Pros and Cons of Aftermarket Car Parts

Car Accident with Injuries
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Choosing between aftermarket parts and OEM parts after filing a car insurance claim brings up a whole bunch of questions. If you have had your car repaired lately or ever, then you know that describing car parts as expensive is an understatement. Replace a few at one time and you're bound to have the same sticker shock when you see your bill as you did when you bought your vehicle. The problem is, what choice do you have? It's not like you can go in the garage and nail together a new catalytic converter from stuff in your scrap bin.

You do have at least one less costly option, though: original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vs. aftermarket parts.

What Exactly are Aftermarket Parts?

This one is simple enough. Aftermarket parts are those which are not made by the original manufacturer. Come to think of it, they are actually manufactured by the company that made them, so technically they are made by the original manufacturer. They're just not made by the company that made the parts in your original vehicle. In other words… well, you get the idea. These are parts that have passed through many hands before they get to your vehicle.

Does It Really Matter Who Make the Parts?

It depends on the specific part and who makes it. Aftermarket parts are oftentimes less expensive than their OEM counterparts -- there must be a reason for that, right? The conventional thinking is that aftermarket parts are of lesser quality than the originals or, to put it bluntly, that cheap means cheap. And that was the case years ago. The quality of aftermarket parts has improved over the last several years, though, with many today of equal or even higher quality than OEM parts. This is not always the case though.

Bearing that in mind, here is our list of the pros and cons of aftermarket auto parts:

Pros of Aftermarket Parts

Cost: This is the big one, and probably the only reason you’re even having this internal debate in the first place. Prices for aftermarket parts are almost always less than with OEM parts. Sometimes they are much, much cheaper.

Selection: Your car has only one manufacturer, so if you want an OEM part, you will have only one choice. As we all know, fewer choices and only one person controlling the market means that prices will be higher. Not so with the aftermarket. In fact, you may have loads of makers to choose from. A big selection brings with it more convenience, too. You're much more likely to find the aftermarket version of a part you need at your local parts store as compared to the OEM version which may only be available at the dealership's shop.

Quality: Again, this is something you will need to check around about, but it's not that unusual to find a brand-name aftermarket part whose quality meets or exceeds the OEM version.

Cons of Aftermarket Parts

Quality: I'm not trying to confuse you, I promise! There are two sides to the quality issue with aftermarket parts, and this one has to do with quality consistency. A greater selection means a higher likelihood of some lower-quality items or items that aren’t a good fit for your specific vehicle. Low quality often has to do with fit and finish problems that can cause more trouble than they're worth when you get away down the road. Unless you’re working with a mechanic or auto shop that you really know you can trust, it might be best to be safe and think "brand name."

Warranty: Practically all OEM parts come with some level of warranty protection, usually one year. Aftermarket parts sometimes come with little or no warranty. There's usually a reason for this. Did I mention sticking to brand names?

How Do You Know if an Aftermarket Part is any Good?

Determining the quality of aftermarket parts is a bit of a gamble but, to be honest, using OEM parts can be a bit of a gamble, too. Think about it. If you're in to repair a broken or worn out OEM part, there's the possibility that quality was a problem with it to start with. So, how do you decide which part to use? Unfortunately, you will have to do a little research. Ask a trusted mechanic. Check out what consumers are saying online. Find out about the aftermarket parts manufacturer's reputation.

And remember to ask yourself this question: Is the price too good to be true? If the answer is "yes," then stay away.