Used car parts make up a significant portion of automotive part sales across the country. Although some parts, referred to as wear parts, degrade fairly quickly in a working vehicle, many car parts can be used for years and transferred between vehicles multiple times.
Used auto parts distributors keep an inventory of parts for many makes and models. These parts are typically long-lasting non-wear parts like engine mounts, axles, and interior trim pieces. In order to maintain their inventory, parts dealers take parts from a variety of sources, including the following.
A vehicle is considered totaled when the cost of the repairs it needs exceeds its value. Insurance companies often refuse to cover repair costs for totaled vehicles no matter how many usable parts they have left, so many of them end up in junkyards owned by automotive salvage companies.
Cars may be totaled for a wide variety of reasons, including flood and hail damage. These damages are mostly cosmetic and do not affect the engine. Some accidents, including side-impact accidents, can total cars while leaving their engines completely unscathed. Parts from these cars are valuable and are often sold as used-like-new parts when they are removed from vehicles with low mileage.
Many of the salvage companies that remove these parts opt to sell their parts to used auto parts distributors instead of selling directly to mechanics and the general public. In exchange, they can salvage and make a profit on any and all useful parts from totaled vehicles.
Whenever anyone is in the market for a new car, they have the option to trade in their old car for a discount on the cost of their new car. Dealers typically take trade-ins of all kinds and in all conditions. Even non-running vehicles may qualify for a trade-in program.
Although not all trade-in vehicles are in good condition, almost all of them have useful non-wear parts. Some old cars may have parts that are difficult to find or valuable to collectors and vehicle restoration professionals. Used auto parts dealers often seek out these parts from trade-ins at car dealerships, especially if they come from vintage vehicles.
Not every scrap yard maintains direct business connections with auto parts sellers. Instead, they choose to act as online wholesalers that provide a wide variety of parts direct from their salvage operation to used parts distributors across the country. Distributors may not be able to negotiate lower prices, but in exchange, they have more access to a wider variety of parts on shorter notice than they could expect from local salvage yards or car dealerships.