Aftermarket or OEM Parts—Which Are Right for You?

Sooner or later, you and your repair technician will have a deep philosophical disussion about parts—auto parts, that is.  Because you have quite a few choices, the ones you make will leave a lasting impression on your wallet and maybe your attitude about what goes on under the hood. So, read carefully and learn…

Different Kinds of Parts—What’s the Difference?

There are three different types of parts. Each is different in terms of how available, affordable and reliable it is.

Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts: Reliability Is Key

OEM, the name says it all. These parts are created by the folks who built parts for your current vehicle. They are easy to find. Look no further than your car’s dealership. They’re usually backed by a one-year warranty, so reliability is seldom a problem.  But they can be up to 60 percent more expensive than alternatives—ouch!

Availability can be a hassle, too. Yes, it’s easier to find exactly the right OEM part versus aftermarket equivalent. But you must go to your dealer to get them, and if it’s for a new or high-demand vehicle, you might have to get in line and wait for a back order.

If you’re looking for reliability or don’t have the skills to make repairs yourself, this is the choice for you. When you take your vehicle to the dealership service department for repairs and say “OEM parts, please,” you’ll know that everything will fit and perform as expected.

Aftermarket Parts: Choice and Affordability Rule

These parts are built for your car, truck, SUV or motorcycle after it rolls off the assembly line. When you take your vehicle to an independent collision repair shop, you’ll probably be offered aftermarket parts. If you are of the DIY persuasion, you can buy them at bricks-and-mortar parts stores and parts dealers on the internet.

This is a large and sometimes tricky category, which includes:

  • Aftermarket service parts. Also known as replacement parts, these are what independent collision shops use when they repair damaged vehicles. These parts are exactly what the name implies—a new part, which delivers reliable performance, as good as or maybe better than its OEM alternative.
  • Aftermarket performance parts. If you want to jazz up your vehicle’s performance, you might ask for aftermarket performance parts. You might save money, but after a collision, don’t expect your insurance company to give the thumbs-up for larger, fancy exhaust systems or body kits.

The good news is, aftermarket parts tend to be less expensive, sometimes a lot less. Remember the general principle of “you get what you pay for.” If you see the word “cheap” in an ad, think twice about buying. But lower-cost parts don’t always imply lower reliability.

More good news:

  • If you buy direct replacement parts, you won’t void your vehicle’s warranty. (This is an old myth.)
  • Vehicle manufacturers tend to discontinue parts after their vehicles are 20 years old. Aftermarket parts pick up the slack; they’re usually more easily available for vehicles 20 years or older. But a reliable authority says that aftermarket parts can be a good choice for a vehicle more than 3 or 4 years old.

The not-so-good news: You’ll be overwhelmed by the variety and range of quality of the parts you find. So, working with your repair tech is your best protection against low-quality parts and low-quality claims.

Reconditioned Parts:

These parts have been on the road before. In short, they are used. You can find used parts online, locally via parts dealers and at your nearest automotive recycling business (aka junk yard.)

Refurbished parts dealers clean and replace external components such as bolts or gaskets. That’s why, after the cleanup, refurbished parts are very inexpensive compared to new parts. But be sure to balance safety and reliability against those low, low prices. Remember, they are used parts and do have some wear.

Work with the Right Partners to Get the Best Deal

Any time you need replacement parts, you have choices to make. But the best deal includes the best outcome, not just the lowest price. For local folks, here are a few things to keep in mind before you walk into a collision repair bay.

  • Owners of newer or more expensive vehicles prefer OEM rather than aftermarket parts. If that means you, a trip to the dealership is in order.
  • Getting the right aftermarket products includes shopping around, working with a good mechanic and requesting high-quality aftermarket parts. Here in Arizona, Keystone is a reputable parts dealer.
  • LKQ is a great used parts provider for DIY enthusiasts here in the valley. It’s just the ticket if you’re not comfortable buying OEM or aftermarket parts.

Aftermarket or OEM Parts—Which Are Right for You?But if you are unfamiliar with car repair or just want to delegate repair chores, remember. Experienced, service-oriented technicians will go beyond simple repair and parts installation tasks. They’ll give you an outcome that makes you smile and come back when your vehicle needs it.

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