Aftermarket vs OEM: What You Need to Know
When it comes time to replace auto parts, you need to weigh your options: where should you take your vehicle to get repaired, and how much are you willing to pay? Extensive repairs can come with daunting price tags, but you also want to be sure that your car runs smoothly again. Often, the decision comes down to whether you’ll buy Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts or aftermarket parts. How much of a difference does it make? Knowing what the two entail is important in making an informed purchase.
What Are OEM Parts?
Simply put, OEM parts are produced by the same company that supplies the vehicle’s manufacturer. This means they’re exactly the same as, or very close to, the components in the vehicle when it rolls off the dealer’s lot. Traditionally, OEM parts came only from authorized dealerships permitted to sell them. In more recent years, though, some third-party sellers—both retailer chains and independent auto shops—have also sold OEM products, making it easier to acquire them. OEM parts aren’t always in stock by default, depending on the retailer, who may have to order the parts from the official manufacturer.
Because these are the same parts that come in new vehicles, they’re guaranteed for an exact fit with the corresponding make and model. Thus, you know exactly what you’re getting and they provide the expected performance. Additionally, automakers often back up OEM parts with a one-year warranty, which may also cover the labor costs if you get repairs done at the dealership. Even so, buyers frequently find that OEM parts cost substantially more than equivalent aftermarket parts, and acquiring them outside of dealerships isn’t always guaranteed.
What Does Aftermarket Mean?
Broadly, the aftermarket is comprised of manufacturers and retailers that aren’t officially partnered with auto companies. The term “aftermarket parts” specifically refers to spare parts, accessories and components manufactured by anyone other than the OEM factories. Aftermarket manufacturers reverse-engineer OEM designs, so the parts they make are designed for compatibility with the same year, make and model, but they typically don’t copy the OEM parts exactly. Auto shops frequently use aftermarket parts as they’re easier and more inexpensive to obtain. Customers can also purchase aftermarket parts themselves at brick-and-mortar stores or online.
Aftermarket manufacturers have developed an ill reputation for compromising on quality in order to keep prices low, resulting in cheap parts that fail early and end up costing more when they have to be replaced. However, this is not always the case, and many manufacturers have stepped up their efforts in quality to remain competitive. Still, the broad selection of brands and retailers—not to mention the variations in parts—makes choosing the right one difficult if you’re unfamiliar with the aftermarket. On the other hand, this means obtaining aftermarket parts is often easier, and the design variations can mean some parts are as effective as OEM, if not more so.
Which Option Is the Best?
There isn’t a single “one size fits all” answer to this question; whether you should go OEM or aftermarket depends on your vehicle, as well as budget, lifestyle, safety and availability concerns.
Casual, everyday drivers who just want their vehicles to work often lean to OEM parts, given the choice. The standardized design typically ensures familiar and reliable performance, and these drivers may find the price to be worth it. Body repairs in particular benefit from OEM parts, because vehicle crash tests are done with OEM body panels that crumple in the right way to absorb impact, and deviating from those compromises that guarantee of crash safety. For especially new vehicles, OEM may be the only option available if no aftermarket manufacturers have successfully produced their own version. Additionally, using aftermarket parts can sometimes void an automaker’s warranty.
On the other hand, with some research, buyers can save money on aftermarket parts without compromising quality. Smart shoppers identify trustworthy retailers and brands, compare prices and read up on what others suggest. It’s extra work, but it’s worth it to some drivers. Aftermarket parts also may be the only feasible option for other reasons. Hobbyists, for instance, frequently turn to the aftermarket to find specialized parts for the performance they’re looking for or simply to make their vehicles more unique. Also, older vehicles that no longer have OEM support are difficult to restore without the aftermarket. Some manufacturers specialize in older models, making the necessary parts more readily available
Finding the Right Parts
Ultimately, whether you should choose OEM or aftermarket replacement parts depends on what you value most. In either case, taking the time to do research is vital in finding what’s right for you. Consult with your insurer to see what your coverage entails, shop around to compare prices and warranties and read reviews and referrals to know what fellow drivers prefer or avoid.
Tachoir Auto Body has provided the Pittsburgh area with quality repairs at fair prices for over 40 years. Contact us today by email or phone to schedule an in-person estimate and see what we can do for you.