1. Where to Buy Used
Finding a reliable supplier is the first step to getting quality used parts. This can be online through eBay, auto parts stores, or the car wrecker. The average person probably won't step foot into a car wrecker place without advanced car knowledge.
Regardless of where you source these used parts, do some price-comparing. Research the parts that you need and how much they go for new. Then, start calling or browsing online for what they average used.
The main advantage to shopping at a car wrecker is the ability to haggle. You can prove how much it goes for at big name stores or online sellers, so the car wrecker owner will undoubtedly sell it for less. It also helps to be able to see the part for yourself in-person.
Online sellers often take poor photos of the parts they're selling. This can make determining the quality or authenticity of the part difficult. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions or for better photos when shopping online.
2. Verify the Exact ID of the Part
Whatever the part you need, no matter how common it is, make sure you know its exact identification. You can match your part with another used replacement with its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or chassis number.
You should bring the part into an auto parts store to get it identified if you cannot find a number on it. Then you can take the number and search for it used online.
3. History of Used Parts
One of the most important factors for buying used parts is making sure you don't get a lemon. The part may look cosmetically perfect, but it may contain a defect or crack that causes failure later on. Then, you're stuck buying that same part again if the seller offers no refunds or coverage.
Ask how old it is, the amount of mileage on it, and whether it has been repaired, modified or rebuilt. If the seller can't answer these questions definitively, then the price should reflect the uncertainty.
4. Return Policies
Do not, under any circumstances, purchase a used auto part without a return policy. No amount of savings is worth the possibility of being stuck with a broken part. Read the return policy carefully and note any exceptions or exclusions.
Some parts are only covered for a short period of time, i.e. 30-days from purchase. Online sellers often put in high restocking fees if you happen to purchase the wrong part by mistake.
This is probably a nit-picky stipulation to buying used car parts, but it does matter to many. Buying an aftermarket used car part, such as a headlight, door handle, or bumper can become an eyesore if it is mismatched.
Sometimes the style differences can even be a hindrance to the car's functionality. Bumpers that are off slightly may cause damage over time. This will be something to look out for when shopping for used parts.
6. The Importance of the Part
There are certain parts that should never be gambled with when buying used. Large parts that play a key role in multiple functions of your car (radiators, transmission, or alternator) should be paired with a strong warranty. It should go without saying, but never buy a second-hand spark plug.
Other parts that wear out anyway, like starters and brake rotors, should be purchased brand new. The savings just isn't large enough to merit buying used. You want to squeeze out as many kilometers as possible from these parts.
7. Avoid Big Franchises
Second only to car dealerships, big-name auto parts stores are not where you're going to save any money. Plus, they'll likely sell you some questionable used parts, but offer you worse coverage than a local business.
They make money off of people's desperation and convenience of location. There are plenty of auto parts dealers out there to check out. Sign up for free with Auto Chain and get connected with a local supplier for your car parts needs.
8. Ask About the Warranty
Even the car wreckers will extend a warranty to your used purchases. Make sure you read the warranty coverage that comes with your part. Online used car part stores may include some inconvenient catches to their warranties, so be diligent and carefully read them.
9. Watch Out for Fakes
You may be purchasing the exact VIN or chassis number matched to the part you need, but is it really the same part? There are a lot of parts out there that are duplicated but not made by the manufacturer. Counterfeit parts are a real issue online.
You can spot a fake by doing a few checks. Things like misprinted words, botched logos, and misplacement are a couple examples of red flags. These fake parts can be significantly weaker, lower-quality, and poor performing than the real deal.
10. Watch the Paint
Another potential hiccup for those buying online is getting an exterior part with the same colour. If you painted your car a completely different colour from stock, then you've no choice but to hunt down the detailer or can of paint to match it. If your car is the stock colour, yet the part isn't, it could be fake.
If it isn't a fake, then it might just be faded, which could be a potential eyesore driving around two different shades.
Shop Smarter, Not Harder
Car repairs get progressively more expensive as cars age. Some of us can't afford to take it to the car dealership and order new parts. Buying used car parts doesn't have to be a risky endeavour, you just need to be prepared.
If you're in need of some advice or interested in finding a practical solution to buying used parts, do not hesitate to contact us.