What Are Aftermarket Parts?

What You Need to Know About Aftermarket Parts

Mechanic inspecting for aftermarket or OEM parts on car
••• Westend61 / GettyImages

Aftermarket parts are replacement parts used in car repairs. They are not made by the car's original manufacturer, unlike original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, which are.

Certified aftermarket parts are less expensive than OEM parts and should not impact your car's safety or warranty. Learn more about aftermarket parts and when they can be used.

What Are Aftermarket Parts?

Aftermarket parts are replacement parts for car repairs that are made by a company other than the car's original manufacturer.

When it comes to repairing a car after a car accident, the insurance company may have the option to use aftermarket parts instead of original manufacturer parts (OEM). A number of auto body shops also use aftermarket parts in repairs.

Using aftermarket or generic parts in repairs should not interfere with your vehicle's warranty. In some cases, aftermarket parts may have longer warranties than OEM parts.

If you have a leased vehicle, the terms of your lease will state whether using aftermarket parts in repairs is allowed.

Data indicates that aftermarket parts are safe, and there are no safety implications of using cosmetic crash parts or aftermarket parts. Using aftermarket structural parts, however, such as hoods, may have safety implications. Structural aftermarket parts must exactly replicate the original parts to preserve the vehicle's safety and crashworthiness.

Alternate names: Generic parts, non-OEM parts, competitive replacement parts

How Aftermarket Parts Work

Aftermarket parts have gained popularity and acceptance as good alternatives to manufacturer parts. In some cases, aftermarket parts may be superior to OEM parts because the manufacturers of generic or aftermarket parts may use more expensive materials or more advanced technology than a car manufacturer. 

OEM parts, on average, cost 60% more than the average price of a comparable aftermarket part. Because of the cost savings of aftermarket parts, they are used by insurance companies and body shops when repairing vehicles after accidents. 

Because the insurance industry is regulated at the state level, the decision to use or not to use aftermarket parts is determined state by state. States may:

  • Allow insurance companies the use of generic or aftermarket parts without consumers' consent
  • Require that consumers be notified if aftermarket parts were used on their vehicle
  • Require consumer consent for the use of aftermarket parts
  • Ban the use of aftermarket parts to repair a vehicle

Regulations on using aftermarket parts can also vary between insurance companies. Some may require the use of OEM parts, while others may use aftermarket parts when possible to save on repair costs.

You can ask your insurance adjuster what kind of parts will be used in the repair. Some insurance companies will allow you to use OEM parts or may offer you the option with additional costs attached to cover the difference in price. 

Types of Aftermarket Parts

There are two main types of aftermarket parts. Understanding the difference between them can help you decide whether you are comfortable with a repair being done using generic parts, or whether you will feel safer using OEM parts.

Cosmetic

Cosmetic parts can impact how a vehicle functions or looks, but they don't affect its safety in a crash, such as the fenders, door skin, or trim.

Because they don't change a car's safety and crashworthiness, where cosmetic parts are sourced is a matter of price and availability. Using aftermarket parts, as long as they are reliable and well-made, should not impact your vehicle's function, safety, or warranty.

Structural

Structural parts, such as the hood or safety cage, are responsible for absorbing the force of a crash. These parts should be CAPA certified by the Certified Automobile Parts Association, which has high standards and guidelines for aftermarket parts.

In order to be certified CAPA, the testing that the parts go through must determine that the parts are "functionally equivalent" to OEM parts. This means they perform the same in safety tests, rarher than simply being of like kind and quality.

Aftermarket Parts vs. OEM

 OEM Parts  Aftermarket Parts
Made by the vehicle's original manufacturer Made by someone other than the original manufacturer
More expensive Less expensive
Won't impact cars' crashworthiness Won't impact cars' crashworthiness if certified
May have limited availability Easier to source and use quickly
Won't impact car warranty Shouldn't impact car warranty

The primary difference between OEM and aftermarket parts is price. When aftermarket parts are used, repairs are less expensive.

This can save money for both insurance companies and consumers. If insurance companies pay out less in claims and find less expensive ways to repair vehicles after an accident, that reduces their total losses.

When total losses paid out by insurance companies are less, then consumers benefit by paying less for insurance overall. When insurers pay high losses, they may have to adjust their overall car insurance rates.

How to Get Aftermarket or OEM Parts Used in Repairs

Many insurance companies may use aftermarket parts for collision repairs. If you are concerned about this practice there are steps you can take to be aware and to make a decision if you want aftermarket parts used for your car.

  • Ask your insurance company: Learn what policies are in place for using aftermarket parts. Some states have laws about generic or aftermarket part use, and each insurance company may have different conditions in the policy wordings. 
  • Know your state laws: Check with your state insurance commissioner to find out which laws apply in your state and determine if the insurance company is following state policies on the use of aftermarket parts.
  • Request the part you want: If you find out that the insurance company uses aftermarket parts, you can ask that OEM parts be used. If the insurance company denies the request, you may need to shop around for an insurance company that has an aftermarket crash parts policy you feel more comfortable with.

Key Takeaways

  • Aftermarket parts are replacement parts used in car repairs. They are not made by the car's original manufacturer, unlike OEM parts, which are.
  • Using aftermarket or generic parts in repairs should not interfere with your vehicle's warranty.
  • There are no safety implications of using cosmetic aftermarket parts. Structural aftermarket parts must exactly replicate the original parts to preserve the vehicle's safety and crashworthiness.
  • Policies about the use of aftermarket vs. OEM parts vary between states and insurance companies.