Pick n Pull Junkyards [How They Work & How They Can Save You Money]

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

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Looking for a deal on your car or parts for repair? Junkyards are the unsung heroes for bargains and rare finds. Many classic vehicles have been pulled out of junkyards and restored to their former glory. They’re just not the most attractive place for the average person to venture out to.

Junkyards fall into two categories, the most popular and inclusive business are called a Pick n Pull – or often – U Pull It. These are traditional junkyards that we are most familiar with, you enter, pick your part, then pay for it. The “full-service” junkyards are completely owner-ran and parts are extracted and logged.

For the sake of this guide, we are going to talk specifically about the pick and pull junkyards. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to successfully find parts, extract them, and get a great deal on them.

You don’t need to be a mechanic to take advantage of junkyard bargains. We’re going to show you how you can get a like-new part at a fraction of the cost.

It’s Not All Old Junk

First, let’s debunk one stigma that is associated with junkyards. What sits in the junkyard isn’t all just a collection of parts and old cars that stay forever. Pick and Pull locations are constantly replenishing stock, usually every day.

When there are vehicles that they know are almost out of parts to pick from, they’ll replace them. Space is a valuable commodity for junkyards, especially in places where the estate tax is high.

This guarantees there is reliably plenty of parts accessible. Another enormous advantage is that shopping at a pick and pull part is easier each time. Pick and pull part owners normally reuse, reprocess, and remanufacture parts to minimize waste. Many pick and pull establishments will reuse scrap metals from old vehicles.

Everything gets accounted for, despite the appearance of a chaotic junkyard. They keep a lot of junk out of landfills, which is a huge win for the environment.

How Do You Pick n Pull?

It’s not a complicated process to shop at a pick and pull. You come with your vehicle and part information, find it on the lot, extract it (carefully), then check out at the front. Knowing how to pull is the toughest part of the process, really.

Junkyards can be fairly organized, at least enough for the employees to locate your part. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Plus, you’ll probably find yourself picking and pulling parts you didn’t even know you needed.

Any part on the lot is fair game. You can pull entire engines or basic cupholders. The only thing that could prevent you from pulling anything you want is not having the proper tools to do it. Sometimes, the junkyard will even lend you some spare tools, if it means getting a sale.

You Have to Pay to Look?

This may come off as unfair to some, but pick n pull yards must maximize their business. Without an entrance fee, pick and pull lots would be subject to tons of petty purchases. Plus, the entrance fee makes it harder for would-be thieves to slip in and steal parts undetected.

Usually, the entrance fee is under ten bucks. That might make your salvage run for new floor mats seem pricey. That’s just a drop in the bucket if you’re walking out with a $400 alternator for only $80. No, that’s not a typo, parts are often 50-80 percent off the new price. Flipping parts from the junkyard can be a good source of income for the experienced.

Keep in mind, some parts are more of a risk than others if they sit idle for a long time. Even if the vehicle with your part hasn’t been in the junkyard for long, there’s no telling how long it has been since it last ran. That’s just the nature of the used part game.

How to Prepare for a Pick and Pull

Showing up to a pick and pull without proper tools can be a very frustrating experience. Showing up without proper safety and comfort items can make things much harder than they should be. If you know nothing about car parts and are just along for the ride, you can still be a big help.

Outside of tools, you should bring a cooler filled with beverages and non-perishable food. Also, because junkyards are where you’ll get dirty, bring lots of towels, rags, wet wipes, and water to wash off. Don’t forget sunscreen protection–the sun’s rays will cook you with all the metal surfaces.

Bring a couple strong flashlights with fresh batteries. You’ll need good lighting to inspect the condition of parts. Plus, it’s likely that you’ll spend more time than you intended browsing the yard.

Basic Tool Sets

Even if you’re not bringing them, here’s a list of things that will be universally helpful when picking out parts:

  • Tear resistant gloves
  • Prybars
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers
  • Portable drill
  • Handsaw
  • Dolly, trailer, straps

This is just a general list, to cover all types of parts, big or small. A lot of junkyard regulars will bring all of the above because they often stumble upon rare finds. This could be for a garage project of their own or for resale value.

Oh, and we highly recommend bringing the vehicle you plan on installing the part for, if it can be towed or driven to the yard.

Rules and Etiquette

With so much junk, rusted bodies, and old parts everywhere you look, it’s easy to assume there are no rules for pick n pulls. There really aren’t any written rules about pulling out your parts. For obvious reasons, you should try to extract your part without ruining others.

