Pick-and-Pull Junk Yards: How does pick and pull junkyards work?

Some people think if you’ve seen one junkyard, you’ve seen them all. Others see them as the perfect place to get the parts they need at an affordable price. All you have to do is put forth the effort to find the right junkyard and have the willingness to get the job done.

There could be any number of reasons a car would end up in a junkyard, not the least of which is the cost of repair versus the value of the vehicle itself. Most of the time they have suffered some major mechanical failure like a transmission or engine. Rather than absorb the exorbitant repair bill the owner usually opts to sell the vehicle and recoup some of his losses that way. Vehicles that have been involved in an accident and deemed “totaled” by the insurance companies can also find their way to the junkyard.

There are two types of junkyards: Pick-and-pull (or U pull it) and independent operators, who dismantle the junk vehicles themselves and sell the spare parts like a retailer. While pick and pull charge a fee for taking in a vehicle and then allow people to come in and take the parts they need off the salvaged vehicles onsite. This article will focus almost exclusively on the pick and pull operations to show both DIY and professional garages on how to take advantage of some of the amazing deals found there.

How to pick and pull junkyards got started

There has been a constant production and circulation of automotive parts, for every conceivable vehicle type, ever since the industry began. When most people hear the word “recycling” they think of it as a modern invention. But junkyards have been involved in a kind of comprehensive recycling program for over a hundred years. The end of WWII created a glut of spare parts and other equipment leftovers from military vehicles. The U.S. Airforce alone had some 294,000 aircraft at the height of the war. So, what was to be done with this mountain of mechanical hardware, but recycle and reuse?

One of the largest operators of post-war recycling was done at Kingman Airforce Base in Arizona. By the time the military drawdown had been completed, Kingman had amassed some 4700 aircraft. All of them loaded to the brim with reusable parts and tons of valuable aluminum ready to be recycled. The Wunderlich Companies was one of the first companies to be picked for the humongous task of separating the parts and melting down the other metals. They received a $2.78 million contract for the effort, an enormous amount at the time.

The Wunderlich company’s effort resulted in an enormous amount of salvaged material, including:

  • 46 million lbs of aluminum
  • 6 million lbs of aluminum from engines
  • 5 million lbs of aluminum from propellers
  • 21 million lbs of steel
  • 6 million gallons of aviation fuel
  • 256,000 gallons of engine oil

It was a colossal effort, but operations like this were being duplicated all around the globe on every conceivable type of vehicle.

So it was from the example set by the military after WWII that the pick and pull industry got its inspiration. And why the model has remained so popular among both the pullers and the pickers.

When pick and pull is a better value

Value is the main driver that makes mechanics visit to pick and pull junkyards. They know that they can get quality parts at a much cheaper price there. Pick and pull junkyard pricing can be found online at designated websites. Listed below are nine parts and their price comparisons against retail pricing:


AC Compressor

New part price $245.70

Pick and pull price $40.99

Brake Caliper

New part price $64.79

Pick and pull price $19.99

Catalytic Converter

New part price $320.79

Pick and pull price $179.99


New part price $58.79

Pick and pull price $51.99

Fuel Pump

New part price $414.79

Pick and pull price $40.99

Oxygen Sensor

New part price $156.79

Pick and pull price $17.99

Ignition Coil

New part price $61.79

Pick and pull price $17.99

Doorlock Motor

New part price $187.79

Pick and pull price $13.79

Bumper Assembly

New part price $312.79

Pick and pull price $59.99

The drastic price differences are readily visible. But, are the parts durable? Well, pick and pull junkyards has some of the best warranties around. Each warranty, on average, is about 30 days. Some mechanical aptitude might be required to determine worthiness before purchase, but that should not pose a problem.

What do I need to know before I pick and pull?

Find a reputable dealer first. This can be accomplished using Google maps, Facebook groups, Yelp, or similar methods to find a reputable, well-stocked pick and pull junkyard. You can also peruse reviews to find out who has the largest inventories and the best prices, including weekly specials.

So, you need to do plenty of research to ensure you find the best pick and pull yard in your area. Again, the internet is the most popular method, but a lesser-known, but highly effective way is via the Haines series of manuals. If you’re not familiar with them, check with your favorite bookseller or thrift shop.

You’ll also need access to a nice set of tools to do the job correctly. Remember, picking means you’ll be removing the parts yourself. Sometimes the bolts holding the parts in place could have become rusted in place, or broken off, so be prepared.

