When it's time to repair your car, you face a choice between original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vs. aftermarket parts. Aftermarket parts are usually cheaper, but price isn't the only consideration when it comes to fixing your car. Understanding the pros and cons of aftermarket parts will help you decide whether they're a good option for your particular situation.
- Aftermarket parts are replacement parts for cars that are built by someone other than the original part manufacturer.
- Aftermarket parts often offer a cheaper alternative without sacrificing quality.
- Not all aftermarket parts are of equal quality, and using anything other than OEM parts may void your warranty, so it's important to know all of the details that apply to your situation.
What Are Aftermarket Parts?
Aftermarket parts, also called generic parts, are made by a company other than your vehicle's original manufacturer. They're brand new replacement parts—not used parts. They're made by a third-party manufacturer, so they might not be a perfect fit the same way OEM parts are.
They're generally equally as safe as OEM parts but cost much less. They're typically the sheet metal or plastic components that make up the exterior of the car: bumpers, fenders, hoods, and so on.
Your insurance company can't require you to use a certain kind of car part for your repairs, but they may ask you to pay the difference if the part you want is more expensive.
Pros of Aftermarket Parts
The benefits to generic car parts typically center around price.
Prices for aftermarket parts are almost always less than those for OEM parts, which can be 60% more expensive. Since parts make up almost half of the cost of most body work, saving money here can cut down on the total cost of the repair. Insurance companies prefer the cost-savings of aftermarket parts, especially when they are just as safe as the OEM parts.
Your car has only one manufacturer, so if you want an OEM part, you will have only one option. But with aftermarket parts, you may have loads of makers to choose from. A big selection means more competition and lower prices, as well as more convenience, too. You're much more likely to find the aftermarket version of a part you need at your local parts store, whereas the OEM version may need to be ordered, delaying your repair.
Of course, quality can vary depending on the component that needs to be replaced. But you can find aftermarket parts whose quality meets or exceeds the OEM version.
There's even an independent testing authority called the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) that tests and certifies replacement parts. If you find their seal on a replacement part, you know it's been proven to meet or exceed their quality standards, that it will fit, and that it will be safe.
Cons of Aftermarket Parts
You'll have more options with aftermarket parts, but not all aftermarket parts are created equal. You may encounter lower-quality items or ones that aren’t a good fit for your specific vehicle. If these parts haven't been certified, it's more difficult to tell their quality. However, in the event that a part doesn't fit your car, your car insurance company may pay to replace it at no extra cost.
For cosmetic pieces such as bumper covers, it may be easier to tell an OEM part from an aftermarket part, but functionally they should be the same.
Practically all OEM parts come with some level of warranty protection, usually one year. Aftermarket parts sometimes come with little or no warranty.
It's illegal for companies to void your car warranty for using aftermarket parts. You can file a complaint with the FTC if you think a warranty claim was denied unfairly.
Determining Aftermarket Parts' Quality
While determining the quality of aftermarket parts can be uncertain sometimes, OEM parts can be a bit of a gamble, too. After all, if you're repairing a broken or worn-out OEM part, there's the possibility that the issue was with the part in the first place.
If you're deciding whether to use aftermarket parts for your car repair, you may seek out a second opinion for your specific car and the parts in question:
- Ask a trusted mechanic
- Check out what consumers are saying online
- Investigate the aftermarket parts manufacturer's reputation
Remember that trying to save a few dollars on a cheaper part won't help you in the long run if you have to replace that part again and again.