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New vs. used parts

When and or how do you decide weather to go with a new part to fix your car or go with a used part?

It depends on what the part is and where it’s located on vehicle. For example, you wouldn’t install a used heater core in a Taurus as it’s difficult to get to. Nor would you install a used starter in an Aurora. The starter is located under the intake manifold.


I’ll fix my car with a used part only if its failure will NOT disable my vehicle. Examples are a radio, power antenna, washer fluid motor or even a headlamp.

1.) The price difference between new & used.

2.) The amount of labor involved in changing out the part in case the used part needs changing out again soon after replacement.

We are in a situation of it being the starter on a 97 Dodge neon.

All of the above plus the expectation of reliability for the used part. A used A-frame, a used tie-rod, a used (solid) rear exle, all of these can be expected to be reliable for the rest of the vehicle’s life, so risk is low. A used heater core, radiator, or brake caliper probably isn’t worth the savings…you’ll probably be doing the job over again soon.

Another factor is the overall condition of the vehicle. There’s an old cost-vs-benefits axiom: “keep a new car running perfectly…but just keep an old car running”.

My dad’s car is on the latter years in life, got 130,000 plus miles on it and is now 13+ years old so not sure. New starter costs $100, not sure what a used one would cost.

When you say “used” do you mean “I bought it at a junkyard” or “It’s a re-built part?”

I would not go for a used starter in car that old. Especially if there is mechanic’s labor charge in installing it.

all depends on what the part is, what shape the used part is in, weather you can re-condiiton the part at home, such as cleaning up the high current contacts on a used starter for instance, and of course how much time you have on your hands as opposed to how much money you have in your pocket. 130,000 miles is not much by the way, unless this car has been badly abused.

Years ago when I was on a tight budget, I tried purchasing used generators from a recycler. I had to return two of them because they didn’t work when installed. The third one did work, but only lasted a couple of months. For very little more, I bought a rebuilt generator from a auto parts store and it lasted as long as I owned the car.

Body parts are a different story for an old car. If the parts aren’t rusted, they are usable. However, for mechanical parts, it has been my experience to go with rebuilt parts.

Do auto parts stores sell rebuilt?

Yes, starters are typically rebuilt, nothing wrong with that. You might want to check prices, they may have several. Get one with some sort of warranty.

A component can be either rebuilt or remanufactered.

A rebuilt component is one that uses the same parts that were originally used to manufacture the component. And only those parts that are worn out are replaced.

A remanufactured component is one where all the parts are replaced even if they’re not worn out. And if there are any updates to the parts that make the component more reliable, these updated parts are included in the remanufacturing of the component.


For the uninitiated the world of auto parts can be very confusing. Some “new” parts are of questionable quality while some rebuilt parts are comparable to OEM at a fraction of the price. CV axles are the most obvious example. How can you go wrong with buying a door glass from a salvage yard and the price difference between salvage and new is often 10 to 1. But many years ago I found a parts house that would sell me brake pads for $3.00 to $5.00 and it seemed like a deal too good to turn down. Every car I put them on came back within weeks and I paid more than $10. for good pads and did the job over for free. Such mistakes are costly and a great deal of effort goes to avoiding repeating them. This forum and others like it give the DIYers a great deal of help in diagnosing their problems, repairing the problems correctly and differentiating quality from glitz when buying parts. I hope all the DIYers who drop by here and find help drop a line to the hosts thanking them.

It becomes even more confusing when one realizes that there’s a difference between “remanufactured” and “rebuilt”. The former is completely redone from the ground up using new parts and completely meeing OEM specs. The latter can be a replacement of failed parts and a retesting, but not a total disassembly and rebuild.