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What is a Junkyard?

By J. Beam
Updated May 17, 2024
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A junkyard, also known as an automobile wrecking yard, salvage yard, or breakers yard, is any location where wrecked, totaled or decommissioned vehicles are taken. Though there are junkyards for motorcycles, boats, and small planes, most junkyards are for cars and trucks. Junkyards tend to operate on a local basis and are the destination of vehicles that are towed away from crash sites or that no longer run.

A junkyard may buy wrecked vehicles from owners, insurance companies, or from cities that are forced to tow abandoned vehicles. Most junkyards have their own wreckers, or tow trucks, but many contract with local towing companies as well. As vehicles come in, the operators inventory the make, year, and model of the vehicle and note the overall condition of the body and the mechanical parts.

Junkyard operators dismantle the vehicles they acquire and salvage any usable parts that can be sold for use in similar make and model vehicles in operating condition. The unusable metal parts are scrapped and sold to metal recycling companies. Typically, junkyards salvage high-demand, easily removed parts such as doors, windshields, light housings, alternators, mufflers, side-view mirrors, etc., but occasionally a junkyard may remove an entire engine or transmission to sell to a customer.

In addition to individuals seeking deeply discounted automobile parts to repair or rebuild their own working vehicle, automobile repair services are also junkyard customers. In some salvage or junkyards, parts may be removed, inventoried and stored in a warehouse, but others require the customer to come on site and remove the parts themselves. A junkyard may offer ancillary services as well, such as installation of used parts, but most only sell them.

Many junkyards have computerized inventories, allowing for a searchable database to be created. Several salvage yards have made their inventory available through online searches, while others can quickly initiate a search of their inventory with a phone call. In telephone directories, junkyards may be listed under automobile wrecking yards or salvage yards.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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