How the Online Changes the Aftermarket Parts Industry

E-commerce is slowly starting to change the direction of those industries that embrace it. What started out as an easy-going alternative for consumers is now shaping the way that whole markets are functioning. With everything nowadays shifting towards full online integration, it was only a matter of time until the automotive aftermarket industry would, like many other secondary markets, be shaken to its foundation by the growing consumer preference for this new medium rather than the classical brick and mortar auto-parts garage sales.

Convenient and cheap go hand in hand

There are multiple reasons for why second market parts have had a spike in online purchases over the last few years, with a Hedges & Company November 2014 report situating the online accessories market at over $6 billion in 2014. This is a rise from the $5 billion of 2013 and the $4 billion of 2012, with predictions estimating it to cross over a new billion threshold every year until 2020.

It mostly revolves around commodity and cheaper overall pricing, with serious bucks being saved by mostly eliminating intermediaries between parts dealers and the customer; shopping for a new bumper for your Ford F150 will probably be cheaper if you do it online and your own than if you let garage mechanics handle it. Also, acquiring those rare original engine or body parts for your Chevy Monte Carlo or Dodge Charger will never be easier than doing a quick swipe on search engines for specialized retailers, compared to the frustrating possibly multi-state wide physical search you would be constrained to do a couple of years back.

That’s not to say auto shop online sales are the domain of cheapskates. A 2013 analysis regarding the most purchased top 10 replacement parts sees a diverse gamma of components big and small, cheap and expensive being bought with no specific pattern. The top selling 2013 online car part was the radiator, which has on average a not really cheap $420 manufacturer suggested retail price; while several others that made the top can be found for under $100.

The same study does reveal though that purchasing parts online is miles cheaper than store prices, with a whopping of average of 73 percent. And it’s not cheap to make low-life expectancy parts that are fueling this statistic; a quick Google search for “high performance auto shop” will have the Pep Boys site open up, and it immediately assaults you with promo codes that give you 25 or 30 percent off orders past a certain price mark, with free shipping included for orders past $75.

Consumer Power and Business-Grabbers

Auto repair shops have also started to function in different ways due to this time-saving and cheaper means of shopping. Another 2013 survey saw 55 percent of respondents stating that they buy their own replacement parts and have them installed at repair shops, rather than the usual habit of the shop dealing with everything.

This turns out cheaper for customer, as shops normally used to have partnerships with certain parts retailers that didn’t guarantee a best value-for-money approach – and now they have to accept this growing consumer trend to survive on the changing market.

But it’s actually not the specialized retailers that own the bigger share of the online aftermarket. Amazon and eBay have emerged for some time as e-commerce’s jacks-of-all-trades, and have both speculated the opportunity for user to user purchases in the industry.

Their specialized auto part departments are outselling traditional chain stores by number of units sold, and it’s not hard to guess why: a 2 minute amazon search can yield you a Subaru cabin air filter, a Honda Accord engine splash shield and a Toyota floor jack handle for under $50. Of course there’s the discussion about used parts and how there are no real guarantees that you’re not getting ripped off in most deals, but those who don’t mind the risk might find themselves saving quite a fortune on these very cheap auto parts.

New face, new risks

This change of medium also amounts to change within the retailers themselves: an industry that employs over 4 million people in the US now finds itself in need of IT and electronics specialists for designing websites, social media and web PR specialists for exploiting those new channels of marketing, and many other jobs that had no real tie with the industry in past times.

Aftermarket parts search engines that will find sort market offers by car body parts names – such as Car-Part or PartFinder – shift the business even more, as their growing popularity might see retailers having to pay for better chances of their product being found in a similar way to Google – that is, if it’s not happening already. And at the furthest specter of consumer satisfaction, some custom car parts websites even use special software to let you design and place an order for your dream carbon hood or F1-wanna-be rear spoiler.

Still, be it Nissan or Jeep truck exhausts, side covers for a Yamaha motorcycle, classy seats for a Scion, or even body kits for a Polaris, this now wide range of easily accessible and cheaper replacement parts does come at a risk: and the name of it is aftermarket car parts insurance. Standard car insurance is mandatory nearly nation-wide, but the truth is that for it to cover custom parts additional package purchases are require, which might take sums up to even $5000 out of your savings, depending on how modded your vehicle is.

Of course, insuring aftermarket parts is optional, but not doing so can result in the following circumstance: say you have an accident with your 10-year old BMW functioning mostly on cheap replacement parts bought online. When the insurance company will evaluate your claim to pay off repairs, they will appraise the vehicle’s pre-crash value, and at the same time its repair costs. If the cost amounts to over 70 percent of the car’s cost, they will deem repairing it as unjustifiable, and will then reimburse you only the value of the original parts still left on it.

But despite the occasional quirks and risks that the online aftermarket automotive industry has, it still provides a better and more comfortable experience for consumers in so many standpoints that it’s clearly going to continually marginalize physical sales – and maybe in an even more internet driven history, make them disappear completely.

Scroll to Top