Finding the right auto parts you need in the local junkyard can be difficult. Here are some tips to find exactly what you're looking for.

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It’s true that many drivers couldn’t find the latch to pop the hood on their car, much less the dipstick, a spark plug, or the brake master cylinder, without a map to guide them. Like much of the technology we take for granted in our everyday lives, most rely on trained professionals to deal with automotive problems.

There are also plenty of people that pride themselves on the ability to change their own oil, rotate tires, and even perform more complex maintenance and repair tasks on their vehicles. Some people even purchase old cars for the express purpose of tinkering or returning them to a usable state.

Whether you’re looking to restore a vintage automobile to its former glory or you simply want to save some dough when it comes to keeping your daily driver in good, working order, you’ll find that scrounging abandoned parts from junkyards can be an economical means of undertaking repairs. That said, it’s not always so easy to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

It’s not like most junkyards have a well-maintained inventory and a database of parts for your perusal – this is what auto parts stores are for. So what can you do to expedite the process? Here are a few tips for finding the affordable auto parts you’re looking for at your local junkyard.

Look for “Parts” Cars

Finding a carburetor for your vintage 240Z could require hours of pawing through bins at the junkyard. On the other hand, it’s much easier to spot a suitable car to cannibalize. You’ll have to go in with some knowledge of comparable models, production years, and parts, but locating intact cars to loot for needed parts is a lot easier than searching for a small, specific part amidst the debris.

Seek Out High-End Junkyards

This might sound like a contradiction in terms, but there’s no denying that some junkyards are simply better than others. This is especially relevant to those in search of used car parts.

The best options are going to fall under the category of Pick-n-Pull locations, self-service auto parts stores that offer an organized and up-to-date online database and frequently rotate inventory. You might pay a little more for parts than at the average junkyard (there’s no haggling – everything is list price), but you’ll have a much easier time finding the parts you need while still paying less than ordering them new.

As a bonus, knowledgeable buyers can find incredible steals. Prices are generally based on part types, rather than specific cars or engines, so you’re going to pay the same price for an engine whether it comes from a Shelby Mustang or a Chevy truck (not that you’ll find a Shelby Mustang being recycled, but you get the idea).

Use the Internet

Oh, the internet! It’s like a smorgasbord of spare auto parts. You no longer have to live in an area that features abundant junkyards in order to find the used parts you’re looking for.

Now you can let your fingers do the walking. The caveat here, of course, is that people who list specific parts online probably have some notion of supply and demand, meaning you’ll likely pay more when perusing online junkyards than you would going in person and doing the digging yourself. In terms of expedience, though, the internet is second to none.