OEM vs. Aftermarket Car Parts: What’s The Difference?

OEM vs. Aftermarket Car Parts: What’s The Difference?
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As a car enthusiast, I frequently get asked about the differences between OEM and aftermarket car parts. It’s important to understand that the choice of parts can significantly affect vehicle repairs’ performance, safety, and cost.

Should you choose OEM or aftermarket parts when repairing or upgrading your vehicle? It may seem like a simple decision, but it’s important to understand the differences between the two options and how they can affect your vehicle’s performance and warranty.

It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each option and consider factors such as cost, quality, and warranty coverage. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at OEM and aftermarket parts and help you decide on your vehicle.

Understanding OEM and Aftermarket Parts

Let’s start by getting our terms straight, shall we? OEM, aka Original Equipment Manufacturer, is all about parts created by the same geniuses who built your ride. These babies are meant to be direct replacements for the OG components, sporting the same top-notch performance and perfect fit.

Aftermarket suppliers make parts that are not original, but that does not mean they are bad- the suspension parts made by Mevotech and Moog are a perfect example.  Frequently, they can be and are a popular alternative for numerous vehicle owners.

OEM Parts and Why They Matter

Major manufacturers of automotive brands are the most secure source of spares in the auto parts industry. These manufacturers are vested in ensuring that their vehicles are properly maintained and that only genuine parts are used.

This means they typically have a wide range of parts available for their vehicles. Consumers need to use these genuine parts to ensure their vehicles’ longevity and safety, which is one of the reasons for buying spare parts from auto manufacturers. The pros also include: 

  • Quality assurance from the vehicle manufacturer or service department.
  • Designed to meet the exact specifications of the vehicle manufacturer.
  • It should fit perfectly and work just as well as the original parts.

However, reputable third-party manufacturers and distributors in the market also provide quality parts.

Original Equipment Faults

OEM parts can be defective or not meet the manufacturer’s specifications, causing issues like improper fitment or faulty operation. Furthermore, certain OEM parts may cost more than aftermarket components due to specific manufacturing quality standards- unless you own a Japanese vehicle and the OEM is Denso, that comes in quite affordable.

 There are a few other cons that come with OEMs:

  • Insurance companies may prefer cheaper aftermarket parts to save on repair costs.
  • Availability may be limited, depending on the repair shop.

As I already mentioned, if you have a good auto dealer, you can be sure that even an aftermarket part can do the job if they are of high quality.

Aftermarket Parts and Why They Matter

Third-party companies create aftermarket parts to replace the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. These parts can be made from various materials, including steel, plastic, aluminum, etc. Aftermarket parts usually cost less than OEM parts and generally have a warranty. They can also be customized with different features, such as improved performance, better looks, or heavier materials.

The aftermarket auto sector, if we can call it that, should not be taken for granted. Every brick-and-mortar auto parts store will likely have excellent quality products, even if they are not directly from the manufacturers. 

Aftermarket parts offer several advantages over OEM parts:

  • Aftermarket parts are generally cheaper than OEM parts. This can be a great way to save money on repairs or upgrades.
  • Aftermarket companies prioritize the quality of their parts and provide customer service and support to address any inquiries or concerns.
  • Aftermarket manufacturers provide various options for customization and performance, including upgraded suspension kits and custom exhaust systems.

Disadvantages of Aftermarket Parts

Like all things in life, aftermarket parts also come with some drawbacks. Not all aftermarket companies are created equal; some may produce parts that may not perform as well in quality or last as long as OEM parts.

Aftermarket parts may not always be a direct replacement for the original parts, which can lead to compatibility issues or require modifications to the vehicle. This is especially true for older cars or rare models, where finding the exact replacement part can be difficult. Finally, the aftermarket often comes without an auto warranty, so buy at your own risk. 

Improperly installed or incompatible parts can cause serious safety issues and may even void the vehicle’s warranty. It’s always best to consult a trusted mechanic or dealership before modifying a car.

When and Why to Use Aftermarket Parts

Aftermarket equipment and car DIY enthusiasts often have a strong relationship, while old-timers or specific brand lovers may be unable to adapt to new technologies or customization options. However, the popularity of these enthusiasts has led to an increase in aftermarket companies and products (some are even American-made parts for patriotic drivers).

These companies offer everything from performance upgrades to cosmetic enhancements, making it easier than ever to personalize vehicles. The rise of online communities and forums has also made it easier for enthusiasts to connect and share their knowledge and experiences.

As a car enthusiast, I understand that the decision to choose between OEM and aftermarket parts can be a tricky one. Aftermarket parts offer significant cost savings but may not always have the same quality assurance as OEM parts.

There are several situations where aftermarket parts may be a better choice than OEM parts. For example:

  1. If you have an older vehicle, OEM parts may be more difficult to find or more expensive than aftermarket components.
  2. If the repair is for a non-critical component of the vehicle, such as a radio or mirror, aftermarket parts can meet optimal quality standards.
  3. If you’re on a tight auto budget, aftermarket parts are often sold at a more affordable price than OEM parts.
  4. If you need to customize your vehicle, aftermarket parts are available in various shapes and sizes, making them more versatile than OEM.

Independent mechanics and auto body shops may prefer aftermarket parts, which are often easier to find and can be ordered from various third-party manufacturers.

Quality Assurance and Cost Savings

It’s important to note that not all aftermarket parts are of worse quality than OEM parts. Some aftermarket independent shops produce high-quality aftermarket parts that perform just as well as OEM parts. However, it’s essential to research and choose a reputable aftermarket product to ensure the quality of the part.

On the other hand, OEM parts come with quality assurance from the vehicle manufacturer or service department. This assurance comes with a higher price tag than aftermarket parts. Additionally, some insurance companies may prefer cheaper aftermarket parts to save on repair costs, which can lead to less satisfactory results.

It comes down to a personal decision: Do you want to pay more for the quality assurance of OEM parts or save money with aftermarket parts that might not offer the same level of quality? Finding the best aftermarket auto parts brands can be a bit of a challenge. Ultimately, it comes down to your comfort and budget.


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