The junkyard may not charge you for damages, but they will probably remember your botched pull the next meeting. You aren’t expected to properly disconnect every wire, hose, or bracket that is attached. Just don’t make a mess of it for respect of the next customer.

Another thing to be aware of is that you will be responsible for your own injury or death. You’ll sign a waiver as soon as you enter, stating that the junkyard assumes no liability for your actions. This isn’t rocket science, though. Take note of your surroundings and be careful of uneven ground, surrounding objects, and loose underpinnings.

Will There Be Anyone Nearby?

Depending on the junkyard, you may or may not have someone there to help you. As far as security goes, most junkyards do employ some level of camera surveillance. Junkyard owners are actually pretty friendly, though.

If you’re talking about extracting an engine, an axle, or a door, then you’ll likely have someone there to help. For all standard stuff like a tire, battery, spark plugs, and etc., then you should really try to learn on your own. These tasks are very simple and won’t be a top priority for busy junkyards.

Checking Inventory

Sometimes you can call up the junkyard to see if they have your part. The owner may be able to recall data from their system. Some even post it online, but there’s no telling how up-to-date it is. Modern computerized inventory is somewhat of a rarity in the junkyard business.

You have to understand that the vast majority of junkyards are small businesses run by a family or a very small team of employees. Chances are they don’t have the resources to digitize everything they get in, especially pick n pulls. Full-service junkyards are a different story, they have to itemize what they have.

The same goes for junking your car, you’re best off calling the yard up to ask what they offer.

Tips and Tricks

While parts at a pick and pull can look like a steal, it’s vital to consider quality when you’re scavenging. All things considered, these “old” parts will be put in your present vehicle. You want it to last, so do a good job at searching for all the available inventory.

Keep your eyes open for valuable parts unrelated to your own car, too. This is where it pays, literally, to have a partner who knows cars with you.

Don’t let the bargain blur your judgment. Search for any part decay, any indications of breaks or auxiliary issues, and focus on industry brand names on relevant parts. Also, in case you’re looking for a battery or anything electronic components, test those parts with a multimeter.

Junkyards do keep one for customers at the front desk, but you should also bring your own. Nothing is worse than hoofing it back to the front only to find out your part is useless.

Grab All Relevant Accessories

When you’re pulling parts, don’t leave behind any extra brackets, wiring, or housing. In fact, pull more than you need and if the yard manager has any issues, just pay a few bucks for it. This will save you time and money looking for silly small stuff that is easy to lose.

Salvage Cars

People often find cars that would be considered junkers to most people, but do run and can be driven. These are called salvage cars and not all junkyards have them. In some cases, these salvage cars are actually more valuable to the owner as separate parts.

That’s why you can get great deals for your old, rundown cars. A bit of a trade secret for those needing some extra cash. You can learn more about your car’s junkyard value here.

Protections or Warranties

Everything relies upon the kind of part you get, most pick and pulls nowadays do work with a type of trade policy. Indeed, numerous businesses nowadays will give you a chance to get a refund or exchange. Usually, it’s thirty days after purchase for the same or a comparable part, should it not fit your vehicle or fail after you leave the yard.

A few places will even offer you a guarantee on parts, which can prove to be useful for more costly vehicle repairs.

Expect the Unexpected

What we mean by this is don’t go into the junkyard thinking all cars will be easy to find and access. Sure, they may have a brand new part sitting in a salvage car somewhere. The problem is that car might be sitting on uneven, overgrown, and overcrowded land.

You may need help getting the car retrieved from its location before you can even begin to extract your part. Not to mention that junkyards are notorious for winding mazes that are easy to get lost in. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a junkyard that is mostly paved and has cars up off the ground already.

Come prepared with a good flatbed or trailer, a wheelbarrow, and extra hauling gear for helpers.

Find Your Pick n Pull Partner

As the saying goes: “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” This is why pick and pull businesses are one of the most lucrative industries in the country. Nearly 100 percent of all vehicles get recycled, and your old car will be no different.

Whether your car is a high-end luxury sedan or something that looks like it came from Sanford and Son, you can get fair compensation. Don’t stay stuck driving a car that is constantly leaving you stranded. The money you get from junking it can go towards a car that you’ll actually enjoy driving.

Chances are you live nearby quite a few pick n pull lots. They are usually pretty nondescript on the outside and may not have any online pages. The good news is that you can search for places online through our website.

We’ll tell you who offers cash for junk cars and how much you can expect to get for it. You can even get free towing and same-day cash! If you’re on the fence about making another major repair on your old car, contact us first.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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