Aftermarket Car Parts vs. OEM: What You Should Know

  • By Morgan Gertler
  • 04 Oct, 2017
If you take your car to a dealership for service, you will get OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts. If you go to an independent shop, you will most likely (though not necessarily) get aftermarket parts. Many people assume that OEM is better, and worry that aftermarket parts may not be up to par. Is there any truth to this belief? Or does it make sense to save money by using aftermarket parts? What’s the difference, anyway? Here’s what you should know.

OEM Parts

As the name suggests, OEM parts are made by the manufacturer. They are exactly the same as the parts that your vehicle was built with. There are pros and cons to using OEM parts.

Pros:

Only one option: If you request a particular part at a dealership, you will receive the one that matches your vehicle. You don’t need to worry about comparison-shopping.
Quality assurance/warranty: You can be 100% certain that the OEM part works identically to the one it’s replacing. You will normally receive a one-year parts and labor warranty as well.

Cons:

Price: OEM parts generally cost more than aftermarket parts, in some cases as much as 60% more. However, as independent shops become more and more popular, this gap is closing.
Limited availability: OEM parts are typically either purchased at the dealership or sourced online. You can ask an independent shop to use OEM parts, but they generally have to order them, which can significantly increase the repair time.

Aftermarket Parts

An aftermarket part is any part that is made by someone other than the vehicle manufacturer. Contrary to a popular myth, using aftermarket parts does not void the car’s warranty as long as they are direct replacements. Many aftermarket parts function just as well as, or even better than, the OEM version. Still, like OEM parts, aftermarket parts also have their own pros and cons.

Pros:

Price: Aftermarket parts are generally less expensive than OEM parts, and the savings can be significant. Of course, an incredibly low price could signal a lack of quality, so ask your auto tech about any savings that seem too good to be true.
Variety: Aftermarket parts are made by reverse-engineering the OEM part, which can sometimes mean fixing some original weaknesses. You can also decide what’s most important to you. For example, you might find an aftermarket brake pad that stops the car even more efficiently than the OEM pad, but at the cost of a little extra noise. You get to decide whether the improved stopping distance is worth the noise.
Availability: Aftermarket parts are readily available at your choice of independent shop. As long as you trust your auto tech to make good choices regarding quality, you can get the work done quickly wherever you like.

Cons:

Overwhelming choices: There are so many options for each part that you may feel overwhelmed by your choices. That’s where a trustworthy auto tech is key. He or she can narrow down the options and help you find the right high-quality aftermarket part at the right price
Warranty issues: Not all aftermarket parts come with a warranty. Ask your auto tech to use only parts that come with a warranty. You may pay slightly more, but the peace of mind is well worth it.

Should I Ever Request OEM Parts?

When having bodywork done after a collision, OEM parts are highly recommended. An exact fit and proper crumple zones are essential for crash safety. Likewise, if you lease your vehicle, you may need to request OEM parts to avoid losing your security deposit. Check with your leasing agent for details. Be aware that if your car is being repaired under an insurance claim, you may need to pay an additional fee for OEM parts, since they tend to cost more. Talk to your insurance agent before repairs begin.

There is no right or wrong answer to the question of OEM vs. aftermarket parts. Some people simply prefer to have all OEM parts in their vehicle, and are willing to pay a premium for them. Others are cost-driven, and will gladly accept the least expensive aftermarket parts. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, preferring to strike a balance between cost, convenience, and quality. If you trust your auto technician, he or she can steer you toward the best options for your particular situation.
If you are tired of getting the runaround and being treated like you haven’t got a clue, we invite you to try Colchin Automotive instead. Give us a call at 303-431-5421 for all of your automotive needs!

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