I grew up next to a wrecking yard. But can you believe it? I’ve never bought anything from one. GRS-reader matildaben wrote to share a question she posted at AskMetafilter:

Should I get a car part at a junkyard/salvage yard/auto recycler, and how do I go about it? I need a side mirror assembly for a 1998 Nissan Sentra. Should I get it at a junkyard? [...] Would it be worth it to drive over 30 minutes each way just to save $50-$100? Are junkyards scary? Should I bring a male friend with me if I go to one? Any other tips and techniques to make the transaction quick and painless and economical?

Apparently junkyards are a great place to save money, and they’re easy to use. Commenters noted the following:

  • Junkyards are not scary.
  • “Call around to all of them and find out what the best price is, and then ask the one who’s closest to you to beat it.”
  • Dress appropriately — you’ll probably get dirty.
  • Bring your own tools to get the part off the car.
  • If you don’t know much about cars, bring someone who does.
  • Getting a part from a junkyard can save you money, and give you a feeling of accomplishment.

One person wrote:

“It’s a piece of cake — fun, even — except you might find yourself wandering acres of cars before you find the Nissan you need [...] I’ve spent a lot of time around such places and must have looked pretty out of place too, but junk yards aren’t anything to be afraid of, and you’ll save a lot of money.”

If you really want to know how junkyards operate, check out this detailed response. (Or check out this photo essay about a trip to a junkyard.)

I’ll have to try the junkyard next time I need a car part. If you’re curious about them, too, then bookmark Junkyard Locator and Used Wrecking Yards (which has a state-by-state listing of yards).

Caution: This site notes that many junkyards are cash-only.

[AskMetafilter: Guidance for buying an autopart at the junkyard]