(Car) Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

A previous parts car I had for the drivetrain...

When did the economics of parting cars become so bad? There was a time when it actually made sense to buy a parts car for the upcoming swap you had planned. But, I’m starting to doubt my logic these days…

I recently picked-up a — super rare! one of 700! or is it 800? in the US. That is… — 1988 BMW 735i. Sadly, it had been wrecked, but I didn’t care. My goal for the car: swap the M30 “Big Six” into my street E30 325i. It’s a swap I’ve been wanting to do for decades, and everything I’ve read has pointed to this particular car because it contains most of the parts to complete the conversion.00i0i_jE1yzf4OrVc_600x450

So I convinced my wife to allow me to park it in the driveway while I part it out. “I’ve done it before. The car parts will be gone in no time, honey.”

How to fit an E30 in the bed of an F150
How to fit an E30 in the bed of an F150

Yet, months later there it sits. The only “part” that has sold to-date is the aftermarket stereo system.

Parting isn’t what it used to be

What has happened in the past several years since I last parted a car? Has the market  been flooded with what used to be cool and rare parts?

Looking at the salvage industry as a whole, larger, macro-economic factors contributed to significant declines.

Source: American Recycler
Source: American Recycler

According to the Insurance Auto Auctions Industry’s Salvage Reports, the value of a crushed car has decreased nearly -50% in the past year. Softness in the Chinese building sector and a strengthening US Dollar are major contributors according to the latest report. But, should this trickle-down to us, the driveway-car-parting-aficiandos?

I have gathered a couple of examples, to highlight what I am seeing:

– In late 2013, one could reasonably expect to get around $700 for a set of BMW 18″ M Parallels.

M Parallels

– Now, not 1.5 years later, whole 740’s are being sold for $1,500!


And, another example, this time in the off-road world.

– In 2013 you could expect to get close to $750 for an ARB bumper for your XJ Jeep.


– Now, in 2015 you can get a nicely kitted XJ for around $3,000.


While not as extreme as the BMW case, it still shows it may be hard to recover the full cost of a car if you decide to part it. I don’t have the answer on what is driving this trend, but I can offer a little bit of advice: unless you get a smoking deal or truly rare vehicle, it just may not pay to get into the driveway car parting business.