“The sum of parts is greater than the whole—at least in dismantling,” according to Copart founder, Willis Johnson. We believe that to be true, and we maintain that just because a car is no longer roadworthy doesn’t mean it’s worthless by any means. According to Toyota, there are over 30,000 parts on a single car. In many cases, a car may be sidelined because of just a handful of parts, leaving the other 29,000+ in good shape—and worth some money.
With the right tools and some mechanical knowledge, anyone can make a pretty penny pulling and selling these parts:
Gone are the days of using paper maps or printing out directions to navigate from point A to B. If we’re not asking our smartphone for directions, we’re following the guidance of a GPS system. Yes, it can be wildly therapeutic to cruise around aimlessly with the windows down, but when you’ve got to get somewhere, or you’re stuck in traffic, you’ll want some guidance and entertainment. Car stereos and GPS systems are always in demand, especially at a second-hand price.
Fenders and Bumpers
As long as there are fender benders there will be a market for replacements. Remarketed fenders are much cheaper and can be easy to locate depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle. Bumpers are also a lucrative part, as they are the car’s first line of defense, taking the brunt of the impact over time. Depending on the year and model, bumpers can fetch up to a few hundred dollars in resale.
Exhaust systems—especially those with a functional catalytic converter— are highly valued. According to Repair Pal, the average cost to replace an exhaust system is around $660. If the catalytic converter does not work, it can still be scrapped for precious metals like platinum and palladium.
Like catalytic converters, car batteries are another part that can be resold working or not. If there’s not too much sulfur corrosion, you can refurbish your battery using baking soda, Epsom salt and a few tools according to an article by Eastwood Automotive. If your battery is too far gone, it can be scrapped for cash or taken to an auto parts store to offset the core charge for a new battery.
Air Conditioning System
Air conditioning is one of those things that really shows its value when it’s absent. You can shrug off a check engine light for a while, but it’s hard to ignore a busted air conditioner. If you’ve got a junk car with a working air conditioning system or even a functional compressor, you’re in luck. With the rising cost of system replacement and heat-stroked, urgent shoppers, you could say it’s a seller’s market.
Tires and Rims
According to a 2015 article by Hollander Solutions, wheels were the number one car part sold on eBay. Quality wheels still in good condition can fetch anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars! Tires have a healthy second-hand market as well. You can sell yours to be recycled, repurposed or even used to make retreaded tires.
Car Doors and Windows
One of the more profitable categories of salvage parts, doors and windows can make a pretty penny from a vehicle of almost any age. Vintage doors and windows are harder to locate, so they’re more valuable. Newer doors and windows can command a sturdy asking price for both the fitment and electrical components in them.
The Future of Salvage Cars
Historically, the parts mentioned above have been the bread and butter for dismantlers and salvage buyers, but as the technology in our cars evolves, so does the salvage business. Today’s cars have more complex components that are ultimately more expensive to replace, shifting demand for replacements to the resale market. For example, the days of going to the hardware store to make spare keys for your car for just $5 are over. Today, a traditional key can cost over $100 to make. Expect to pay much more if you’re replacing a keyless fob or reprogramming a set of remotes!
The growing popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles has made an impact on the salvage market as well. Electric vehicle batteries can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000, so the resale market proves to be lucrative. The recycling process for these batteries is not mature yet, but countries around the world are starting to find practical ways to put them back to work. For example, Japan is using them to power streetlights, while General Motors relies on them to back up its Michigan data center!
As long as there are wrecks, natural disasters and general bad luck, there will be cars needing replacement parts and donor cars to fulfill those needs. With a little experience and skill, anyone can connect the two and make some money while doing it!