If you're looking for a car and need to save money, my advice is always the same: Buy used. It's that simple. When you buy a new car, you typically lose hundreds or thousands of dollars just by driving it off the dealer's lot, and the depreciation just keeps on coming after that. But if you buy an older car in good condition, much of the depreciation will be "taken out of it," as they say, leaving you with a perfectly fine car that holds its value pretty well. Here's my question, though: What happens when you need to buy replacement parts for that used car? As you'll quickly discover if you go to a dealer's parts counter, the prices for new parts can be outrageous. It doesn't always make sense to pay top dollar for replacement parts when you've already saved so many dollars on the car itself. There's got to be a better way, right? Right. In fact, there are three better ways, as far as I can tell. Here are three tips for making sure you get the parts you need for your pride and joy.
1. Check Salvage Yards for Rare Items Salvage yards are great for obscure parts that cost an arm and a leg from the manufacturer, or may no longer be available at all. If you get lucky, you'll find a salvage car just like yours with some undamaged parts to choose from. I'm not talking about standard stuff here, like A/C compressors or transmissions. I'm talking about an original T-top glass panel for a 1985 300ZX, or a door handle for a 1969 Chevelle. Oftentimes, you just can't find stuff like this anywhere else, so you're at the mercy of your local salvage yard's inventory. Fortunately, salvage yards these days use modern computers to maintain sophisticated inventory systems, and they care about winning your business. There are even national websites like www.partshotlines.com and www.partmyride.com that let you search multiple yards in your area -- you might stumble across exactly what you need with one click. For those impossible-to-find parts, this is definitely the way to go.
2. Consider Remanufactured Parts Expertly remanufactured parts can be as good as new, and there's no doubt they're going to save you a bundle of cash. Big-ticket items like transmissions, heating/cooling systems and even entire engines can be purchased from quality rebuilders for a fraction of what they'd cost new, and they usually come with warranties, too. Advance Auto Parts happens to sell a number of remanufactured components along these lines, so that's a great place to start. But I'd also suggest checking with local machine shops in your area, as well as mechanics who specialize in your car.
3. Don't Always Buy Used Parts I want to be clear about this: there are some situations where you just want to minimize risk. Let's say you need a replacement starter, for example -- a "wear item" that you absolutely count on every day. I'd spring for the new one, to be honest with you. When you're dealing with older cars at the salvage yard, who knows how close their starters were to failure, you get me? I wouldn't take that chance. Some other vital parts that come to mind are airbag assemblies and car brake components, because you don't want to mess with your safety on the road. And when it's time to buy new parts, make sure you check out Advance Auto Parts—you'll be getting quality parts that last a long time, and you're going to like the bottom line.
What used or remanufactured parts have you tried? Tell me where you got 'em and how they've worked out for you. Would you do it again? What would you do differently? Editor's note: Check Advance Auto Parts for most all of your OE parts needs. Buy online, pick up in store.