A green car being loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck

How to Buy a Salvage Car for Spare Parts

Sometimes, you’ll run into a problem with your car that needs fixing urgently, but the costs involved in putting things right simply aren’t in your budget. When this happens, what can you do? Well, you could go through your insurance company, but they may not cover you for this particular problem or they might strike off your years of no-claims in return. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to get your car repaired, you might strike gold by turning to your local salvage vehicle seller. Here’s how…

Need more than a few spare parts, or just want to get rid of your broken, old car and start fresh? Sell it today with Scrap Car Comparison and we’ll track down the best price that scrap and salvage professionals in your local area can offer! All we need is your vehicle registration and postcode to value your car, a process which takes less than 60 seconds! We operate all over the UK and will even arrange for the car to be collected from you at no extra cost, so give us a call on 03333 44 99 50 or use our scrap car price calculator for a quote now!

A selection of car parts

What Is A Salvage Car?

Salvage vehicles are cars, vans or lorries that have been written off and deemed unworthy for use on the road, but are still in a fit condition to be either broken down and stripped of surviving parts or repaired back to a safe and usable state. Salvage cars will be given a title by an insurance company (which it will have for life, no matter what) which denotes its status as a vehicle that has previously been written off.

These salvage titles used to be known as ‘category C’ and ‘category D’ but in recent years have been updated, now called ‘category S’ and ‘category N’. The ‘S’ stands for structural, whilst the ‘N’ stands for non-structural, indicating the level of damage the vehicle has suffered.

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How To Buy A Salvage Car

Ultimately, the method for buying a salvage vehicle is the same as buying any other car. However, these vehicles can be a little bit trickier to find and you’ll need to do some extra research before putting down an offer for one.

These cars will have suffered severe damage, that goes without saying, but the quality of the repair work that’s been completed is totally up for debate. It’s important to inspect salvage cars before you buy them, ideally with someone ‘in the know’ about mechanics if you’re not too hot on the subject yourself. It is a legal requirement to identify a salvage car as such, advertising its assigned category, but less reputable dealers who might be looking to turn a cheap scrapyard purchase into a jackpot sale could be looking to shift their dodgy motors onto someone naïve enough to pay them.

It’s also highly recommended to perform a background check on the vehicle. HPI checks are cheap and will inform you of the entire history of any car you’re interested in, allowing you to walk away from any ticking timebombs that could be waiting to break down again once you get five miles away from the dealership. Don’t bother with any of the free HPI checks, though – they’re too good to be true and are usually entirely fake.

You should also run any salvage cars that you’re looking into by an insurance company first. Not all insurers will cover category S or N cars, and the ones that will are almost certainly going to increase the cost of your premium. 

Knowing where to look will also help you find a genuinely good deal. Some dealerships are more trustworthy than others, so it’s always a good idea to look into reviews and feedback about your local car salespeople. Or, if you don’t mind some competition, you could even try your luck at a car auction. There are some bargains to be had at these events, if you know what to look for, although these cars can sometimes come with a few niggling problems that will need fixing. You get what you pay for, after all…

Why Are Salvage Vehicles A Good Source Of Spare Parts?

This category could apply more to category B cars, than S or N, but it does technically cover all three. Salvage vehicles will be assessed while they’re in a particularly poor condition, but unless the damage they’ve suffered is absolutely catastrophic (in which case, they’ll be given ‘category A’ classification) then they’ll still have some life left in them. That life comes in the form of components that weren’t impacted by whatever accident the vehicle was involved in. It would be a waste to scrap the car entirely, so these leftover bits and pieces are removed and resold. They’re going to be cheaper, since they’re pre-owned and have been involved in an accident, but no salvage dealer would waste their time rescuing them if they weren’t good enough to use again!

Those category B cars are called as such because they’re only legally allowed to be ‘broken’ down. They can never be driven again on the road but there are certain parts still in them that can be salvaged, which means that all they’re good for at that point is sourcing spare parts.

The reason many salvage titled cars end up being used for spare parts is ultimately financial. Repairing any car is expensive, even if you’ve just scraped a bumper, but fixing an entire vehicle that’s been written off is a whole different ball game. Not only that, but once you’ve gone through the hassle of fixing up a salvage car, you need to try and find a buyer. Many people won’t go near any vehicle with a letter attached to it, so you could end up having to slash the price to make a sale.

How To Find Salvage Car Parts

Once upon a time, the only way to find salvage car parts was to physically go down to a scrapyard and ask the owner whether they had what you’re looking for. Then, it would be a case of finding it and, if the place wasn’t organised properly, it could be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Nowadays, like almost everything else, this process has been simplified and sped up through the use of the internet. Many salvage dealers, especially higher profile companies, allow drivers to browse the parts that they have on their websites, so you can find out if there’s a particular bolt or piston that you need sitting on the scrap heap without even looking up from your phone.

Want to contribute to the salvage part stockpile? Sell your own car as salvage right through your phone with us!

How To Check If You’ve Got The Right Part

This is another thing that advancements in internet technology have made easier. When you’re buying a car part, whether that’s from a scrapyard or a high street retailer, it’s often possible to check if it’s right for your car using a form you can fill in on their website. These sites ask for your vehicle reg to figure out the exact make, model and trim of car that you drive then display only parts that fit it.

It can also be possible to figure out what parts you need using the VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, which can be matched up with the components you can use. Some parts will also have codes, serial numbers or OEM numbers. The latter stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer and shows that the part was made by the vehicle manufacturer themselves and not some third party aftermarket producer.

Can You Buy Car Parts From A Scrap Yard?

Yes, you can purchase parts for your car from a scrap yard but it’s important to remember that not everything there will be fit for use on the road again. Cars that are unsafe will be crushed, as will some car shells once they’ve been stripped of the salvageable parts inside, and the yard owner will be responsible for keeping the scrap and salvage sides of the business separate. If you fear that you’re about to buy a car part that should be scrapped, it’s best to leave that business well alone and go somewhere else.

Or if you’d prefer to deal with scrap and salvage dealers who are professional, trustworthy and registered to operate as Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs), sell your car with Scrap Car Comparison. We’ll find you the best price possible for your vehicle and thanks to our nationwide network of ATFs, we can help you no matter where you are in the UK. Our 99% coverage of the country means we’re even able to arrange for your car (or van) to be collected from a location of your choice at no extra cost! Give us a call on 03333 44 99 50 or use our scrap car price calculator for a quote today!

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