Where Can I Buy Car Parts in California?
According to ibisworld.com, the auto parts manufacturing industry in the US is worth a staggering $71 billion in 2021. On top of that, the wider automotive aftermarket industry is worth some $288.20 billion according to a report on globenewswire.com. It proves that car parts in all shapes and sizes are big business in the US, and that is certainly true in the nation’s most populous state, California.
The trouble for many people is knowing which channel to follow when looking to buy car parts. There are seemingly so many. In today’s blog, we’re looking at where Californians can look to buy car parts, and what the specific benefits of each different channel are. In short, Californians are best served by looking in the following places for their car parts:
- Online car parts stores
- From local brick-and-mortar stores
- Via your auto shop or a local mechanic
- Car dealerships
- Scrap yards
Below, we’ll look at each of these in more detail and explain how each can be beneficial to the car parts buyer.
Online Car Parts Stores
The biggest and most sought-after channels for auto parts are fast-becoming the online car parts stores such as Auto Zone, CariD, RockAuto and others. These platforms have made it easier than ever for Californians to buy the car parts they need. They all look slightly different, but most follow the same sort of winning formula:
Step 1: Hit the landing page
Step 2: Enter the year, make, model and engine size of your car
Step 3: Hit “Enter” or whatever confirmation button they have
Step 4: Behold a sea of car parts that are confirmed to be compatible with your own car
If you don’t want to enter your car’s details, you can also usually search for car parts by name or number, or simply browse through their online catalog. Some of these platforms offer direct delivery, and others work on a platform where you might pick up the parts at your local distribution center. It depends on the size and scale of the parts platform, and besides the larger players we have mentioned above, there are many others that you might choose from.
Obviously, the main benefit of such a service is the sheer convenience of it. You can place orders any time of day, and can expect delivery very fast for common components and parts that are still in full production. It can be slower on some more specialized parts, but in general it will come to your door or nearest pickup point within a few days at the most.
In addition, online platforms have massive inventories of parts, typically supported by multiple sources, which provides a very reliable stock on which you can depend. The “out of stock” frustration is far less common than when dealing with brick-and-mortar stores, and prices are also typically lower due to fewer overheads. Finally, the online system helps you focus on parts that are compatible exactly with your vehicle.
Local Brick-and-Mortar Stores
Another more “classic” source of car parts in California is the neighborhood auto parts store. This could be a store that a nearby mechanic uses to get spare parts, which helps form a positive business ecosystem with multiple enterprises thriving together. Local stores tend to be a little more expensive than their online counterparts, but they do usually offer a friendly service, and the opportunity to talk to a member of staff who is typically knowledgeable about car parts for advice.
As we touched on above, using local auto parts stores is a great way to support local business and employment. The money made in local stores is immediately invested into the local area, and it’s nice to be a part of that. They are usually well-stocked, but obviously find it harder to compete with the much larger online-based warehouse chains.
Via Your Auto Shop or a Local Mechanic
Another good place to get car parts is via a local mechanic. This method is especially useful for those who might be working on a project at home but feel unsure about buying parts themselves. It could be that they need to source something very particular and are afraid of getting the wrong thing, for instance. This is the chief benefit of buying through a local mechanic.
You can describe what you need to the mechanic, who will likely then immediately know where to look not just to find the best price and the correct part in terms of brand or part number, but the right quality part to suit your needs. They may also offer insight into more affordable alternatives to a part or component that you originally had in mind.
If you are looking for a brand- and model-specific component and are worried about being sold a cheap knock-off or pushed into an aftermarket alternative, then you should consider getting car parts directly from the OEM dealerships. They deal exclusively in the parts and components branded with whatever cars they sell.
The main downside to buying from dealerships is a higher price point, but the benefit is absolute peace of mind and reassurance that the branded part you are buying is the real McCoy. If you are worried about being ripped off, then this peace of mind is likely worth that premium.
When it’s pre-owned and low-price components you want, and possibly parts for older cars no longer in production, then scrap yards are a fantastic channel to explore. Most people think scrap yards could only possibly be dealing in rusty piles of junk. While there certainly is a lot of rust in those mountains of metal they store, there are also many gems worth their weight in gold.
What scrap yards actually do when they deal in cars, is to take in any unwanted car old or new, strip it for parts and then clean up and prepare those parts for resale. A lot of people seem to forget that many components within a car do not suffer the ravages of wear and tear as all the others. Gaskets, seals, hoses, tires, brake pads and whatnot, these obviously are of no value to a scrap yard. On the other hand, engine blocks, transmission, batteries, computer systems, hoods, fenders and other parts are often in excellent condition, even on older cars.
On top of that, scrap yards often buy cars in otherwise great condition from auctions, and even old unsold dealership stock to strip for near-new parts that they can then sell at excellent prices to consumers and local auto shops for resale. If you’re modifying a car or restoring a classic car on a budget, then a scrap yard is among your best allies.
Finally, we come to the “online scrap yard” of eBay, as some people might think of it. You might think of eBay in this way not to denigrate the platform, but rather because it is another place where you might find older car components, especially those for classic cars and other models that have long since been out of production. Often there are collectors and owners using eBay to sell components for profit.
Pricing is always a mixed bag on eBay, but you always likely pay less than you would if buying a rare part from a larger organization. It’s also a mixed bag of quality, however, and while user reviews go a long way in keeping bad actors in check, there is always a higher risk when it comes to quality and compatibility when you purchase through this channel.
Conclusion: Many Channels Mean More Thought
It’s important when looking for car parts in California to prioritize your need over anything else. You shouldn’t just automatically choose the cheapest or easiest channel because it might not bring you the best results. If you’re looking for car parts, be prepared to think ahead and explore all the possibilities.