OEM vs Aftermarket – Pros and Cons

The OEM vs aftermarket debate has been raging on for as long as there has been any aftermarket parts industry to speak of. At the end of the day, the questions raised by both sides, in terms of costs and savings, drawbacks and benefits, are legitimate. And it all boils down to your choice in how to get your car fixed. Do you take it to an authorized dealership and deal strictly with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts, or do you head down to your local repair shop, to support an independently run business, but risk getting subpar aftermarket parts.

Can you trust your local repair shop to supply the proper kind of parts, that are within standards and will not annul your car’s warranty? And can you combine the two approaches by, say, using aftermarket lug nuts on OEM wheels? There are obvious pros and cons for both sides of the debate.

Compared to OEM aftermarket parts are usually cheaper, but this begs the question if they are not of poorer quality. And then there are parts where you should only use OEM; aftermarket options would be far too risky. In order to help you figure out the best solution to this problem on your own, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons for the two sides to this car parts debate.

What are aftermarket parts?

Aftermarket parts are parts that the car did not come originally equipped with. They were never directly sourced to the company that produced the vehicle, but this doesn’t automatically mean they will render the car warranty null and void whenever you use them. Some aftermarket parts, like those which function as direct replacements, will not have a negative impact on your warranty.

Some companies that produce aftermarket parts actually manufacture high quality components, which are equal (and sometimes even better) in terms of quality with OEM parts. A recent estimate, aired by America’s Car Show, says that about 80 per cent of independent car part shops use aftermarket parts. The show’s producers urge consumers to take informed choices and to make sure that the parts they do end up using are high quality.

The pros of aftermarket car parts

  • Aftermarket parts can sometimes be better quality, because many aftermarket producers run the process of reverse engineering, to figure out what the weak spots of the initial product were.
  • They are usually cheaper, though the exact amount you end up saving depends on several factors. The brand is one such factor, as is its initial price – so if that price strikes you as far too low, make sure you verify the product makers’ claims.
  • Since there are a lot more aftermarket car part makers than OEM producers, the former market is more competitive and diverse. That means more choice for the consumer, after all is said and done.

The cons of aftermarket car parts

  • In terms of quality, you can both very pleasant and very unpleasant surprises when buying off the aftermarket. Many producers tend to skimp on the quality of the materials they use, in an attempt to extend their profit margins. A word of advice: never shop from an aftermarket brand that you’re not familiar with.
  • Some aftermarket parts come with no warranty, because a warranty would also increase their costs.

What are OEM parts?

With OEM parts, the definition is a far simpler matter: they are the parts that your vehicle rolled off the assembly line with. A part that was not there originally does not qualify as an OEM part.

The pros of OEM parts

  • As opposed to those you can find on the aftermarket OEM wheels, or any other type of parts for that matter, are only available in one variant. This does away with the problem of overwhelming choice and with evaluating dozens of brands.
  • OEM parts always come with a warranty. In most cases, this warranty lasts for a year and authorized dealership will also provide the installing work for free, too.
  • By and large, OEM parts are usually better quality than those found on the aftermarket. It’s also reassuring to know that you are buying a part from an authorized producer and seller.

The cons of OEM parts

  • One can only purchase OEM parts at the dealership. This situation is slowly being rebalanced with the emergence of alternatives such as eBay and other online stores. In special situations, though, it’s actually recommended to ask for an OEM part from your local mechanic. However, bear in mind that this will take more time, because your parts will take longer before they reach the shop in question.
  • OEM parts are not always produced in perfect quality. You would hope so, given the fact that you’ve just paid more than you would have for a similar part on the aftermarket. However, as mentioned above, sometimes parts on the aftermarket can even be vastly superior to OEM ones.
  • OEM parts tend to be more expensive – about 60 per cent more so, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). This is the case because dealerships have been more pressed to make profits over the past years, owing to the aftermath of the recession.
Aftermarket steering wheel OEM vs Aftermarket – Pros and Cons

Aftermarket steering wheel

Though the choice is entirely yours and there are many reasons you might decide to choose one type of parts over the other, in some scenarios you’d be best advised to opt for OEM parts every single time. One such case is that of collision repairs. Body panels found on the aftermarket can lack the requisite crumple areas or can even not fit the right way.

This also applies to the situation in which you’re leasing your car. Aftermarket parts will decrease the book value of the car, so if you need to repair them, you can end up using paying for this with your entire deposit. Bear in mind that in 21 states and the District of Columbia the repair estimate at the car repair shop doesn’t have to state the type of parts to be used.

Since aftermarket parts tend to be more affordable, the insurance companies will prefer them – case in which you might end up having to pay for OEM parts you specifically request out of your own pocket.

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