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Does Auto Part Quality Really Matter?

The eternal burning dilemma is OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer, or aftermarket parts? The opinions are split with some good arguments from both sides. Some claim that there is no comparison between the originals and knock-offs when it comes to quality and durability. On the other side, car owners are clamoring that originals are just a waste of money and that the end customer is mostly paying for the brand and not the quality. Let’s analyze the problems from both, and hopefully come one step closer to the true facts.

Quality issues

OEM parts are the exact same parts that were originally installed in the vehicle during the manufacturing. You can rest assured whether or not the part is going to fit, and the quality of the product. There is usually a guarantee attached so you can have peace of mind that your vehicle is going to run smoothly.

Aftermarket parts used to be lower in quality, but lately, that has changed big time. Manufacturers understood that they cannot be competitive on the market with lousy replacement parts, so they quickly changed their ways and became an equal counterpart to the originals. Today, we even have situations where the original parts were improved by the aftermarket’s engineers to achieve a better fit and last longer.

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The guessing games

Ordering the replacement part from the manufacturer is a very straightforward process. Every part has a serial number to avoid mistakes and unnecessary costs. One phone call or a few clicks are enough to get it over and done with.

With aftermarket parts, there is even more selection. A different version of every part is available from hundreds of vendors like UsedPart.us where you can discuss with sellers which part would be the best fit. An experienced mechanic will help you sort through the overwhelming number of original-like and upgraded car components.

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The warranty

OEM parts often come with a 1-year warranty with unlimited miles. This is usually the focal point and the deciding factor among the car owners. Still, the warranty is not the whole lot, since it’s only 1 year. Coming from the manufacturer, one would expect a whole lot of assurances that their parts are going to last at least as much as the previous one.

Aftermarket part dealers are catching up with the manufacturers. Recently, they started offering a limited warranty for their parts, from 6 months to up to 1 year. This puts them in the same position as the original parts, thus eliminating one more reason for paying the top dollar for the OEM. However, always go with the respectable used and aftermarket dealer, since they are collaborating with a lot of different part makers, so the warranty is not always available. Big players in the industry who already have established themselves work with the respectable car parts manufacturers feel comfortable to offer unlimited miles 1-year warranties.

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The availability

Dealers’ inventory of the spare parts is often tiny or non-existent. Once you get the car into the shop, get done with diagnostics, and talk to the mechanic – the depressing part comes in. The car mechanic will order the part from the factory and it will be here in 10 to 15 business days if you’re lucky. In the meantime, you are left to figure out how to take kids to school and go to work. If you bought a new car, you might get a complementary or paid rent-a-car, but if you get a used one, you’re going to be on your own.

If you go with the aftermarket parts the process is far less stressful. The inventory of the used and not-original parts is usually massive since this is their ace in the sleeve and one of the main reasons why customers decide to switch from the manufacturer’s parts. Some OEM die-hard guys claim that the overwhelming selection makes it more difficult to choose between so many off-the-market makers making it a gamble on whether or not the part is going to fit at all.

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The cost

And finally, the biggest argument against the original parts is their cost. Almost always they are super-expensive making the smallest repair go well into the hundreds of dollars. When the budget is tight, and for most of us it usually is, people are looking to save on everything and anything. If the aftermarket part is going to serve well and fit exactly like the original there is no need to spend two or three times more than needed. Original parts are notoriously, sometimes ridiculously, pricey leaving the proud owners to huff and puff, and if clever, search for other options.

Aftermarket and used parts’ companies have a massive inventory and are cooperating with dozens if not hundreds of part makers. This gives them the freedom to have lower prices since the makers are always competing against each other, trying to give the best possible quality for the lowest price. In such a competitive market the end customer has a lot to gain, mainly the dough. Finding a part at a third of the original price is not rare, so in times when the jobs are insecure and bills are piling up, saving several hundred can be a huge motive to go with the aftermarket parts.

However, it’s important to note that saving money on parts should not come at the expense of neglecting essential maintenance tasks such as regularly replacing engine coolant with a high-quality product like pentofrost antifreeze to ensure the longevity of your car’s engine.

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What does the science say?

Besides the car owners, the insurance companies have the interest to implement the aftermarket parts when repairing the vehicles. Millions of dollars were saved in the past decade only by not going with the original car parts, which as the end result saved a lot to the end customers. State farm, one of the biggest insurance companies in the world, did the crash tests a few years back with outstanding results. Non-original parts actually performed the same or better than the OEM when exposed to the same amount of stress.

Since then, many customers were swayed towards the aftermarket parts in order to save some bucks while not compromising on the quality. The truth of the matter is that most mechanics can’t tell aftermarket parts from the originals so there is no reason not to save a lot of time and money.