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OEM Versus Aftermarket Parts – Which Is Better?

Any car enthusiast knows when you’re shopping for performance parts, there are two major sources of components: OEM and aftermarket parts. Each type of performance part has its pros and cons, but they’re easily confused or misunderstood with each other. When you’re shopping for car parts, which is better for you and why?

What’s the Difference Between OEM and Aftermarket Parts?

OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. These are typically the same companies who built the car or made the version installed by the manufacturer when you bought it.

Aftermarket parts refer to any parts not made by the manufacturer. These include products made by third parties for that vehicle, re-manufactured parts that were salvaged and repaired and anything else that isn’t sourced or officially approved by the car maker. Because of the wealth of options in aftermarket parts, it is always recommended to compare aftermarket parts to make sure you obtain the best product and price before purchasing.

Aftermarket parts may void your vehicle’s warranty if you’re replacing OEM parts critical to the car’s performance. For example, upgrading the speakers, adding window film or installing a spoiler probably won’t affect the car warranty. Making changes to the engine, the vehicle’s safety system and other critical elements will void the warranty.

Why Do People Buy Aftermarket Parts?

One of the biggest advantages of aftermarket parts is the lower average cost. Just as you typically pay less to go to a local mechanic compared to the dealer’s repair shop, most aftermarket parts are cheaper than the products made by the OEM. If you’re on a budget, the aftermarket is the better choice assuming performance is good enough

At the same time, you may find that when you try to compare aftermarket parts to OEM products, the manufacturer may not have made anything to meet your particular need. They may not offer products to increase the engine’s performance in certain areas because this voids their warranty and undermines the fuel efficiency standards they must meet. For example, no car dealer or OEM shop is going to sell you items to make your exhaust smoke or kill your fuel efficiency so that you can go zero to sixty in three seconds in a family car.

Another reason people shop aftermarket parts is the far greater selection of products. If the car manufacturer makes spoilers or other items, they typically have one to four options. Aftermarket manufacturers may give you literally hundreds of options to choose from. Assuming the items fit, the biggest issues you may face include uncertain quality and compatibility. For example, an OEM part will exactly match your vehicle. The repair shop or dealer can search for the make and model of your vehicle from the VIN and know exactly which spark plug or battery cable to install as a replacement for the worn or defective one.

Another point in favour of aftermarket products is that they’re typically in stock with the retailer selling them. The dealer may have plenty of spare wiper blades and seat covers, but you’ll have to wait for them to order specific parts from the manufacturer. Depending on the item, they may require you to agree to let them install it, too. That’s understandable, given that the OEM parts generally come with a manufacturer’s warranty, though that’s going to be limited compared to the vehicle warranty. If you’re driving an older car or significantly modified vehicle, the aftermarket is probably the better choice because the manufacturer warranty is irrelevant.

Why Is There Confusion Between Aftermarket and OEM Parts?

The main reason for this confusion is the fact that re-manufactured or refurbished car parts can be sold as aftermarket parts. The car manufacturer may not collect used car parts, repair them, clean them up and send them to customers who want to save money on used components. However, due to demand, another business may step in and refurbish these worn components. Yet car manufacturers may do exactly this, especially with car parts collected in their dealership. The manufacturer may not list them as OEM parts, but they will tell you when the item is backed by their warranty and customer service. You’ll also pay a premium for their authorized refurbished components. In these cases, the aftermarket is probably the better choice if you’ve verified the quality of the aftermarket product.

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