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Replacement parts

After spending $20 for a new battery terminal for my 1999 Camry (the battery was $70) I was wondering, has anyone ever tried to build a new car from dealer parts? What would it cost? Would a Ferrari cost the same as a Pinto? Would this be a solution to the national debt?

No, the Pinto would be the cost of a Ferrari.

“No, the Pinto would be the cost of a Ferrari.”

And the Ferrari would be the cost of the Taj Mahal.

Many years ago, you could purchase a car for less in kit form that you assembled yourself. You saved at least 1/3 off the assembled price. The car was a King Midget. I think it came with an 8 horsepower 1 cylinder Wisconsin air cooled engine. If you paid a little extra, you could have electric starting instead of the recoil starter.

However, if you purchase the parts separately instead of in kit form the price is much higher than the assembled version. The shipping, handling of individual components is much more expensive than if a manufacturer buys in quantity and then puts out the kits. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, one could purchase kits for high fidelity equipment, electronic test equipment and even television sets. The price for such a kit was usually about half that of the assembled version. However, to build a piece of electronic equpment from a set of plans if a person had to buy each component separately was usually more expensive than buying an assembled version.

One more thing: as poorly assembled as some cars were in the 1950s and 1960s, they might as well have been called “do it yourself kits”.

When thieves steal a vehicle it usually ends up in a “chop” shop. The reason…parts sell for more than the whole vehicle in most cases.

And this is why vehicles are totaled with so little relative damage.

I think if you tried to build a Toyota Corolla or some similar car by purchasing each part (new) from a dealership’s car parts dept, you’d probably pay $70,000 at least – for a car you could buy completely assembled and tested for $18,000 new. There’s a major mark up on parts. The $70K is just a guess, but I’d be surprised if it was lower than that, and wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was closer to $100K.

There is a HUGE markup on service parts. It’s a very lucrative business.

Besides, buying all the individual parts and trying to assemble the car yourself would be a tremendous undertaking. Think about just assembling the engine or transmission and all the tolerances involved. There’s no instruction manual so what happens if you get it 75% together and have to pull out some major components.

Nope, just head on down to the dealership, it’s the cheapest and safest bet.


I once needed a rubber diaphragm for a carburetor on a 79 Dodge Colt. It was just a piece of rubber a little smaller than the diaphragm used in the accelerator pump. When the parts man at the dealership told me it was $85.00, I asked him how they could sell a car for $5,000.00 that was made form $50,000.00 worth of parts. He was not amused and I made my own diaphragm.

When thieves steal a vehicle it usually ends up in a “chop” shop. The reason…parts sell for more than the whole vehicle in most cases.

The MAIN reason they chop it up is because of traceability. Lot harder to trace parts then the whole car. And how do you register a stolen car???

But I do agree parts are LOT more expensive then the whole car. If you wanted to build a car from new parts…it would cost at least 100 times more then the car…maybe even 1000 times more.

Years ago Motor Trend had an article on the subject. They calculated that a $10,000 car would cost $25,000 in parts if bought at retail prices. That was starting with the bare chassis, which you can’t buy as a part. It also does not include labor. A finished $10,000 car from boought parts would probably cost $40-50,000 assembled in a garage.
Ask anyone who has restored a classic.

Typically any mechanical equipment manufacturer has 12% of total sales in parts, but this 12% represents 50%!! of the profit.

What makes your car so “cheap” is partly the very effcient assembly process and the short and efficient trip the parts make from manufacturer to assembler. In other words, parts distributors are not “printing money” at your expense. Parts distribution and warehousing is expensive.

There are companies that reproduce old cars using all new parts from aftermarket suppliers. Typically the finished prices start at about $100,000 and up. Dealers’ parts are typically from 150% to 200% more than aftermarket suppliers. Sometimes more.

Doc’s numbers sound about right to me.

In addition to the cost points made by Doc, realize that a large part of manufacturing cost is in “setup”. Machines may take hours or even days to set up, processes involving multiple processes even more, the average stamped metal part is stamped multiple times with progressive dies to achieve final shape, the average milled part has numerous “cuts” taken over each path. The setup costs get amortized over the parts. To set up for small volumes is extremely expensive per part. To set up for tens of thousands of parts reduces the cost per part to a tiny fraction of that.

These are the economics of production.