Accompanied by his brother Curtis Pearson, Roman Knight carries away a salvaged bumper at Parts Galore in Detroit.
DETROIT - Roman Knight's goal took an hour to accomplish, but he didn't mind.
The 18-year-old needed a bumper for his '94 Buick LeSabre, and a Detroit salvage yard had the right one. So he got down to business, prying the bumper from a junked-out car, walking it to the clerk's desk, and hoisting it up to the checkout counter.
Then he went back for more.
He is one of hundreds of customers who have discovered businessman Bill Wild's two Detroit salvage yards - appropriately named Parts Galore - where parts-seekers make their own finds.
They're among a growing number of do-it-yourself salvage yards, a trend that coincides with the rise in scrap-metal prices that has made the business far more profitable than it once was.
Sandy Blalock, president of the Automotive Recyclers Association, said that a crushed car that formerly sold for $20 to $25 a ton now fetches more than $300 a ton, and that's after a salvage yard has sold off all the parts.
Verna Johnson carefully removes a windshield to be reused.
Jerry S. Mendoza / AP Enlarge
Mr. Wild opened his first Parts Galore three years ago. His second, with 2,000 vehicles on 25 acres, features a storm sewer system to keep the gravel surface dry, plus "comfort areas" where customers can buy a drink, use a portable toilet, and get out of the sun.
Pull-A-Part, a self-serve yard with 21 locations in the United States, began about 10 years ago and is actively expanding, said Steve Levetan, senior vice president of the Atlanta-based company.
"We felt that it provided a niche in the marketplace, that frankly has been underserved or not served at all," he said.
Parts Galore charges a $1 admission fee, and wheelbarrows are available to rent for $1. Each type of part sells for a flat rate, so a door for a Cadillac costs the same as a door for an Impala.
Vehicles typically stay in the yard 45 to 60 days before they're picked clean and sent to a shredder to eventually become remolded steel.
All fluids are drained from the vehicles before they're put into the yard. Gasoline goes to a refinery, and used antifreeze is sold for $2.99 a gallon.