Cutting car-repair costs

April 25, 2011 8:40:09 PM PDT
Auto salvage yards take apart cars that have been totaled, retrieving every usable part. People can come to the yard to look for used parts, or check out availability and prices online. Buying used-car parts can save you a bundle. Consumer Reports says there are benefits and pitfalls to utilizing used-car parts.

Unless you're doing the repair yourself, Consumer Reports says before you shop, check whether your mechanic will do the work and what, if any, guarantee the shop will provide. And be sure to check on whatever warranty the seller offers. Warranties generally last between one and six months. If there is no warranty, check to see that at least you can return the part.

But Consumer Reports says there are certain parts you should never buy used. Avoid buying anything that's related to safety or the functioning of the car. Those parts should only be bought new or be rebuilt by a reputable supplier. Those car parts include safety belts, air bags, brake parts, and electronic sensors that monitor system problems.

Consumer Reports says the safest things to buy used are parts such as mirrors, bumpers, and alloy wheels. Even used parts such as side-window glass and hoods can be safely installed. Once you find the part, ask the supplier whether it meets original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, specifications. That way you know you are getting a part that the dealer or authorized mechanic would use.

When you shop for replacement parts, you'll need the make, model, and year of your car, as well as the VIN. It's also helpful if you have the number of the part.

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