Tips For Buying Used Classic Parts

Auto recycling facilities that specialize in classics can really be a treasure trove for restorers. Many of these yards have thousands of classic vehicles onsite and are always out buying up more. One auto recycling facility out of thousands in the United States may have the exact car you’re restoring, guaranteeing a supply of parts. But the key is to find your diamond in the rough, which can be a challenge.

Marcell Bailey, an auto recycler herself and co-owner of C & D Auto Parts in Victoria, Texas, recently went through the pains of finding parts for her ’56 Imperial restore. She said she found a yard that had all the parts she needed, but couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone.

Getting to know your local classic auto recycling facilities is essential for buying used classic parts.

"Building a relationship with a yard is very important,” said Brent Zimmer, from Desert Truck & Auto Parts in Coachella, Calif. ( Desert Truck & Auto has been in business since 1972 and is third-generation family-run. It stocks parts from the 1950s to the 2000s. It delivers throughout the Coachella valley and ships nationwide. “The more they see you, and get to know you, is important. We have longtime customers that we have come to respect and they respect us,” he added. “We pretty much let them go look in our yard at will."

A yard visit is very important to get an accurate idea of what a facility has onsite. 

Since most modern, computerized inventory systems only deal with vehicles from 1965 to newer, a visit is the best way to figure out what gems are hidden there.

“Visiting the yard is always a plus,” affirmed Jeff Hoctor, who owns of Hidden Valley Auto Parts in Maricopa, Ariz. with his parents Don and Janet Hoctor and wife Cheryl ( “Certain items just don’t go into inventory.”

Hoctor said he still uses the old Hollander books to find parts for customers. His facility has 2,300 vehicles on 10 acres from 20 years and older, but the most popular vehicles are the cars from the 1950s and 1960s, which aren’t on the computerized inventory system. He said if he sees a vehicle he knows one of his good customers would be interested it, he doesn’t hesitate to let them know.

The location of the facility is also a factor to consider.

Arid areas, like deserts and other places of low-rainfall, help keep metal and chrome rust-free. Hoctor said sheet metal and chrome are always in demand, but currently wheels are the number one seller for his company. The Arizona wheels don’t rot like in areas with a lot of salt and sand on the roads. Undercarriage parts are also pit-free and mechanical parts seem to hold up better.

Although, Hoctor admitted the hot sun does a number on the vehicle’s interior. A restorer himself with 12 cars of his own, Hoctor said he buys his interior pieces from classic auto recycling facilities that are located in the north, like Minnesota. Zimmer added that many yards also store parts inside, so its environmental may not be as much of a factor.

There are no set prices for an auto recycling facility.

They sell parts on supply and demand. If you are restoring a common vehicle, the prices - and the hunt - should go easier. Rare vehicle parts - like Bailey’s Imperial - will naturally be higher.

“Also remember auto recyclers pay top dollar for classic salvage as it hard to find these days so don’t lowball prices (a little haggling is ok) because every time you buy from them that is how they will remember you,” advised Zimmer.

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