When needing a replacement part for you car, where do you shop? Like many motorists you may head down to the big box retailer for all of your needs. A good choice both for value and for selection. Still, mostly any retailer is limited as to what they can stock. This especially holds true if you drive a rare or uncommon vehicle. Try finding a window regulator for your '69 Torino at the parts store; they'll get it for you but it will have to be back ordered. So, where should you shop? That's up to you, but let's goes over the options that you have.
The Salvage Yard. Let's admit it: there isn't anything wrong with going to the junkyard to find the part you need. My '78 VW Rabbit's window handle broke and I snagged one off of a junker for just a few bucks. Still, if you are looking for a radiator, engine, exhaust stuff, or anything else that actually runs, you risk that the part will fail soon after you place it in your car. Naturally, the price you pay through the junkyard should be the lowest price going.
Your Dealer. On the other side of the spectrum is your car dealer. If they don't have it in stock, they can get if for you. Service with a smile and a price that will make you frown! Yes, you will pay dearly for some parts, as middleman mark ups kick in.
Your Retail Store. Retail auto supply chains typically have the broadest selection and the lowest prices of any of the brick and mortar retailers. Your best option for a good buy is when something is on sale; stock items will cost you the prevailing retail rate, but that is the price you pay for convenience. Overhead [buildings, labor] is high even with most national retailers.
Shop Online. Wholesale providers of automobile replacement parts and accessories are springing up all over the internet. Some stores are good, some are not. What to look for: available customer service agents; a toll free number where you can call someone to talk with directly; a store that never closes and has a secured payment site; and clearly understood shipment, payment, and return policies. Generally, an online retailer should be a great option as low overhead and purchasing directly from the manufacturer is what sets these wholesalers apart from the rest. Still, do your homework and make sure that the site is what it says it is.
One special warning: the growth of the counterfeit parts industry is causing fits for retailers and consumers. If you suspect that you have purchased a bogus part, return it to the retailer for a full return. One more good reason to learn what a company's return policy is before you do business with them.
In all, shopping for parts is easier today, thanks to the internet. From the ease of your computer you can compare prices, service, shipping options, warranties, and more. The consumer is the winner and retailers are keeping prices low in order to bring in additional business.