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Pick And Pull: How Does It work?

pick and pull

To some, a junkyard is exactly that; junk. However, for others, there is an incredible opportunity to get the parts they need for a great price. All you have to do is put in a little bit of elbow grease, pick the best quality yard and have the “know-how” to get it done!

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

There are a variety of reasons that a car would end up in a junkyard and it usually comes down to the cost of repairing and getting the car road-ready vs. the actual value of the vehicle. Typically these vehicles end up at the junkyard due to a major component failure, such as a transmission or even a full engine failure and the cost to repair the car is greater than the car is worth. Rather than pay for the repair, owners cut their losses and attempt to recoup money by selling it to a junkyard. Another possible scenario is that a person simply can not afford the repair and needs to cut their losses to a minimum – so they sell the vehicle to a junkyard for cash and cut their losses. Vehicles that were involved in major accidents are also common fixtures at junkyards throughout the country.

There are two types of junkyards: Pick and Pull (often called U-Pull It) and yards that are self-operated and have used parts businesses attached to them. The main difference between these types of yards is how they operate their respective businesses and generate income. Pick and Pull yards charge an entrance fee (usually $10 or less) and then a price for each part picked off the vehicles on site. Owner-operators have crews that pull valuable parts off vehicles, which are then categorized and sold either in person or online through storefronts. For the purposes of this article, we are going to delve further into the Pick n Pull junkyard to further see both DIY and professional companies can take advantage of the amazing deals available.

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Where Did It All Start?

First, let’s talk about the history of Pick And Pull yards!

Since the industrial revolution – there has been been a constant influx and outflux of parts from ground-based vehicles, airplanes and all matters of consumer goods! For all the modern buzz about recycling, junkyards have been involved in comprehensive recycling for well over a century. Things got especially interesting after World War II – since there was an absolute overflow of unused parts, unused equipment, and scrap metal that either once was military equipment or was slated for future use. The United States alone produced over 294,000 aircraft for way! So, what to do with all this leftover gear? Recycle and reuse!

Among the largest operations for post-war recycling efforts was a military airbase in Kingman, Arizona. By the time drawdown efforts were completed, Kingman was home to over 4700 aircraft! Every single one of these aircraft contained valuable parts and even more valuable aluminum that could be reused again and again. A company by the name of Wunderlitch Companies received a (for the time) huge contract of $2.78 million and commenced melting/parting the planes at the airfield.

The Wunderlich contract at Kingman was successful, and resulted in the recovery of significant resources:

  • 46 millions pounds of aluminum
  • 6 million pounds of aluminum from engines
  • 5 million pounds of aluminum propellors
  • 21 million pounds of steel
  • 6 million gallons of aviation fuel
  • 256,000 gallons of oil

Operations like this were common all over the world and were comprised of a variety of different vehicles.

You can see from this example where the Pick n Pull industry really got it’s start and why it remains such a popular option today for not only pickers but the people who own the yards!

Parts Pricing – When It Makes Sense To Pick And Pull

The main reason a mechanic or a consumer would go to a Pick n Pull location is to get a part they need for a price that is considerably lower than purchasing it brand new. Typically, popular pricing is listed on Pick n Pull junkyards websites like this found here.

For the purposes of comparison, here are 10 commonly replaced parts, their average price new and their pricing at a Pick n Pull or U Pull Yard. New pricing is based on a 2005 Toyota Camry with a 4 Cylinder Motor. Pricing was researched on popular sites like Rock Auto and NAPA.


Part New Price Pick And Pull Price
AC Compressor $245.79 $40.99
Brake Caliper $64.79 $19.99
Catalytic Converter $320.79 $179.99
Radiator $58.79 $51.99
Fuel Pump $414.79 $40.99
Oxygen Sensor $156.79 $17.99
Ignition Coil $61.79 $17.99
Door Lock Motor $187.79 $13.79
Bumper Assembly $312.79 $59.99


You can immediately see the drastic differences in pricing! Worried about whether the part will actually last? Don’t be! All Pick n Pull locations have some sort of guarantee on the part for a period that varies. From my research, it looks like the average guarantee is about 30 days. Some mechanical aptitude is required to determine a parts quality within the yard during picking but this should not be a concern for any skilled picker.

How Do You “Pick And Pull”?

First things first; you’ll need to consult a reputable source for the pick! Beyond just using Google, you can also consult social media platforms like Facebook, Yelp and even Google Maps to find a reputable, well-stocked pick n pull junkyard. As with most things, reviews can tell you a whole bunch about who has the best inventory (including turnover) best prices and even the best specials throughout a week!

