Money on the Road

Replacing car parts on a budget

Marketplace Staff Apr 29, 2011

Tess Vigeland: Bill Mahoney is on a quest to save some money much like a person would go to a thrift store instead of an outlet mall. He goes to several junkyards in search of a parts for a Honda. He talks with Enrique his mechanic who gives him tips on salvage yard digging and other people at the junkyard. He winds up saving close to 90 percent by buys used parts instead of new ones.

Bill Mahoney: When a friend asked me to help him fix up his car, I knew a trip to my local junkyard was in my future. Since his card is a decade-old Honda, I didn’t want to pay the dealer’s premiums for parts. And I wanted to avoid the Internet, because objects and people always look better on the Internet than in person.

So, before heading out to my local junkyard, I stopped by my local mechanic Enrique for some advice.

Enrique: What do you want to know?

Mahoney: I want to know the best parts to get at a salvage. Should I get mechanical, body?

Enrique: You can get either one, mechanical or body. Like for old cars, don’t make no difference.

Mahoney: Like how old?

Enrique: From 1975 down.

Mahoney: What’s the best time to get there?

Enrique: Early in the morning.

Mahoney: I’m going to Wilmington, any advice for Wilmington?

Enrique: I think in Wilmington they have three wrecking yards. But always before I go buy parts from wrecking yards, I call dealers or auto parts to find out prices.

Sales clerk: Good afternoon, Auto Parts.

Mahoney: Hi, I’m looking for a front driver’s seat for a 2001 Honda Civic LX.

Sales clerk: The whole seat?

Mahoney: Yes.

Sales clerk: OK… Everything comes separate. Altogether, the seat, including the head rest, just in case if you need it, will be $1,451.

Mahoney: So do many people ask for seats? Or mostly rear view mirrors?

Sales clerk: No, most of the time they go to junkyards and stuff like that.

Now that I had my price ceiling of $1,400, I’m heading off to Wilmington, Long Beach, Calif. The junkyard is not for everyone. The entrance fee is $2 and you bring your own tools. It’s a lot filthier than an apply orchard, but if you want a great deal, you roll up your sleeves and you get dirty.

Mahoney: Alright, the seat did not work out. Pulled it and it had some glue on it. So I’ll continue on! Alright, I’ve come upon one that looks very similar and it’s already removed, so I wouldn’t even really have to do anything.

Finally, I had found seats.

Man 1: What up, man?

Mahoney: Not a whole lot, two seats. Two front seats.

Man 1: Those seats have buckles on the seats, huh?

Mahoney: No seat belts.

Man 1: $88.60

$88 for a pair of pleather Maserati seats that I thought looked so good, I’m going to put them in my den. After three days of looking at three separate locations, though, still no seats for my friend Sateesh. I didn’t have much more time to look for the seats, so I decided to go to some of the specialty lots located around the junkyards.

Mahoney: What do you guys do?

Andre Agiyani: We specialize in Hondas and Acuras.

Mahoney: What’s your name?

Agiyani: My name is Andre Agiyani.

Mahoney: And so how do you get your cars?

Agiyani: We buy it from the auction or private parties. Indirectly, I get them from insurance companies, but they go through the auction system.

So how much was I gonna pay for this seat?

Man 2: A hundred bucks.

Mahoney: A hundred bucks?

That’s right. For $100, for a seat that the dealer wanted nearly $1,400 plus installation and assembly. Online, seats that wouldn’t match his interior went from $200 to $400.

So whether you enjoy spending time digging through a whole bunch of dirty junkyards or spend an hour in a speciality lot, it’s a pretty good money move.

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