Types of Auto Salvage Yards
Some folks think all auto salvage yards are the same. They generally think these are places that are full of junked random autos, that people can go and pull used parts from. Part of that sentiment is true, except the “random” part.
Many salvos have common themes and specialize in one area or another. For example some deal in various automobiles, while others only deal exclusively in either cars, trucks, RV’s, motorcycles, or boats specifically. These specialized salvages are the best places to find used parts for your specific needs like fixing your particular auto or doing a restoration. The yards are much more concentrated and will cater towards your needs. In this article I will address the main 8 types of auto salvage yards that I have come across in my years of scavenging.
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First lets discuss the basics of your generic mixed brand, model, and class, run of the mill junkyards near me.
Automobile Salvage Yards
One of the most common types of junkyards you will find is an auto junkyard. These places are often called salvage yards, wrecking yards, scrap yards, and even graveyards. Their properties are plush with junked auto’s that are there to be sold off for parts. They generally get their inventory from private owners who junk a car and insurance companies by paying low rates, often the scrap metal price, for a wrecked vehicle. Then they sell what remains as individual parts in order to make a profit. After a vehicle is picked apart it is either sent to a scrap metal plant and sold for its weight in reusable metal or left to rust on the property.
There are a few different business models for these types of junk yards. Some charge admission and then charge for parts, while others just charge for parts you pick and pull. Pick and pull style salvos are by far the most popular. Another model is where they pre-pull used auto parts and then store them in a warehouse for you to go through. This is particularly common for engines and tires. Most of, but not all, auto salvos offer the ability to purchase a warranty on the parts. This gets you 30 days to exchange the part if what you purchase doesn’t work as expected. It is never cash back.
The deals on parts are always great though. You can find alternators for about $18, doors for about $65, and used batteries for around $12, to name a few items.
At a general auto salvo you can find a mixed array of vehicles from cars, trucks, SUV’s, and sometimes even a few other vehicle types. I’ve seen golf karts, go karts, and sling shots at these places. While you can find some real nice gems at these lots, they are often enormous and difficult to find what you need since it’s not a specialized auto lot. This is where it’s helpful to niche down into a more specific auto salvo type such as one that specializes in either cars or trucks.
8 Types of Auto Salvage Yards To Save Money on Used Parts
1. Car Junkyards
Car salvages, aren’t just random automobile yards, they specifically specialize in only cars. You may find a few odds and ends on the lot, but mostly passenger car vehicles. While car junkyards are helpful there are even more specific types of car salvages…
You can find yards that are specifically dedicated to one of the popular manufacturers. There are specific salvages for American autos like Ford, Chevy, Jeep, and Dodge, but there also many for imports like BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Volkswagen. You can often find these, by searching Google for “Car Manufacturers Name” + “Salvage Yards Near Me”. If you have a specific car brand that you need I often find this is the best way to get used parts for it cheap. Knowing what other models from the same manufacturer contain the same parts is a good way of saving time when scavenging.
Model Specific Salvos
A model specific car salvage is even more exclusive then a manufacturer specific yard. These are highly specialized yards that only deal in one model from one manufacturer. You can find model specific salvo for Chevy Corvette, Ford Mustangs, and Jeep Wranglers to name a few. These places are like a haven for model specific enthusiasts and are your best places to find vintage pieces for a restoration. Most of these styles of places are very connected to where to find specific parts you need. If they don’t have what you are looking for, they may be able to connect you with someone or some place that does.
Type Specific Salvos
A type specific yard is more about the classification of the auto. For example you can find places that deal exclusively in classic cars, muscle cars, or imports. On these lots you will get a variety of makes and models of cars, but they will all fall under a similar type, classification, or theme.
2. Truck Junkyards
Similar to car salvos, truck salvages deal exclusively in trucks. In my experience truck junkyards aren’t so dedicated to make and/or model, but in the work function the truck performs or the type of duty the truck is classified as. You can find specialized truck salvos that deal exclusively in lite duty, medium duty, heavy duty, work vehicles, semi-trucks, and diesel. If you find a general truck junkyard it will likely have a mix of various truck types including SUV’s.
If you are looking for a specific kind of truck, you can also try searching for salvage yards by manufacturer. so for example, the “Truck Manufacturers Name” + “Salvage Yards Near Me”. A Ford salvage yard for example, will carry both Ford cars and trucks.
3. RV Junkyards
RV salvages are super popular salvos dedicated exclusively to recreational vehicles. Whats great about these yards is that the used RV parts you can find, you can’t get anywhere else. RV salvages operate like other auto salvos, except in my experience they never offer a warranty option on the used parts.
If you have never been to an RV junkyard, they are a thing of beauty. Since the vehicles are so large, the yards are also very large. You can often find dedicated areas for special popular pieces like doors, steps, portable toilets, sinks, closets, command center chairs, etc.
Similar to RV Yards…
In the same vein of RV junkyards there are other exclusive yards for campers, motorhomes, mobile homes, caravans, and trailers. Sometimes you will see a few of these at an RV junkyard, but if you need parts for those it’s best to look for those yards specifically.
4. Motorcycle Junkyards
Motorcycle salvages deal exclusively in bikes. These are often very exclusive and you won’t see motorcycles mixed with cars and trucks. There will be however a mix of the type of bikes you may find. For example some yards have everything from street bikes to dirt bikes to motor scooters. Other yards may be exclusive to one bike type like street bikes or even one model like a Harley Davidson Salvage yard.