This may go without saying but you really need to research, research, research before going to the Pick n Pull yard. The internet, again, can be an amazing resource for part necessities. Another (albeit old school) method for finding the proper parts and repair protocol is the Haines series of manuals. Chances are if you are reading this article that you know exactly what these are but if not, check out your favorite bookseller or (pro-tip!) thrift store for the book you need.

The next thing you’re going to need is a solid set of mechanics tools to get the job done. Remember, you are going to be removing the parts off these cars yourself! Often times the parts will be rusted on or have broken bolts. You really just never know what you are going to get!

Here’s a solid list of tools that will make your Pick n Pull experience easier and quicker:

  • Sockets, Wrenches, and Extensions – SAE + Metric. Best to keep a full set in your toolbox
  • Breaker Bar – for those especially difficult to remove pieces – mo’ power!
  • Hammer and Breaker Bar – again, you never know just how stuck or rusted a piece may be
  • Electric Impact Gun – rather than use your guns, rely on a high torque electric impact driver to easily break free bolts
  • Penetrating Fluid – utilize this miracle product to loosen stuck bolts or displace moisture
  • Locking Pliers – awesome for ripping off stuck bolts, terrible for gentle work. A must have!
  • Needle Nose Pliers – for those hard to reach or hard to pull pieces
  • Hacksaw or Electric Sawzall – for when the piece you need is just easier to take off in one solid piece!
  • Gloves – I can not emphasize just how important a strong set of gloves are. Never leave your hands exposed!
  • Safety Glasses – As with gloves, no part is worth comprising your only set of eyes. Wear them!
  • Tarp – so you have a safe place to store your parts, avoid the extra steps of cleaning dirt off your parts
  • Water – stay hydrated and clean your hands before getting back into your ride!
  • Lava Wipes – heavy-duty degreaser hand wipes can make the worst grease disappear

Junkyard Etiquette and Safety

So now that you’re ready to start your Pick And Pull experience, what are some of the things you need to remember once you get there?

As I I spoke about above, safety is of the utmost concern when engaging in any sort of heavy-lifting or mechanically focused activities. Here is a brief overview of the safety focused requirements of most Pick n Pull locations:

  • Wear protective gloves when handling vehicle parts.
  • Practice safe lifting techniques using your body when lifting an object.
  • Wear closed toe shoes when handling vehicle parts.
  • Stay in designated walkways.
  • Be alert for trip hazards, uneven ground and mobile equipment.
  • Do not move or remove the wheel stands that are under the vehicles.
  • Do not jack vehicles up.
  • Protect yourself from weather conditions.
  • During extreme heat always remember: water, rest and shade.

Since a junkyard is an industrial operation, several rules must be followed by patrons in order to protect other patrons and the environment as well. States like California are particularly strict with regards to environmental compliance. A lack of compliance can lead to removal from the junkyard and even a lifetime ban from the location!

Simple guidelines are as follows:

  • No torches
  • No body saws
  • No jacks
  • No batteries
  • No battery jump packs
  • No cores with oil
  • No glass containers or other glass objects
  • No alcohol
  • No smoking
  • No children under 16 years of age in the yard
  • Children in the waiting area must be under customer-provided adult supervision at all times

Selling Your Broken or Junk Car

We’ve spent a lot of time here speaking about picking other people’s cars in a yard; what about if you want to sell your old junk car? Is a junkyard or similar service a good way to go?

Getting rid of a junk car can be a costly and time-consuming experience for even the savviest person.

Even if you think your car isn’t worth a cent – your car has value! It’s full of valuable parts and components that reputable companies will pay you cash for! As discussed above, even the most beat up or damaged cars are full of valuable metals and parts that can be reused or recycled into many other uses. From aluminum to copper – power steering pumps to control arms, a vehicle is a treasure trove of value to those that know.

There is an incredible number of reasons why someone would want to look for options to get rid of their junk or broken car and it can all be a bit overwhelming. From floods, fire and hail to unfortunate accidents – our beloved cars are often the victim of extreme circumstances and we can be left wondering what to do because our options seem so limited.

So what are some of the reasons why we may label our cars as “junk”?

Mechanical Issues

Many of us have been in the unfortunate position of being stranded on the side of the road with a car that is completely broken and will not run. Despite our efforts to properly maintain and take care of our cars, a perfectly working car can turn into a junk car in an instant.

