no longer being produced by the manufacturer, you can expect this to happen a lot.

There are cases where getting a used vehicle part is absolutely okay, while it is not recommended in other instances. For instance if you are looking for cheap tires then used are ok as long as you thoroughly inspect them and know that you are getting a good tire with plenty of tread.  If you are in the market to buy a used spare part, follow these tips to get the best deal possible:

Have a clear idea of the specific part that you need. For example, if your power window is broken do you need to buy the whole power mechanism or just the motor? It is a good idea to bring the actual part with you to let the suppliers see what it is exactly that you need.

Don’t be afraid to ask about things you don’t know or are not sure of.  While it may be humbling to admit ignorance, it is a better alternative to basing your purchasing decisions on assumptions and guesswork.

Be sure that the establishment you buy from has a reasonable return policy.  There will be times when a certain part that you bought will not fit with the replacement that you need.  Also, used spare parts are not guaranteed to be in perfect condition.  Before making a purchase, ask directly about store policy for returns and exchanges, and make sure that you are issued an official receipt.

Know when it is okay to do replacements with used spare parts, and when it isn’t. Some used spare parts can perform nearly as well as new ones.  Others simply must be bought brand new.  If you need to replace any of the following, it is perfectly fine to buy them used:

ABS controller and air box;
Body parts such as panels, bumpers, skirts and grill;
Power window motors and door lock actuators;
Exhaust heat shield, manifold, and pipes;
Fuel tanks and  gas caps;
Wheels, lugs, valve covers and tie rods;
Windows, window glass, windshield washer pump and wiper arm;
Sunroof motor and stereo systems;
Jack, lug nuts, oil pan and cigarette lighter;
Steering wheel, pulleys, rear view mirrors and seats;
Throttle body, vacuum lines and vacuum reservoir.

Meanwhile the following spares should always be bought brand new:

Air bags and airbag sensors;
Brake discs/rotors, brake light switch, brake pads and brake shoes;
Battery, ball joints and bearings;
Catalytic converter and clutch disc;
Distributor cap, engine bearings, fuel lines, fuses and gaskets;
Ignition coil, ignition condenser and ignition points;
Head studs and headlights;
Muffler and muffler hangers
Air filter and oil filter;
Shifter bushings, shock absorbers, strut bearings, strut inserts;
Thermostat, cooling fan switch, oil pressure switches, oil pressure sensors;
Piston rings, radiator hoses, rotor and voltage regulator;
Radiator hoses, water pump, valves;
Spark plugs, spark plug wires, timing belt and timing chain; and

These spare parts are prone to wear and tear and they need to be replaced regularly.  If you buy them used, chances are that you won’t really get your money’s worth as you’ll soon be needing to replace them yet again.