Used parts may be most economic way to repair an older automobile

The average age of US cars today is 6.5 years, highest since 1953, reports the Automotive Dismantlers and Recyclers of America.

Obviously, the older a car gets, the more maintenance it needs.

New parts are expensive; thus, recycled auto parts often makes good sense if the household budget is tight. Simply, they're cheaper -- often costing one-third to one-half as much as new factory-built parts.

Often, the purchase price of an entire assembly, such as a complete engine with carburetor, intake and exhaust manifolds, starter, and other items, will be less than that of a new or rebuilt engine block alone.

And because the factory installed all the components, a used engine will usually operate trouble-free.

When buying recycled parts:

* If possible, deal with a licensed auto-parts yard. Ask for a receipt as you would for any purchase.

* Have an expert technician diagnose each specific automotive problem so that the right part will be bought.

* When buying an electrical part, select one that has been bench-tested rather than merely road-tested. Get a guarantee.

* When purchasing an engine or transmission for your car, always supply the size and model number of the car. Do not accept parts that have accumulated more than 70,000 miles.

* Whenever possible bring the old part in for comparison.

* The alert consumer always shops for the best price and product. Get price quotations from the auto recycler as well as new and rebuilt parts jobbers.

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