According to the car repair experts at Haynes, small components such as the Catalytic Converter (necessary for emissions controls) can run anywhere from $1700 to $2000! An automatic transmission can run from $4000 to $5000 installed, a head gasket can be over $1500! Even something as small and failure-prone as a car's computer system can easily be over $1000! Wow!

If you come across these major vehicle repairs, you will be left with a decision; will this repair cost more than my car is worth? Chances are that the major repair is not the only issue with your vehicle and it may be time to start thinking about how to get rid of your junk car and cut your losses to a minimum!

Accidents and Mother Nature

On average every year in the United States, there are over 6 million automobile crashes and this number goes up every year. Typically, your insurance, after the deductible, will pay for damage to your vehicle as well as any other vehicle you may have hit. Often times these deductibles can be well over $1000 and in some cases as high as $2000. There are several reasons why you may not fix a car after it has been damaged in an accident.

Say you got into an accident and it’s your fault but no one else was involved. You ran your car into a ditch because you swerved to miss a deer in the road. You run into a curb or you bash into a massive pothole that snaps your axle! Now what? Your formerly working car is now a piece of junk that makes it impossible to drive but you have concerns about turning the claim over to the insurance company. You have good reason to be concerned! One accident on a policy can raise your rates on average of 43%. If it's your second accident – try 91%. Wow! So the question becomes: what do you do with your junk car now?

Mother nature can be your car's worst enemy! Did you know that damage from hail causes over 22 BILLION in damages to cars and other property in the United States every year? Mother nature also has other vicious ways that she can damage your car and turn it into junk. The great state of Texas saw over 300,000 cars damaged by water due to the unbelievably destructive forces of Hurricane Harvey. Tree branches, fire, tornadoes … all of these destructive forces can lead to a damaged or broken car that suddenly is in non-operable condition.

Ok, so my car is junk, how do I get rid of it!?

Craigslist, eBay, Etc.

Well, you could try getting rid of your junk car online through a local website like Craigslist. Local buyers are going to be looking at your car as a project and will low ball it’s actual value so they have room in their budget to fix your damaged car. These types of buyers are often trying to take your car, salvage it and then turn a profit by selling it online to other people looking for a used car. You then have to handle all the DMV paperwork and ensure that the buyer is paying cash. Beware of check scams or wire fraud scams! Often times these buyers produce a cashiers check that will later turn out to be a fake check or request funds to be sent via non-secure methods.

Buyers can also use “sob stories” to try and tug at your heartstrings in order to drive down the cost of the vehicle. They will explain how their wife or husband just left on military duty or how they lost all of their money to an unfortunate illness and now they just need a cheap car. Typically these are lies that put you in the awkward position of saying no to someone who appears to be in need and is standing right in front of you.

You will also deal with buyers who exacerbate the issues with your car by claiming to be experts. In reality, diagnosing a vehicle for mechanical issues while standing in your driveway looking at your car is basically impossible without a thorough diagnosis of the issue. They can make your junk car issues seem worse than they actually are or over-exaggerate in order to drive the price down.

These common scams are dangerous and can leave you without a car and without money in your pocket!

Selling Directly To A Pick And Pull Yard

 Junkyards will allow you to sell your damaged car to them but will offer you next to nothing and force you to transport it there yourself! What a hassle! The primary goal of a junkyard is to take in your vehicle for the least amount of money by haggling and grinding you down on price. Often times you will receive a verbal offer over the phone and then receive an entirely different offer when you and your damaged or broken car arrive at the junkyard. Typically, your car is towed at your expense and most owners are often left to take the poor offer to avoid the continuous hassle of taking the car away to another yard. According to Home guide, the typical cost to tow a vehicle is $75 to $125! You can see how multiple trips to various junkyards can add up quickly.

What About Selling My Car to Cash Cars Buyer?

Unlike the frustrating sales process selling your damaged vehicle privately or to a dealership, Cash Cars Buyer is easy to use and fast! Simply request a quote for your vehicle in ‘as-is’ condition. Based on your vehicle’s information and condition, we offer you a fair price. Once you accept the offer, we’ll pay you for your vehicle and give you a free junk car removal. There’s no charge to use our service, and you’ll get money for your broken-down vehicle.

This service can be exceptionally helpful to those that are looking to get the most they can for their vehicle and put the cash into something they actually want to drive. Cash Cars Buyers makes this super easy.


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