Motorcycle salvage yards operate just like car and truck yards. They get there inventory from private owners and insurance companies and they either let you pick and pull or get parts from a warehouse. Once thing I find really cool about motorcycle junkyards is that you can go and get parts to build yourself an entire salvage bike from scratch.
Similar to Motorcycle Yards…
Somewhat related to motorcycle salvos there are also similar specialized yards for ATV, UTV’s and even snowmobiles. These places are not as popular or prevalent, so there are only a handful spread out across the US and Canada.
5. Boat Junkyards
Boat salvages are also called marine or yacht salvages. These junkyards are never mixed with any other vehicle types. It’s always exclusively boats and marine vehicles. Some of these boat scrap yards also carry used or junked boat trailers. The boats will vary in size from yacht to dinghy.
At these places the boats are often up on blocks or laying on the ground. Its sometimes difficult to get what you need out of the boat if it’s not leveled properly. In my experience its also hard to find the make and model of boat I need. These yards are often massive and not very well organized. If you are looking for used boat parts, call ahead and check to see if they have the make and model you need.
Similar to Boat Yards…
Aside from boat salvages you can also find boat motor salvages and jet ski salvages. Boat motor salvages are really cool. They specialize in inboard and outboard boat motors. Some of the places even rebuild the motors and resell them with a warranty. Others just sell the motors or parts as is from a warehouse or online.
6. Heavy Equipment and Construction Junkyards
Equipment salvages have a variety of work equipment such as bulldozers, cranes, booms, bobcats, and even cement mixers. There is often a mix of vehicles and loose parts, so for example you may find a cement mixer barrel with no truck or tracks for a bulldozer, but the vehicle is gone. So they are vehicle and used parts yards. Additionally you can find often find heavy duty flat bed trailers as well.
If you have a construction business these are great places to go to save money on used parts. There is often a lot to salvage and if you are crafty you can take parts and then fabricate them to fit your heavy equipment. Additionally they are great for buying your used work vehicles. This is beneficial when you need to invest in a new vehicle and want to get something in return for your old one.
There are sometimes yards that specialize in specific brands like salvos dedicated exclusively to Weller tractors, Caterpillar, and Hitachi machinery. There aren’t many of these yards though so you will be lucky to have one nearby.
7. Tractor Junkyards
Tractor salvages, carry a variety of specialized heavy equipment for farming. Most carry the obvious vehicles like tractors, ride on and push lawn mowers, as well as UTV’s. Some may also carry hay balers, combines, sprayers, irrigation pipping, quadratic track tractors, and harvesting equipment. You can also find specialized tractor junk yards for brands like John Deere and Cub Cadet. To fond those search for “Tractor Manufacturers Name” + “Salvage Yards Near Me”.
Since farming equipment operates under heavy duress, getting used parts for these types of vehicles can save a farmer a ton of money. They are also good places to sell your tractor when it’s reach end of life. This can give you some seed money to fund a new piece of equipment.
In my experience these equipment lots are often really big, because the equipment is so large. There aren’t many of these around and they are predominantly in the middle states where the farming industry is the largest.
Similar to Tractor Yards…
While these places do carry related equipment, you can actually also find specialized yards for lawn mowers and farming equipment specifically.
8. Used Tire Junkyards
Used tire salvages are great to save money on tires. Almost 30 million used tires get purchased per year, which accounts for almost 10% of the US market. You can often find up to 50% off the original new tire price and still have some good mileage left on it. Some used tire junkyards just stack the tires in piles while others are organized by tire size or brand. When getting used tires it’s important to understand how to to choose the right size and load capacity for your vehicle.
While I don’t recommend buying used tires in every circumstances, they are ideal for replacing tires before turning in a lease or replacing one tire. Additionally if your goal is to save money these are a great place to start as tires are one of the most common recurring expenses in vehicle maintenance. Just make sure you always consider safety over price.
Environmental Impacts of Auto Salvage Yards
Auto salvage yards serve the vehicle recycling industry, it’s the 16th largest recycling industry in the US, and the most recycled consumer product. Each year almost 25 million tons of scrap metals are recycled from junked autos. There are some great stats here on auto recycling. Used tire recycling also diverts highly flammable chemicals and dangerous environmental materials from leching in landfills. There are over 1 Billion end of life tires created annually across the globe. Around 249.4 million scrap tires were generated in the U.S. in 2017.
According to Wikipedia, “recyclers of end-of-life vehicles save an estimated 85 million barrels of oil annually that would have been used in the manufacturing of other parts.” Additionally salvage yards help defer millions of tons of sheet metal and other metals from landfills. About 80% of a vehicle (by weight) can be recycled. The other 20% does end up in public landfills. Which is about 5 million tons per year.
Auto Salvage Yards Conclusion
Auto salvage yards are amazing places to find used parts cheap. If you are a mechanic, private owner, or doing a restoration, these are a gold mine for hard to find pieces. While saving money has it’s benefits, it also can keep vehicles with vintage parts and avoid the need to fabricate your own parts. The more specialized the automobile junkyard is the more time you will looking for what you need. It’s hard to find specific used auto parts in a general automobile junkyard. You are better off looking for specialized auto salvage yards that deal specifically in the brand, vehicle type, or auto part you need. To get the most benefit, you should always inquire about getting a warranty on what you purchase.
While saving money and getting used parts is a great benefit to you, these yards serve a greater environmental impact to the community. Supporting you local auto junker diverts waste from landfills and helps reduce the energy it takes to produce new parts. They also create a centralized location for storing wrecked autos. Imagine how many inoperable vehicles would be ditched on the side of the road if it wasn’t for your local auto salvage.