Any car enthusiast has heard the terms OEM car parts and aftermarket car parts. Everyone has their own opinions and preferences when it comes to purchasing parts, or getting repairs done on their car. If you’re bringing your car into a dealership for repairs, chances are all of your parts are OEM, where as independent repair shops often use aftermarket parts. Is there a difference between OEM and aftermarket parts? Today, we’ll break down the Pros and Cons of each, to help you decide if OEM parts or aftermarket parts are the best choice for you. Which will come ahead in our OEM vs Aftermarket take?
Let’s start with the basics. What does OEM stand for? OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. By definition, OEM means that whatever car part you’re purchasing, it’s coming directly from the manufacturer of your car. Some parts, however, are not made directly from the manufacturer. Ford, for example, may use spark plugs made by a third-party. This means that those exact spark plugs are considered OEM, despite Ford not technically manufacturing them. OEM is about staying true to the original parts in a car when bought new.
So now we know what OEM means, but what are the advantages and disadvantages of using OEM vs Aftermarket parts.
Cost: One major disadvantage of going with OEM car parts is the cost. Typically, OEM parts cost more than their aftermarket counter parts. Part of this cost has to do with supply of these parts, as well. Aftermarket parts end up competing more, as there are many companies making the same type of part, but if you want to go with an OEM part, there’s only one choice.
Quality: OEM parts typically have great quality. While Aftermarket parts may have better quality than an OEM part, you can always feel safe making a choice of an OEM part for repairs or replacement, because you know the quality will be the same quality as the part you’re replacing. There’s no guesswork when it comes to OEM, you know exactly the standard of quality you’ll be getting. When it comes to manufacturers known for precision, like Audi Parts (link to audi page), you know the OEM part will have a high standard of quality.
Availability: For the casual car owner, the availability of OEM car parts can be tricky. You’re always going to have a larger supply of aftermarket parts. If you’re a car owner who does not typically source their own parts for repair or replacement, which type of car parts you end up with usually is based on where you take your car. If you’re getting your car serviced at the dealer, then you’re going to be getting OEM parts. However, it is not very likely that an independent mechanic is going to be using OEM car parts. You’d be able to ask them to special order the OEM parts in, but this takes time. So unless you’re the type of person to buy parts before a repair, aftermarket parts are more available.
Aftermarket Car Parts
Aftermarket parts can be a great choice for your replacement parts. The definition of aftermarket parts is simply parts made by anyone other than the original manufacturer of your vehicle. Other terms commonly used for aftermarket parts are generic parts, competitive replacement parts, or just Non-OEM parts. There’s sometimes worry that using aftermarket car parts is unsafe, or that the quality will be much worse than OEM parts. Let’s take a look at how aftermarket parts compare to OEM parts.
Cost: Aftermarket parts typically cost less than OEM parts. While you could find expensive aftermarket parts, on average consumers save 60% on aftermarket parts according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. This alone accounts for a major reason why insurance companies often use aftermarket parts, as it saves money on the cost of repairs.
Quality: Quality is the most talked about factor when it comes to OEM vs Aftermarket parts. While you know exactly what quality you’ll be getting with an OEM part, aftermarket parts can vary wildly. Not all car parts are made equal in this world, so it’s important to know what aftermarket parts you’re getting, and not pick randomly. An organization called the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) have been testing and certifying aftermarket parts since 1987. If the aftermarket part is CAPA certified, you’re likely not going to run into any issues of quality. What’s great about aftermarket parts is that their quality can even exceed that of OEM parts. While higher quality parts will likely cost more, not all OEM parts are the best on the market. Going for an aftermarket replacement part could lead to better longevity in your car, depending on the manufacturer.
Availability: Aftermarket parts are extremely available. Most places you’d bring your car for repairs almost exclusively use aftermarket parts unless OEM parts are requested and ordered ahead of time. If you walk into a car parts store you can be assured to find an aftermarket part that will fit your car. The true benefit of aftermarket parts is their availability. However, this can become a problem. For someone without a lot of experience or knowledge in car parts, a huge selection can be confusing and difficult. It can be hard to make a choice on an aftermarket part when there are so many options available, whereas an OEM part is easy to pick, with expected quality and cost.
So which is better?
Are OEM parts better than aftermarket parts? Unfortunately, there’s no true answer. After comparing the differences between OEM and aftermarket parts, both have reasonable advantages and disadvantages. Picking OEM vs Aftermarket parts isn’t easy to do objectively. OEM parts are an easy pick if you just want to replace a part with the exact same part. You’ll know the quality of what you’re getting, but you may end up paying a bit extra for this, and will likely need to order in a part, as opposed to simply bringing your car to your mechanic. Aftermarket parts have a lot of competition, which can bring costs down and quality up, but with so many choices, it can be overwhelming to pick a part that you’ll comfortably know outperforms the competition. What is certain though, aftermarket parts are not unsafe, or made cheaply. Most aftermarket parts are going to work just fine, even if they cost less than the OEM counterpart.
Are you an OEM part person, or do you prefer aftermarket parts? We’d love to hear from you and get your take on OEM vs aftermarket parts.