Unless you are someone who can afford to have cars be disposable, chances are you will keep vehicles through any number of repairs or damage as long as it can still run. So if you are like most people, you don’t just throw away cars and get new ones at the first major repair; you are often working with a mechanic to find the right parts to fix your vehicle so It can get back on the road as quickly as possible and run like almost new.
However, you will find when you go to an auto parts store that there are several different brands and types of parts for your vehicle, and they all have differing quality and price. The question is regarding the best way to go among three options – manufacturer parts, OEM parts and aftermarket parts. From there you should easily be asking, which way should I go to get the best quality parts for my vehicle?
Let’s take a closer look at these and try to answer the question for you the best way for your situation.
What is a Manufacturer Part?
A manufacturer part is not one commonly seen in regular retail auto-parts stores. These are the parts made by the original manufacturer and have the manufacturer’s name on the part and the packaging. These are original parts that are usually used by dealerships or other special partner auto-repair shops. You could buy these parts yourself as a consumer, but you would have to go to a dealership and likely pay the highest price for the privilege of getting a factory-original part. As it is a part made by the manufacturer directly and specifically for your particular model, you can trust the quality of the part and the warranty will usually be rock solid. That alone might be worth the extra expense.
What is an OEM Part?
OEM is a fancy acronym that essentially means “partner.” Everyone knows about manufacturer parts that are made and sold directly by the manufacturer of the vehicle. OEM parts are parts that have a different brand on them but are of the same quality as manufacturer parts – because many of them are made by the manufacturer for the partners to sell through retail auto-parts stores. Manufacturer parts are offered through dealerships and select partner auto shops, but OEMs allow for a more wide distribution an better pricing.
The only real difference between OEM parts and manufacturer parts are availability and price. The quality of the part is generally the same as (or in some ways, better than) a manufacturer because the source of the part is the same. Some OEMs may take the original part and make improvements so it operates even better than the original, but none of them are worse than the original. And because there can be multiple OEMs in the market, prices will be better than a manufacturer part for similar quality.
What is an Aftermarket Part?
While OEM and manufacturer parts are made by the original vehicle manufacturer to exacting specifications, aftermarket parts are similar to generic store-brand items – they are almost the same as brand names, but they are not created by the original and they tend to have slight differences that make the price cheaper in the marketplace. The brand names are often obscure, the prices are very cheap compared to OEM parts, and some of them won’t even be made of the same materials. Many of the parts are not made to exacting specs, but usually within a range – so it’s possible that it may not fit exactly right or operate the same way as an original part. And usually with parts like these, the warranty is not as good.
Why Does It Matter?
Oh sure, on the face it does not look like it should matter very much. But vehicles are precision pieces of machinery, and we need and expect our vehicles to run in top condition as much as possible. Using cheaper parts can be good on the pocketbook at first, but they will adversely affect resale value of the vehicle and cheaper parts won’t necessarily last as long as OEM or manufacturer parts. Therefore, you could pay more in the long run for parts if you go the cheaper route.
With OEM and manufacturer parts, you can trust them to work well with your vehicle, because they come straight from the manufacturer, so they are designed specifically for your vehicle and to fit and work exactly how the original worked. And with warranties often being much better than aftermarket parts, you can see tremendous value in using manufacturer or OEM parts – because they are practically identical. So the next time you need quality parts for your vehicle (and really, who doesn’t want or expect quality parts?), consider paying a little bit more for an OEM part vs. an aftermarket part. You can get manufacturer-original quality at a better price and selection than those direct from the manufacturer. It can make a lot of financial sense, as well as be sound advice for helping your car run for years to come, not just months.
David Woodburn is a freelance writer who has taken an interest in automotive manufacturing. He wants to share his findings with his readership.