OEM Parts vs. Aftermarket Parts: What's the Difference?

Car mechanic using a computer in an auto repair shop.
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At some point in your car's life, you'll probably need to purchase replacement parts for it. It seems simple to let your repair shop handle the fix. But the type of parts the shop will use to repair your car can vary. 

There are two options: original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and aftermarket parts. In most cases, both types of parts are options for repairing your vehicle after an accident. However, your car insurance will dictate the type of parts you can use if you want the repair to be covered in full. Learn the differences between OEM parts and aftermarket parts before getting your car fixed.

Key Takeaways

  • An original equipment manufacturer is a company that makes cars and has made replacement parts for its cars.
  • Aftermarket parts can be made by the same factory that sold them to your car maker, but they're cheaper than parts from the original manufacturer.
  • The only difference is who makes the parts, because both types are regulated and inspected.
  • Your insurance company might be very specific on which type you can use on a car that has a covered claim on it.

What's the Difference Between OEM Parts and Aftermarket Parts?

OEM parts Aftermarket parts
Made by car's manufacturer Made by a third-party company
More expensive Lower-priced
Fit your car perfectly Tend to fit many cars

Manufacturer

OEM parts are made by the car manufacturer's factory, not by a third party. They tend to fit perfectly, because the car manufacturer backs them.

Aftermarket parts are often manufactured by a company other than your car's manufacturer.

Price

If you take your car to get repaired at a dealer, the dealer will likely use OEM parts. However, they also cost more money as a result of typical dealer markup. When you buy aftermarket parts, they are sometimes made by the same company that sold them to your car maker. When you buy aftermarket parts, you may be buying them without the car maker's markup.

Performance

Aftermarket parts can be produced at a high volume and made to fit the specifications of different types of vehicles, not just a single vehicle make and model. They are similar to OEM parts in kind and quality and tend to fit.

Aftermarket parts are safe and regulated by the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA).

OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts Example

Suppose you've been in a car accident and filed a claim with your insurance company. Your insurer may specify that aftermarket parts must be used in your repair. Most insurers will only cover aftermarket parts because they accomplish the same job for less money than OEM parts. You should check with your insurance company to find out whether that is the case in your policy.

Whether your insurer will cover OEM parts in a claim depends on the language in your specific policy. If it's important to you to use OEM parts in vehicle repairs, you can opt to pay the difference between the cost of aftermarket and OEM parts.

Consider switching to an insurance policy that will cover OEM parts to avoid paying a cost differential in the future.

Going with OEM versus aftermarket parts would only be for your benefit and peace of mind. It won't affect the safety of your vehicle, nor the resale value when you decide to sell. A vehicle that's been damaged in an accident will likely have a lower value than one that has not been, especially if there was structural damage or airbag deployment. The parts used to repair it will have little bearing on its overall value.

Which Is Right for You?

You might think that OEM parts are better because they come straight from your car's manufacturer, but are they always the best parts for you?

It comes down to personal preference. The people who are usually most concerned about getting OEM parts include car enthusiasts, body shop mechanics, and owners of brand-new vehicles.

Other people may not know the difference or even care; they only want their vehicle fixed. The lower cost of aftermarket parts makes them an appealing option for many. If you're not picky about the brand and you're looking to save money, go with aftermarket parts.

If you prefer the comfort of having parts made specifically for your car and don't mind the extra expense, go with OEM parts.

The Bottom Line

OEM parts keep the vehicle closer to its original state. However, once you drive your car off of the lot, it's no longer new. So, why do you need OEM parts when used parts or aftermarket parts can get the job done more cost-effectively? Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether the kind of parts used to repair your vehicle matters.

Weigh the costs against the potential differences to help you decide which ones are the best for your vehicle.