Should You Buy A Totaled Car For Parts? 3 Things To Consider

Sometimes it seems like car problems come in waves — one part goes, then another one, then another one, all in a short span of time. If you're mechanically inclined, you know that you can save money by buying used auto parts and doing your own repairs. But is it worthwhile to buy a whole car to mine for parts, rather than making a new trip to the salvage yard every time your car needs repairs? In some cases, it can be. Take a look at some factors that you should consider before buying an old car for parts.

Are the Parts Hard to Find?

Some cars are easier to find parts for than others. If you drive a late-model Ford Crown Victoria, for example, you're probably in luck — because these cars were commonly used by police departments and cab companies, there are a lot of them around, and you probably won't have to travel too far to find one in a salvage yard. You probably don't have to worry that you won't be able to find a part when you need one.

However, some classic cars or foreign-model cars are much harder to locate used parts for. To find the part you need, you may have to visit several salvage yards or hit the internet and wait for a part to be shipped to you. If you find yourself doing that over and over again, it may make sense to just buy a salvaged car of the same make and model if you happen to come across one. Doing so could save you valuable time and eliminate some frustration.

Can You Get a Good Deal on the Vehicle?

If the parts for your car are very expensive, then you may be able to save money by buying a totaled car to mine for parts. But then again, you may not. It all depends on how the car is sold.

It's important to know that when salvage yards sell whole cars, they often sell them for the sum of all the parts on the car. Without any discounts, it may not be any cheaper to buy a whole car for parts than it would be to buy each part separately, even if you eventually use every single part.

However, sometimes you can find a good deal. For example, a salvage yard may offer a discount on the parts if you buy the car as a whole. If you can pay half or a third less than the normal cost per part, it may be worth buying a whole car if you plan to do all of your own repairs.

You may also want to check out salvage yard auctions, where you might be able to pick up a whole car for much less than the value of its parts. In some cases, just one expensive part can make it worthwhile to buy a vehicle at an auction. For example, a diesel particulate filter for a diesel truck can cost as much as $5000 to replace. If you have a chance to pick up the same model truck at an auction for $2000, you've saved money on just that one part — plus you get all the other good parts to work with as well.

Can You Transport and Store the Vehicle?

When you buy a used car part, you can just throw it into your trunk, or secure it in the bed of a pickup truck or van if it's a very large part. Buying a whole car is different. You'll need to be able to transport it home. Be wary of buying a totaled car that has a broken axle or other obvious problems with the wheels, because you'll have a hard time getting it back home. If you pay to have it delivered to your house, a car that's missing axles or wheels will cost more.

You'll also need someplace to store the car when you get it home. Depending on your state and local laws, you may not be able to store an unregistered, uninsured car in your driveway or anywhere visible on your property, or you may be required to apply and pay a fee to have your parts car registered as inoperable. Homeowner's association rules may prevent you from parking a parts car in your driveway or in another visible spot on your property, even if it's otherwise legal to park it there. Your best bet is to have plenty of shed or garage space so you can store the salvaged car out of sight.

When it comes to keeping car repair costs down, sometimes you need to think outside of the box. Buying a whole car for parts is an unusual solution, but in some cases it can be a smart move.