The following is a list of tools you might need to make your pick and pull job easier:

  • sockets, wrenches, and extensions (standard and/or metric). It might be better to just buy a full wrench set.
  • A breaker bar (more leverage) for those especially difficult jobs
  • A hammer, just in case the breaker bar needs a little nudge
  • Impact gun so you don’t have to expend all your energy. It makes the job of breaking those stubborn bolts much easier.
  • Liquid wrench, for chemically loosening stubborn bolts
  • Locking pliers
  • Needle-nose pliers, for tight spaces
  • Hack saw, or electric Sawz-All
  • Work gloves to protect from knuckle scrapes
  • Safety glasses to protect your eyes
  • A tarp to make sure you don’t lose a part or bolt in the dirt
  • Bottled water, for hydrating and hand cleansing
  • Goop hand cleaner (or similar) for cleaning stubborn grease off your hands
  • And be sure to practice safety at all times.

Again, safety is of paramount importance, so be sure to practice proper junkyard etiquette when you go on your first pick and pull job. Below are some of the things you need to remember before you go:

  • Wear protective gloves
  • Use your legs to lift heavy objects instead of your back
  • Wear closed-toe shoes
  • Do not venture away from designated walkways
  • Be on the lookout for trip hazards
  • Do not attempt to jack up the vehicles and move the wheel stands around
  • Stay safe when inclement weather approaches
  • Drink plenty of fluids when the weather is hot

Since a junkyard is an industrial site, certain rules must be followed to ensure the safety of other patrons and the environment as well. Some states, like California, are very strict when it comes to environmental policies. Failure to comply can lead to expulsion from the premises or even a lifetime ban.

Follow these simple guidelines and you should be okay:

  • No torches
  • No body-saws
  • No jacks
  • No batteries
  • No battery jump packs
  • No cores with oil
  • No glass containers
  • No alcohol
  • No smoking
  • No minors under the age of 16
  • Children in the waiting room must be accompanied by a guardian at all times

How to sell your broken-down car

So far we’ve spent a lot of time talking about picking other people’s cars, but what if you want to sell your car? Is a junkyard still the right way to go?

Even though it might not look like it, your old car still has value. That old hunk of junk may be loaded with parts that still have value. And there are companies out there willing to pay you cash for them.

Now, what led you to this decision could be anything from a flood to an unfortunate accident, your once loved vehicle has come to the end of its usefulness. Consequently, it has to go.

It may be that it will cost too much to repair, or the repair bill will be more than the car is worth. For example, a catalytic converter can run between 1700 and 2000 dollars. While a new transmission can cost anywhere between four and five thousand dollars.

There are on average over 6 million automobile accidents each year and that number increases every subsequent year. With deductibles around $1000 on average, it is no wonder many people decide to just junk it.

There are other reasons, not the least of which are single-car accidents. Aside from the repair bill, the insurance company can raise rates as much as 43% on average. And the rate of increase goes up exponentially with each subsequent accident.

Natural disasters are another culprit. Floods and hail storms can wreak havoc on your car’s value, not to mention rendering it virtually unusable. For example, over 300,000 cars were damaged by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Okay, so how do I get rid of this piece of junk?

You could always try Craig Lists, where local buyers will see it as an opportunity to seize your car for almost nothing. They intend to fix it up on the cheap and resell it for a profit. Not only will they try to give you the rock-bottom price, but if they pay with a check, it might turn out to be worthless. So beware.

Also, be on the lookout for con artists who use sob stories to play on your sympathy. It may sound convincing, but it is usually a lie.

Others will try telling you that your vehicle is in much worse condition than it is, trying to drive down the price that way. Be on the lookout for this type of scam too.

Selling directly to a pick and pull?

Unfortunately for you junkyards are in the business to make money, and that means giving you as little as possible for your vehicle. What’s worse, the offer they give you over the phone can be one thing and another by the time you haul it to the yard. Then you’re left with the choice of taking their rock-bottom offer or the added expense of towing it to another junkyard. And according to the Home Guide, the average costs a vehicle fetches is between $75 and $125. So multiple trips to different junkyards are out of the question.

What about selling to car buyers?

Unlike the hassle associated with salvage yards and private sales, selling your vehicle to Cash Car Buyers is easy and simple to use. Simply request a quote for an “as is” sale. Depending on your vehicle’s condition and info, we offer the highest prices available. Once we have come to an agreement we will come and pick up your vehicle for you. This service is aside from the agreed-to amount, and you will finally be free of your junky car.

Cash Car Buyers makes it extremely easy for you to put cash in your pocket without the hassle, and let you put it toward something that runs.

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