Two months ago, my wife walked out of the grocery store to discover the corner of her bumper caved in and gouged. She glanced about, thinking she’d mistakenly walked to the wrong vehicle, only to be disappointed she hadn’t. She searched for a note from the offending driver but found none. On her way home she stopped by the police station and filed a report allowing them to request video footage from the store’s parking lot surveillance cameras. After a couple weeks, the offending driver was identified, and we made a claim on their policy.
We chose a local repair shop because of their great reputation and we live in a rural area where the nearest dealer was hours away. One of the first questions from the shop owner was, “Do you want to use aftermarket or OEM parts?”
So, which is better? Is OEM (original equipment manufacturer) inherently better? If other parts are less expensive, does that mean lesser quality? The answer depends upon many factors, so let’s explore a few.
Aftermarket Auto Parts
Aftermarket auto parts are any made by a manufacturer other than the vehicle’s original equipment manufacturer.
One of the perks often emphasized regarding aftermarket auto parts is that they are less expensive. This is not always the case, but certainly a consideration.
If a part is less expensive, is the quality affected? There is no consistent answer. Some aftermarket parts may be of higher quality because aftermarket companies engineer the part to compensate for shortcomings in the original design. If the OEM part failed, aftermarket manufacturers may have adjusted design to ensure the same failure does not happen to their part. Conversely, price-conscious aftermarket manufacturers may cut corners to keep costs down and attract more sales. The best way to answer questions on quality is to ask a trusted repair shop directly.
Aftermarket parts have better availability than OEM, meaning repair garages will get them faster and return your car in less time. Local suppliers often stock aftermarket parts.
The warranty on aftermarket parts is usually shorter than OEM, and some aftermarket parts have no warranty at all. However, also consider the vehicle’s warranty. If still under a factory warranty, the use of aftermarket parts may affect it.
OEM Auto Parts
OEM parts are manufactured by the same company as used by your vehicle’s manufacturer, for your specific vehicle model and year. This does not mean, for example, that every part on a Toyota is made by Toyota. When building a vehicle, major auto manufacturers use many parts made by others. Thus, don’t be surprised if your OEM part arrives under the name of a separate manufacturer.
OEM parts are more expensive than aftermarket.
OEM parts are manufactured for a vehicle’s specific year, make, and model, guaranteeing a factory fit. Quality is the same or better than the part that came with the vehicle.
Choosing OEM parts narrows available choices and parts sources. On the other hand, it certainly makes the process simpler. If ordered through a dealership, OEM parts are almost always supplied, saving the hassle of comparing parts and prices.
Depending upon the use of the OEM part, they carry longer warranties than aftermarket. Vehicle warranties have no issues with OEM parts used for repairs.
Most insurance policies do not address the use of OEM or aftermarket parts. Some insurance companies only pay for aftermarket. Others charge the client for the difference in cost if OEM parts are demanded. Still others are OK paying for OEM if the client requests it. However, parties not at fault for an accident have better grounds to demand OEM parts since liability dictates their vehicle be restored to the state it was prior to the accident.
When deciding on whether to use aftermarket versus OEM, consider the part being replaced. An aftermarket body panel is generally a safe bet whereas drivetrain components may need to be OEM. When in doubt, ask your auto repair shop what they would do if repairing their own vehicle. In our case, the shop owner replied, “We can do OEM, but it will cost more and take longer. I’d suggest going with aftermarket. I’m familiar with parts provided by my aftermarket supplier, their quality is top notch, and I’ve never had a problem with their products.” We took their advice, and the vehicle was repaired using an aftermarket bumper. We got it back two weeks ago, it looks great, and the bumper hasn’t fallen off yet!
David McCaleb LinkedIn
Bankers Insurance LLC