Making the Grade

Mar 1, 2024 | Certification, Safety

By Sue Schauls

It’s a great time to be an automotive recycler! Seems everyone wants to go green, including the insurance adjusters. We keep hearing that more recycled parts are included in the thousands of repair estimates and orders written every day. The challenge to the automotive recyclers is how to capture a bigger share of the market. I believe consistent parts grading, using an established system, is an important aspect of the marketing of used auto parts.

The ARA has published the ARA Recycled Parts Standards & Codes guide. “This Recycled Parts Guide is intended to help define the expectations and suggest performance standards for all parties involved in the trade and use of recycled parts. The goal is that, through the definition of those standards, more parts will be included in repair estimates, more parts will be purchased by buyers and fewer parts will be returned.

It should be noted, however, that various states and provinces have varying regulations relating to the inclusion of recycled parts in estimates or their use in the repair process. Such regulations take precedence over the criteria defined in the document.” Download the Guide at

Simply stated, the best reason to master and implement the established system of parts grading is to meet the buyer’s expectations. Buyers are in need of parts to make a professional repair of the damaged vehicle. The result of that repair is what reflects the quality of workmanship from the collision repair business. That reputation is the key to the survival of the shop. Completing the repair in timely and cost efficient manner is about competition. That is where the opportunity lies for auto recyclers to partner with your customer, the used part buyer, to help them gain a competitive edge by providing parts that meet the buyer’s expectation.


The Gold Seal program sets the standards for the best-in-class services provided by Automotive Recyclers Association members. To achieve the Gold Seal members must first become a Certified Auto Recycler, adhering to the environmental and safety regulatory compliance requirements of a CAR member. The Gold Seal program addresses quality assurance protocols which are, of course, closely related to parts grading.

The Gold Seal standards have stood the test of time for high customer service and part quality with added enhancements for contemporary issues such as recalls and electronic recordkeeping. The basic principle is a set of criteria by which to measure good ROE parts being delivered to happy customers.

Resources available are to assist auto recyclers on the path to gold level service. See for guidance on Gold Seal standards.

Gold Seal facilities have clean parts. ROE Parts should be cleaned, if necessary, before being delivered, shipped, or brought to the customer at the counter to ensure “no surprises upon delivery.” Gold Seal facilities require designated personnel to perform quality and cleanliness checks following the dismantling process to verify and update their condition in the Inventory Management System using the establish parts grading system.

Gold Seal facilities have trackable recordkeeping. All vehicles are assigned a unique stock number for the vehicle and ROE parts. The Inventory Management System maintains data that includes VIN, source, odometer, critical dates (purchased, dismantled, scrapped) for all unique vehicle records that provides traceability from the source to the scrap or sales destination. The source VIN should be listed on invoices too, including brokered parts. Source VIN information is important due to the many recent recalls. Gold Seal certification also addresses how to manage recalls. ROE Parts must be accurately described using the ARA Recycled Parts Standards and Codes. 

Gold Seal facilities stand behind their parts. Return policies and warranty statements should be in writing and available at the time of purchase either in store or via ecommerce with reference on the invoice. The return policy should include a minimum of 30 days for at least store credit or exchange. For ROE sheet metal parts, customers should be offered a limited warranty against rust and corrosion for a one-year period from the date of purchase. For ROE mechanical parts, the warranty should include a minimum 90-day warranty on parts.

Following the Gold Seal standards and utilizing the established parts grading system is a means of improving communication between the auto recycler and the customer base made up of collision repairers, mechanics, and insurance companies. If customers cannot decipher the quality of a part because it is made up of subjective terms or ambiguous language, then they will turn to another parts provider or end up returning the part for re-stocking due to disappointment in the quality. 

Sue Schauls is an environmental and safety expert whose career started 28 years ago at the Iowa Waste Reduction Center at University of Northern Iowa. She is the Certification Consultant to the ARA and can be reached at She is also the Executive Director of the Iowa Automotive Recyclers association and compliance consultant to the industry through the ARA’s Certified Auto Recyclers (CAR) program and the I-CARE program – Iowa Certified Automotive Recyclers Environmental Program.

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