How does it work?

Most of the self-service junkyards in the United States are run the same way. Motorists looking for a part need to bring their own tools and pay a $1 entry fee before wandering into the lot. American cars are normally classified by make, like the Cadillacs shown here, while imported cars are often split into European and Japanese groups, though some of the bigger businesses have the space needed to separate them by manufacturer like their domestic counterparts.

Once you find what you’re looking for, whether it’s a lightbulb or an entire engine, you need to remove it and pay for it on your way out. There’s usually a set price per part so it doesn’t matter whether you bring Porsche or Mitsubishi components to the register. It’s a quick, stress-free way to source a part.

Beyond the practical aspect, going to a junkyard is also a fascinating way to learn how your car is put together because anyone with a buck to spare can spend an afternoon tinkering. And, if you’re as obsessively interested in cars as we are, a junkyard turns into an amusement park because you never know what you’ll find behind the fence.