Whether you work on your car yourself or take it to a mechanic for repairs, you'll probably run across aftermarket parts sooner or later. While genuine and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts come from the same manufacturers and factories as your car's original parts, aftermarket parts may originate from a much wider range of companies.
This distinction can be confusing for casual buyers, especially since the price range of aftermarket parts can often vary substantially. Should you always stick with OEM, or does it make sense to buy aftermarket parts when possible? This guide will help clarify these questions and explain when aftermarket auto parts may be an alternative to OEM parts.
What's Different About Aftermarket Parts?
Ultimately, there's nothing inherently different about an aftermarket part compared to one stamped with your original manufacturer's logo. Aftermarket companies typically manufacture their parts to the same specifications as the original components in your car, and high-quality aftermarket parts will fit just as well as parts purchased from the dealership.
However, it's important to recognize that aftermarket parts may originate with many different companies. As a result, you'll need to make more decisions and do a little more research when purchasing one. Reviews, owner testimonials, and even prices can all be good indications of a part's quality.
Are Aftermarket Parts Lower Quality?
It's a common misconception that aftermarket parts are lower quality than their OEM counterparts, but this isn't necessarily the case. Many aftermarket companies even produce upgraded parts designed to improve performance or address reliability issues. For example, aftermarket water pumps with metal impellers are common on German luxury cars as these vehicles often use unreliable plastic impellers.
If you're not comfortable determining a part's quality, it's often a good idea to talk with an experienced automotive shop. Many mechanics have preferred aftermarket brands, and they can often recommend parts that can save you money while providing the same reliability and performance as your vehicle's original equipment.
Should You Buy Aftermarket Parts?
There's no simple recommendation that works for every individual and every budget, but there are a few questions you can ask when deciding if an aftermarket part is right for you:
- Is the part cheaper?
- Is the manufacturer well-reviewed?
- Does the part offer a competitive warranty?
- Does the part offer improved performance or reliability?
- Did you receive an expert recommendation?
If you can answer "yes" to one or more of these questions, an aftermarket part may be an excellent choice for your vehicle. By considering aftermarket alternatives to genuine and OEM parts, you'll open up far more repair options and potentially save a substantial amount of money.