A collection of auto parts on a white background being displayed

A Guide to Buying Auto Parts; With Information on What NOT to Do

Looking for auto parts for sale can be a daunting task, and also an expensive one. Don’t be surprised if you call up a dealership and find out the plastic piece the back window sits on that’s controlled by the mechanism that causes it to go up and down will cost you fifty bucks. It’s true, that happened to me, and it was for an older Mercedes I used to drive. You know what I did? Super glued the window shut. Granted, that was a European car, so the parts are a little more expensive. Regardless, the point is auto parts can be expensive from dealerships. While it’s not true for all of them, a cheap plastic part like that could carry a ridiculous premium on it that jacks the price up to an ungodly amount. That’s why I’m here to provide a guide for how to buy auto parts without breaking the bank, along with some bonus information on what not to do.

A lot of today’s car shopping is done online and car parts are no different. However, there are some “dos and don’ts” when it comes to shopping for car parts on the web, just as there are when it comes to scoping out deals on cars.

Take to the Internet

A man using his laptop for research on a wooden table

This is where you are going to do your research, price comparisons, and preferably where you will be purchasing the car parts. So you need to get familiar with this vast amount of online information and understand the websites to consult and the websites to avoid.

Before you hit eBay, though, you’ll want to check out some reputable sources on the web like Car-Parts.com. This is a website that has over 175 million car parts and is an extremely reputable source for discovering the price and part number. Understanding the price is important since this will give you leverage if you decide to buy a part and realize it’s priced incorrectly. And knowing the part number is extremely important so you end up with the right part for your vehicle since the same parts can differ between model and year, even if they are intended for the same make.

Therefore, always double check and verify the part number and price before you start buying.


Now that you know how important it is to verify the part number, it’s time to take to the internet and start looking for that good quality auto part you need, and get it at the lowest price possible.

eBay has become this revamped charging bull of a website when it comes to internet auto part sales and has no signs of slowing down for 2016. Thousands of people use this website to buy and sell auto parts, so it only makes sense that you should start your search here. Simply search the part you are looking for, and start scrolling and clicking. Remember to check the part number before buying something, and avoid anyone with sketchy looking or bad quality photos. While this website is nice because they do have policies in place to help you get your money back, there are certain limitations to those policies.

The last thing you want to do is get stuck with a part that doesn’t work.

Can’t Find it on eBay? “Phone” a Forum

A laptop with notes on top of it being written on by a woman with a pen

If you can’t find it, enlist the help of a forum. You might not be seeing the parts in your area, but they could be sitting halfway across the country in a backwoods town that you didn’t even know actually had the internet. The online forums for your make and model vehicle typically have members spread all throughout the United States, and you can ask assistance for finding and acquiring a part that you are unable to find locally. Also, some of the forums for your vehicle might even have a dedicated parts-listing thread.

On the other hand, there are a few parts you shouldn’t buy online. If you are looking for a rare part that goes on hybrid vehicles, a high-end model, or a classic, more than likely it’s something that needs to be bought in person. Why? Because these parts are unique, and you need to be doubly sure that they are the right ones, and not some cheap knock-off parts. On top of that, you might be seeing ridiculously high prices for one on eBay because somebody thinks it’s worth more than it actually is. You are better off doing some research online first, then calling up your dealership to get a price. If the price is still too expensive, go check out a junkyard. But, a little more on that later.

If you can’t find it on eBay, then don’t be afraid to check out some forums, but also keep in mind that it might be something you’ll need to buy in person. Oh, and a parting thought for the internet side of things: avoid Craigslist like the plague. Unlike the other two, you’ll have a hard time getting your money back if you drive 100+ miles away to buy a part and then get back to your house only to discover it doesn’t work.

If You Can’t Find it Online, Time to Hoof it

A man checking inventory in an auto parts store

If you can’t find it online, now is the time to start looking at your local parts store and or junkyard. You can go directly to the dealership if you are frustrated at this point, but just keep in mind that you might be paying an exorbitant price for the part you need.

Anyway, your local parts store or chain parts store like Advanced Auto Parts will have connections to different types of places that carry auto parts. 90% of what you are looking for can be ordered and found here, but you’ll probably end up paying more than you would online because now you’ve involved a middleman. To counter this, always look for coupons. The coupon codes or manufacturer rebates may not pop up when you visit the auto parts store online, so make sure to hunt around a bit before heading to the store.

Before you go to the auto parts store or the dealership, though, you’ll want to go check out a couple of self-service junkyards if you are a fast learner, or have previous mechanical experience. Bring your own tools, find the part you need on your make and model, remove it yourself, and pay a much cheaper price for it than you would anywhere else. While it’s considered a common courtesy for a junkyard to match a lower price for a part at another retailer in the area, they might not always do it.

If you are going to go pull out a whole engine, then don’t be surprised if their junkyard price doesn’t match the price of the exact same engine with the same mileage on it. But if it’s a smaller part like a radiator fan or even an air filter box, don’t be afraid to haggle if the price doesn’t match what you found on Car-Parts.com. Just make sure you know the price you are asking for is right, because the guy on the other end will know it, and may not appreciate that you are trying to swindle him out of an honest deal.

In the end, all it really boils down to is common sense and due diligence. Just make sure to rule out all your options on the internet first, because forums and eBay truly are a great place to find car parts for (typically) a cheaper price than what you’ll find at a retail store or dealership. If you can’t find it online, then you’ll have to resort to the primitive method of actually going to stores to find the auto part you are looking for. Start with your junkyards first, if you have the mechanical know-how. Don’t feel like playing with wrenches is your thing? That’s fine, head to your local auto parts store or chain. Use the dealership only as your last resort, as they’ll most likely be the more expensive out of all your options.

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