• October 17, 2012

OEM vs. Aftermarket: Which is Right for You?

Take a look at your last car repair bill. Chances are you’ll see the charges broken down into several categories: labor, parts, disposal, and possibly other charges and fees. You might expect that the labor charges will make up the largest portion of the bill, and in some cases that’s true, but more than likely you’ll notice that the price tag on the new parts for your old car make up the bulk of the bill.

The reasons for the high cost of parts varies – and often includes a dealer or mechanic markup – but one thing that is almost guaranteed to drive up the cost of your repair is using Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts instead of aftermarket parts.

OEM or Aftermarket: What’s the Difference?

When your mechanic asks you whether you want OEM or aftermarket parts on your car, your first thought might be, “well, of course I want original parts!” But not so fast:  understanding the difference between the two types can actually make a difference in how much you pay, and in the performance of your car.

OEM parts are just as described. They are made by the same manufacturer that made the original part in your car, at the same factory using the same materials and specifications. Car makers – and in some cases mechanics, especially those employed by dealership service centers – argue that these parts are the best because they are what was intended for the vehicle in the first place.

Aftermarket parts, on the other hand, are those made by other manufacturers. In most cases they use the same – or similar specifications – but might use different materials. Aftermarket parts generally work just well as OEM parts, or in many cases, even better. Many drivers choose to replace OEM parts with aftermarket parts to improve performance, particularly in exhaust, air intake or fuel injection systems, as well as to improve the car’s appearance.

So Which is Better?

The choice between OEM and aftermarket often comes down to personal preference. However, there are some things to keep in mind when making your decision.

The major advantage to aftermarket parts is cost. Most cost significantly less than OEM parts. There also tends to be a greater selection of aftermarket parts; you can generally choose from several different manufacturers depending on your budget and performance expectations. However, the selection of discount auto parts can be overwhelming to the novice, and in some cases, the low price means lower quality and/or a lack of warranty.

OEM parts, though, offer less in terms of selection and come with a higher price tag, but you do have more assurance that the parts are good quality. OEM parts also tend to come with a warranty, so if something goes wrong, you’re covered.

Vehicle Warranty Concerns

One reason that many car owners hesitate to use discount auto parts is concern over how the parts will affect the warranty. In general, using aftermarket parts won’t void your vehicle’s warranty, but if the part causes a failure that in turn damages something under warranty, you could be facing an out-of-pocket cost. Before you decide on which parts to use, carefully read your vehicle’s warranty paperwork to determine whether your aftermarket parts could cause trouble down the road.

Making the Choice

Choosing OEM or aftermarket parts largely comes down to your personal preference and budget. In some cases, you may be strongly encouraged to use OEM parts, particularly if you own a rare or luxury automobile, or if you’re restoring a vehicle. In some cases, using aftermarket parts has influenced the resale value of the car, but in most cases, the price of your used car won’t be influenced by the parts used in repairs.

The only exception is when your car needs body work. In that case, you should insist upon OEM parts, as aftermarket panels and other body parts may not fit exactly or have the same quality as OEM parts. Your insurance company may recommend cheaper aftermarket parts, but you have the right to request manufacturer parts. You will find that online auto parts retailers to sell both OEM and aftermarket parts.

When something goes wrong with your vehicle, the repair costs can take a huge chunk of cash from your checking account. Choosing the right parts, though, can help reduce that cost, so do a little research before you give the mechanic the green light to fix your ride.

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