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OEM vs. Aftermarket: Is the Extra Cost Worth It?

OEM vs. Aftermarket: Is the Extra Cost Worth It?

There are many competitive replacement parts, meaning consumers worry about quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness. With many options, it’s difficult to know which type of part to have installed. Many of the differences are subtle, but there can be a significant difference in the level of quality. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

There was a time when auto manufacturers built every part of their car, but today, manufacturers contract other companies to produce parts for them. Many of these companies specialize in developing and creating parts for specific manufacturers with no less quality.

OEM parts are built by the company that originally made the parts for the auto manufacturer and carry the same part that came with your car. They are just as reliable as genuine parts. In some cases, they are the original parts. Consumers just don’t know that mufflers were produced by a contractor.

Aftermarket parts are replacement parts that are not made by the OEM or original equipment manufacturer. Aftermarket parts are used to replace parts on a variety of vehicle types although their use may alter the coverage of an insured part.

Aftermarket parts can be more fun, more expensive (or cheaper), and provide some value to a car owner. However, others may disagree about the usage of aftermarket parts because they are purists.

This article outlines OEM parts, aftermarket parts, and the differences between them for the reader to make the best decision when searching for a replacement part.

Are OEM parts better than Aftermarket?

OEM parts match those that came with your vehicle and are the same quality as original parts. Whether or not they are better than aftermarket depends entirely on the type of repair, quality of parts, and price of parts. 

If OEM parts are used in repair for the body of the vehicle, the car should look and work as it did before the damage; everything will match. OEM parts are also crash-tested. This is good news for people who have recently been in an automobile accident. They will have a freshly restored ride.

For mechanical repairs, some aftermarket companies engineer their products to be better than OEM versions, especially if the part had some type of manufacturer recalls. 

As far as extras, such as a backup camera or back-seat TV screen, aftermarket parts are probably better and could help increase your car’s resale value.

Sometimes aftermarket car parts get a bad reputation because of these fun add-ons. Yes, aftermarket radios, televisions, radar detectors, seat covers, and LED lights aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. This, however, doesn’t mean that the parts created by a third-party are bad at all.

Is it OK to use Aftermarket Car Parts?

Some consumers worry about the quality or safety of aftermarket parts but they are just as competitive as OEM parts and are often more cost-effective. 

Depending on the type of repair, such as a vehicle in a car accident, the insurance company may suggest the use of aftermarket parts rather than OEM.

Aftermarket parts cost less for insurers and help drive down overall auto insurance premiums. Also, insurance companies don’t have to necessarily insure those parts, easing some of the related risks.

Because of the reputation aftermarket parts has in some circles, some people get nervous when the insurance company mentions this. However, if the auto shop knows what they’re doing, they should be able to help you navigate the murky waters of used and new auto parts without issue.

Are OEM Parts Best?

OEM parts are built by the company that initially made the parts for the auto manufacturer and are just as reliable as genuine parts.

Additionally, it takes away some of the stress of choosing between a few different parts brands because the dealership parts department will get you the exact part you need. Also, automakers typically warranty the parts that you buy for up to a year.

However, OEM parts usually carry a higher price tag than aftermarket parts. Because you have to get them at a dealership, you will likely need to have the repair done there as well, which could mean higher labor costs.

Although rare, the OEM part may be of worse quality than the aftermarket, especially if the vehicle is older or has had some type of recall. This can be true with specifically finnicky parts like the head gasket. Sometimes it is in fact better to go with the aftermarket because the material is stronger!

Why is OEM more Expensive?

The reason OEM parts are more expensive is that they are the same quality as your original car parts and come with a warranty. 

The price you pay is one of the most important factors, so making sure the parts are within your budget is essential.

People believe they are paying for reliability, and in some ways, this is true. When the part was designed by the car maker for the specific make, model, and year of a vehicle, there’s no worry about compatibility or if the piece fits into the vehicle correctly. In other cases, it’s about brand recognition.

Difference between OEM and Aftermarket Parts

OEM means the parts are made by the same company that makes the vehicle while aftermarket parts are produced by a different parts company and designed to be compatible with many different types of vehicle models.

The difference between these parts, most of time, is almost negligible at the end of the day. Let’s take something small, for example, like brake pads. You could go out of your way to find Ford brake pads for your F-150. You could also use generic parts. You could upgrade to premium parts.

At the end of the day, so long as the vehicle is able to come to a complete and safe stop, most drivers wouldn’t worry about where the brake pads were produced or what name has been stamped onto them.

OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts

Aftermarket parts may cost less but the cons of using aftermarket parts sometimes outweigh initial savings.

One of the reasons aftermarket parts are cheaper is because they aren’t always made of the same high-quality materials. If the materials aren’t as strong, they can lead aftermarket parts to fail, contradicting any initial savings you may have had. Generic and discount parts are the culprit.

OEM parts are designed specifically for the make and model of your vehicle allowing them to deliver optimal fit and performance so your vehicle runs best.

Many aftermarket parts are flooding the market; therefore selecting your part can often be confusing. A visit to your dealership will ensure you get exactly what you need. Additionally, the part will more than likely be covered by a warranty.

If the vehicle is new and still under warranty, the use of aftermarket parts may void the warranty coverage.

The adage is true: you get what you pay for!

Aftermarket Parts: Pros and Cons

Aftermarket parts refer to any part for a vehicle that is not sourced from the original car maker. Purchasing aftermarket parts has many pros, including:

  • They are less expensive (even though how much you save depends on the brand).
  • In some cases, you may end up with a better part than you started with due to reverse engineering. This is a great way to avoid bum parts that are subject to endless recalls.
  • There is a large variety; there are hundreds of companies that make aftermarket parts.
  • There is better availability giving you more options on where to take your car for service.
  • Aftermarket parts can add customization, personality, and pizazz to a vehicle.

Unfortunately, there are also cons to buying aftermarket parts:

  • The quality varies greatly; again, the old saying “you get what you pay for” definitely applies here.
  • There is an overwhelming selection of brands and parts. Without thinking it over completely, you could end up with a bad quality part.
  • They may not have a warranty which is why they are often less expensive.

OEM Parts: Pros and Cons

OEM parts are made by the vehicle’s manufacturer and match the parts that came with your original vehicle. There are several pros to buying OEM parts:

  • It is easier to choose your part; if you go to the parts counter at your dealership, you will usually only get one type.
  • There is a greater assurance of quality because the OEM part should work exactly like the one you are replacing; the vehicle’s performance should be the same.
  • The OEM part comes with a warranty normally valid for one year.

There are also cons:

  • OEM parts are more expensive; there is more of a burden on parts and service to increase a dealership’s profit.
  • The parts need to be bought at the dealership. They can also be difficult to locate if the car is older or uncommon.
  • Depending on the part and year of your vehicle, the OEM part may not have superior quality. You may just be paying extra for the name.

OEM Alternative: some car owners and mechanics love the idea of OEM but turn to the junkyard or auto recyclers for help. The junkyard can locate a used OEM part at a more affordable price. For some parts, this can be a lifesaver. For others, it isn’t recommended. Talk to a professional for advice.

When Should You Request OEM Parts?

When it comes to repairs after an accident, make sure you purchase an OEM part as aftermarket body parts may not fit properly or may not be crash-safety tested. This will be especially true when the exterior or frame has been extensively damaged!

If you lease your vehicle, there are economic considerations since the aftermarket part decreases your vehicle’s value. In fact, if the vehicle’s parts are obviously aftermarket, the lease provider may have something to say about it at the end of the contract.

In many states, a mechanic’s repair estimate does not have to indicate whether or not aftermarket parts are used even though insurance companies favor them as they are cheaper. If you request OEM parts, your insurance company may make you pay an additional fee so it’s best to see what parts are covered.

Word to the wise: always ask the mechanic about the types of parts that will go into the vehicle. Research the average cost of the given vehicle repair to find out if the fee is off target. Estimates that are too high or too low warrant a conversation about what types of parts will be used.

OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts: Which Is the Better Way to Go?

If you currently need repairs done on your vehicle, you may be wondering which option is best: OEM or aftermarket.

All aftermarket parts are not created similarly but all OEM parts are, creating their own set of advantages and disadvantages. If you are familiar with the brands and work done on your car, aftermarket parts can save you a lot of money.

If you aren’t familiar with aftermarket brands, prefer to have everything done at a dealership, and don’t mind paying extra, OEM is the right choice for you.

If you aren’t sure, check with a mechanic and ask for their opinion and a quote. 

Good maintenance and care with help your vehicle and the honesty of a good mechanic will help ensure you are getting the best price, part, and service your vehicle needs to be reliable.

Your finances matter and only you can make the best financial decision for your wallet. By doing your research, including reading this article, you are better equipped to make that decision.