In another post, i made mention of U-Pull and full service wrecking yards, which some may know about, and some may not, and i wanted to start a discussion about the pros and cons of buying new versus used. In a U-Pull yard, you pull the part yourself, ultimately saving money, but at the same time, finding the time to do so isn't always easy. Another advantage to a U-Pull yard, is from an experience standpoint. Not everyone knows how simple parts like alternators, starters and even brakes come off their vehicle. You can find that information, as well as tons on pics, and even step by step instructions, on this and other websites, but if you are like me, there is only so much you can learn from pics and reading instructions, before you have to actually get your hands dirty, and U-Pull yards are a good place for that.
Before you go pulling parts off a vehicle in a salvage yard, or even your own vehicle, always think safety. You can be severely injured by not being cautious and paying attention to what you are doing. Some downsides to a U-Pull yard, though, are having the time to be able to go there and pull the part, often working around work and family schedules. Another downside is that whether it be a U-Pull or full service wrecking yard, you can't always be guaranteed the part will be any good, so you do have to be careful there. An upside though, is that you can usually find some really good deals on used parts, such as engines, transmissions, wheels, electrical components, and even body parts.
Full service yards, on the other hand, will already have the part pulled, and on a shelf, ready to be purchased. This is handy for people who don't have the time for a U-Pull yard, but again, you have to be careful with what you purchase. Most full serve and U-Pull yards will do an initial inspection and run test of most major components, but that usually consists of letting the engine run a few minutes, and maybe engaging the transmission, but that is about it. Full serve yards, while still being cheaper than new, can still be considerably more expensive than a U-Pull yard.
One useful advantage to a U-Pull or even a full serve yard is in the form of major components, such as engines, transmissions, and axles. Not everyone has the money to buy a reman engine or transmission. This is where buying used can solve two problems: It gives you a useable, rebuildable replacement part that you can then take to the shop of your choice to have the work done, and you can save money over new or reman parts.
There are, however, certain parts i would never buy used for safety reasons, such as brake components, steering components, and some suspension components, because you don't know how the previous owner took care of the vehicle. Once cleaned, a part may look as new on the outside, but that doesn't mean it really is.
One thing i would like to add, before i get into new parts, is about rebuilding a used part. Unless you have experience in this area, let the shop do it. It isn't worth buying a $200 engine, putting $600 or more in the parts to rebuild it, only to have it blow up in a day. The upside to buying a used part, and having it rebuilt by someone with experience, is that you then know what you have, and it should last many miles.
Once you have your used part, before any work is done, that is the time to think about any add-ons, performance upgrades, or chrome accessories you may wish to have. There are some very good sources in the magazine for those parts.
Now, on to reman parts, while being worth the money in many ways, there are also drawbacks as well. Most major reman parts, such as engines, transmissions, and axles, come with a warranty, that even a rebuilt used part usually doesn't have. They are more expensive than used, but they also come with peace of mind, when installed and broken-in properly. If you look through some of the parts suppliers in the magazine, you will usually see that information posted in the description of the part. A downside to the warranty, though, is it can be made invalid if they suspect the part has been installed incorrectly or abused in any way, so read the warranty information very carefully. Another upside, at least for some people, is you don't have to crawl around a wrecking yard that may be muddy or have nasty insects and even snakes and other creatures to watch out for.
The two downsides i have seen to major reman parts can be the cost, as some parts are very expensive, and the wait time. Some parts, such as engines and transmissions, usually have to be ordered by the parts store, or the dealer, and can have ridiculously long in transit wait time's. I have seen engines take as long as a month to get to the parts store. Another disadvantage, is that most places will order those parts, but you have to pick them up at their shop, they normally won't deliver them to your house. One big advantage, though, from what i understand, is most major parts, even for a vehicle less than 5 years old, are only available as a reman unless the part is also offered as a "crate" option.
Now, on to new parts. I mainly bring this up for what i consider maintenance and frequently replaced parts, such as brake parts, suspension parts, and steering parts. This is one of those where trying to save a few dollars isn't worth the potential problems. When it comes to those parts, whether you buy them at your local parts store or from the advertisers in the magazine, or even online discount suppliers, always buy new, and only buy quality parts. There is no point in trying to save a little bit on a ball joint, or tie rod end, or even brake pads or shoes, only to have the component fail and cause major damage or an accident. Electrical components, such as ignition modules, starters, and alternators, and even wiring are another place where new is always better. There is nothing worse than coming outside, in extremely hot or very cold weather, only to find your vehicle won't start, and trace it to the reman starter you bought a month ago, or be on the trail and have the battery die, with ten vehicles behind you, and find the reman alternator you bought a few weeks ago quit when it was needed most.
I'm not trying to put anyone down here, so please don't take offense, it is just that both of those scenarios have happened to me in the past, and i know from experience how spending a few more dollars would have been worth it. And if you have luck like mine, the part you least expect will be the one to fail!