Back in 2004, a serious accident totaled my Volkswagen Jetta. I remember someone suggested keeping the wreckage to sell off for parts. While my injuries prevented this entrepreneurial adventure, I’ve since learned that wrecking companies are great sources for used, high-quality car parts, including those that are OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer.Not long ago, a kid driving an oversize truck hit the back of my current VW as he exited a fast-food lane a little too fast. I heard my passenger-side tail light crunch. We both stopped, got out to inspect the damage, and I took his information. I didn’t call the police; the kid was pretty upset with himself, I was in a hurry and unhurt, and I figured how expensive could it be to replace a piece a simple car part?It turns out that this can be expensive, and difficult to do. The following day, I headed over to an auto parts store. The first one I visited offered snap-on car parts for domestic cars only. A little research by a helpful sales clerk showed that VW doesn’t separate tail light covers from the entire part. You have to buy the whole package. The price was around $300.A visit to a second store was even more disappointing. Its supplier didn’t even offer the part. Finally, I went to a VW dealer where the entire part was available for $145. It wasn’t a huge amount, but once it was done, I wondered if I could have saved even more by exploring the second-hand auto parts market. So I did after the fact.Limited warranties and guarantees on secondhand auto partsYou can find secondhand parts at junk yards, salvage yards, and yards maintained by wrecking companies that buy cars that insurance companies have deemed total wrecks or from folks who want non-running cars hauled off. Some yards offer warranties or limited guarantees for their parts.Given the state of wrecked cars, you are even very likely to pick up something as delicate as the cover of a VW taillight – believe it or not. And if you need to replace a major item like a transmission, steering column, carburetor, suspension, or engine, a wrecking company can often fit you with the car part you need, meaning genuine OEM parts and restored parts.Tires are another popular item at wreckage yards, as are handles, hub caps, cylinder lights, switches, and radiators. Wrecking yards also attract vintage car aficionados looking to build, rebuild, or maintain antique cars.Wreckage yards offer auto parts at large discountsEven better, there is a lot of competition for your secondhand parts dollar. According to eBay, the used auto parts market has enjoyed steady growth, with earnings that reach hundreds of millions of dollars per year.Consumer Reports, which tends to be suspicious of most secondhand purchases, says mirrors, bumpers, alloy wheels, and side window glass can be purchased at salvage yards with whopping savings, up to 50% for some items.What to remember when car parts shopping In addition to researching prices online, used car parts experts recommend that consumers that don’t do their own repair work check with their mechanics to see if they will install a used part. Ask the mechanic if their work on a used car part is guaranteed. It’s also important to find out if you can return the part, as well as whether it’s warrantied.