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The cost of car repairs is at an all time high. One way to cut those costs is to buy used parts.

Auto salvage yards take apart cars that have been totaled, retrieving every usable part. People still come to the yard to look for used parts, but these days more car owners check out availability and prices online. It’s easier.

Buying used-car parts can save you a bundle. Our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine says there are benefits and pitfalls to utilizing used-car parts.

Caution Before You Buy

Unless you’re doing the repair yourself, Consumer Reports says before you shop, check whether your mechanic will do the work and what, if any, guarantee the shop will provide. Some mechanics will not work with parts you found at a salvage yard. Others will install them, but will not give you any warranty on the job.

And be sure to check on whatever warranty the seller offers. Warranties generally last between one and six months. If there is no warranty, check to see that at least you can return the part if it doesn’t work.

Parts to Never Buy Used

But Consumer Reports says there are certain parts you should never buy used. Avoid buying anything that’s related to safety or the functioning of the car. Those parts should only be bought new or be rebuilt by a reputable supplier. Those car parts include:

  • Safety belts
  • Air bags
  • Brake parts
  • Electronic sensors that monitor system problems.

Consumer Reports says the safest things to buy used are parts such as mirrors, bumpers, and alloy wheels. Even used parts such as side-window glass and hoods can be safely installed, and work as good as new parts.

Once you find the part, ask the supplier whether it meets original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, specifications. That way you know you are getting a part that the dealer or authorized mechanic would use.

Make Sure its the Exact Part

When you shop for replacement parts, you’ll need the make, model, and year of your car, as well as the VIN. It’s also helpful if you have the number of the part, or can bring the old part to the salvage yard to make sure it is an exact match. Even identical cars of the same year can use a different power steering pump or alternator, for example.

As always, don’t waste your money.

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