If you ever have the unfortunate experience of an automobile accident, then the entire aftermath of filing a claim and waiting for repairs can seem overwhelming. There’s the towing, the rental, the appraisal, choosing a repair facility, and trying to understand jargon from a world that feels foreign to you. Going back and forth with the insurance company can take a lot of time, as well.
One concern many vehicle owners have when they see their repair estimate is the use of recycled LKQ, or junkyard, parts. A common immediate reaction is the question of why you should agree to allow used parts to be placed on your vehicle; you want brand new parts to put it back how it was. Well, there’s more to it than what appears on the surface, and understanding how body shops use recycled parts can go a long way toward putting you at ease with your repair.
Industry Jargon: Recycled LKQ, OEM, and Aftermarket
When making the determination of how much it should cost to complete a quality repair, insurance companies and body shops have three options for parts usage. These are:
- Recycled LKQ — These parts are taken from donor vehicles that have been totaled out. They usually come from junkyards, hence “junkyard parts.”
- OEM — These parts are brand new replacement parts that are made by your vehicle’s original manufacturer. They are guaranteed to be a perfect fit, but are the most expensive option.
- Aftermarket — These parts are brand new replacement parts made by a company other than the original vehicle manufacturer. They are a good option when neither LKQ nor OEM parts are available or affordable, but can have special challenges.
Certain safety items are never repaired using LKQ parts because it can create a liability issue for the insurance company and the body shop. Most parts, however, are safe to replace using recycled options. Each insurance company has the option of deciding which types of parts they are willing to pay for under different circumstances. As long as their policy complies with state law, there isn’t much you can do to get them to make an exception. So what if you are told you’ll either have to accept the junkyard parts or pay the difference out of pocket?
Understanding What Junkyard Parts Really Are
To truly understand what LKQ parts are, it may be easiest to do a little creative thinking. Imagine, for a moment, that your vehicle was damaged severely enough that the cost to repair exceeds its value. This makes the car a total loss. The insurance company gives you a settlement to purchase a new vehicle, and then they must dispose of the wrecked vehicle.
Most of the time, the insurance company will place the vehicle in an auction for dealers and junkyard owners. The high bidder then sells the remaining good parts off of the vehicle to make a profit from their investment. In this way, the insurance company is able to recover a small amount of their loss while making it possible for other vehicles to be repaired in a cost-effective manner.
So now your well-maintained but wrecked vehicle is sitting in a junkyard somewhere. Another person driving a vehicle of the same make, model, and year has a fender bender. That person’s car needs a front bumper assembly and a headlight. Since your car was damaged in the rear and side, there is nothing wrong with the front clip. The parts are a perfect fit because they are genuine parts made by the manufacturer. Because they are used, they are nearly half the cost of brand new parts.
That person’s body shop obtains the good parts off of your old vehicle, cleans them up, paints them to match if needed, and has the customer back on the road in just a few days. That’s all that junkyard parts are: they are genuine, affordable, recycled parts from vehicles just like yours that didn’t make it through the wreck but still have some good left in them.
From time to time, an LKQ part may have minor damage but is still usable. The body shop will make repairs to the part, just as they would make repairs to the original sheet metal that will remain on your car. If the part is too badly damaged to be repaired properly, or if the cost of the part plus repair exceeds the cost of an OEM part, the body shop will reject the part and petition the insurance company for an OEM or aftermarket part.
Getting Past the Idea of “Used”
An extremely common statement from vehicle owners objecting to LKQ parts is: “There isn’t one used part on my car and you’re not going to put used parts on my car!” Here’s the reality, though–when a new car is sold and driven off the lot, it immediately becomes “used.” It may still feel new to you, but to everyone else that’s just not the case. Your car, and every single part that comprises it, is in fact, used.
Insurance companies are required to provide adequate compensation to put your vehicle back in pre-loss condition. Any reputable body shop will not use parts that do not accomplish this. In fact, most body shops prefer to use LKQ parts over aftermarket parts because it eliminates issues with proper fit. Their repair looks better and takes less time to complete. Most people can’t even tell the vehicle was ever damaged at all.
So, if you are in the process of having a damaged vehicle repaired, and the insurance company wants to use junkyard parts, try not to fret. Take comfort in knowing that the parts you are receiving are 100% genuine, and that a good shop will not use them if they truly are junk parts. Moreover, the use of LKQ parts may mean the difference between repairing a car you love and having it total out.
If that doesn’t ease your mind and you still feel that OEM parts are the only option, be aware that you do have the right to demand OEM be used. However, you should be prepared to pay the price difference out of your own pocket. Insurance companies are under no obligation to pay for all OEM parts unless your policy specifically states as much. If it’s worth it to you, then go for it.