What you can’t be serious, flip parts from a junkyard for a profit? It sounds crazy I know, but I know several people who have done this as a side-gig, and one of them is me. It might sound crazy to buy up individual parts from a junkyard and resell them, but that is exactly what I did over the weekends for nearly two years.
It was dirty, smelled, and it was hot, but I made some pretty good side money doing it, and I enjoyed running my own small side business.
In this article, I will discuss how I got into junkyard part flipping, the mechanics of flipping junkyard parts as a side hustle, and the benefits of it.
I also have a YouTube video on the subject if you would like to learn about parts flipping in a video format.
How I flipped junkyard parts
When I was a college student I desperately needed money, pretty much like every other college student right? Well, unfortunately I was too ugly to strip and I was studying criminal justice so selling dope was out of the question. Getting a job working fast-food was also a no-go, already rode that pony twice.
So I turned to my amateur automotive skills which I had developed over the years maintaining my family’s small fleet of vehicles. I first came up with the idea when my beat-up BMW needed a new climate control module but I did not feel like paying $100 for a used one on eBay. Instead, I went to a junkyard and paid $25.
It clicked almost immediately. If I could pay $25 for a bunch of these junkyard units, I could make at least $50 a unit on eBay.
Luckily, I had a few things working in my favor. First, I lived in a decent size city and the u-pick-it junkyard I went to was large so there was plenty of potential inventory. Second, I was attending college in a well-off beach city so many of the vehicles at the junkyard were Mercedes-Benz and BMW. These two brands were the only types of vehicles I had worked on up until that point.
I began making regular trips to the junkyard once every week or two. I would carry with me a list of parts that I wanted to pull from certain vehicles. The most common parts I pulled were instrument clusters, climate control modules, steering wheels, and miscellaneous interior parts.
The parts would then be cleaned and the electronic parts would be tested. If the electronic parts worked then they would be listed on eBay along with the mechanical parts. All of my parts I picked from the junkyard were listed and sold on eBay.
I never made an outrageous amount from re-selling on eBay, my best month I made about $1,500, but most other months I made around $1,000. It was a great side-gig for me though, and it helped pay my expenses through college.
The benefits of flipping junkyard parts
My favorite thing about flipping junkyard parts vs. when I was parting out cars is that I picked exactly what parts I wanted to sell. When you are parting out a car you have the entire vehicle you are dealing with and you are on the hook for all of the parts on that vehicle.
With junkyard parts, you should only be picking out the parts that have the best value and sell the quickest. You want to stay away from parts that take forever to sell even if they have a decent profit margin, otherwise you will end up with a garage full of used parts that you can’t sell.
Another benefit is the limited risk. There is so little risk in flipping junkyard parts because your initial investment is so low. It’s a junkyard, at the most you might pay $100 for a few different parts to find out how well they sell. If one or two parts don’t sell it’s not a big deal because you are out only $30-$50 bucks.
Negatives of flipping junkyard parts
You never really know what vehicles have been picked over or whether you will even have a successful pick that day when you go out to the junkyard. Like I mentioned I was lucky because my junkyard had a regular supply of BMWs and Mercedes Benz, but many junkyards are smaller or have less variation. This makes it considerably more difficult to get a steady supply of used car parts.
u-pick-it junkyards are falling out of favor
First and foremost, u-pick-it junkyards appear to have fallen out of favor over the past decade or so as more junkyards have realized the money to be made in selling individual parts themselves. This means that there are less u-pick-it junkyards, and for this side-business to work you really need access to a solid u-pick-it junkyard.
Different practices & pricing among u-pick-it junkyards
U-pick-it junkyards have different policies and prices. Some yards are stricter on whether you can walk around and look for parts. Prices also vary between junkyards. I usually pay $20 for a steering wheel and $25 for a climate control module, but I have seen junkyards separate low-end non-electronic steering wheels from luxury electronic steering wheels in pricing and I have seen climate control modules go for $35.
Overall, junkyard part flipping is not for everyone. You are not going to get rich off of it, but if you take some time to find your niche and locate parts that sell quickly I can assure you that you can make enough to pay some of your bills.
In terms of flexibility and risk, nothing beats junkyard part flipping in my opinion. It was a great side business for me and I only closed shop when I graduated from college and started my full-time career in a different city.