The Pros & Cons Of OEM, Aftermarket, and Used Auto Body Parts
If you’ve ever been in an automotive collision, you know that the accident is just the tip of the iceberg. Dealing with insurance, your local authorities, and all other parties is only the first phase of your journey to getting back to what things were like before the accident.
You’ve done your homework on how to find the best auto body shop. So no you have a few estimates to compare. As you read your repair estimate you run into all sorts of part numbers and names. It’s all in english, but not any english you’re fluent in! You have no clue what you’re reading and questions start flying. How do I know my vehicle’s getting the right parts? What is OEM? It’ll cost how much?!
We can’t all be professional technicians or even expert DIY’ers when it comes to auto body work, so it’s normal for something like a parts list for your vehicle to look confusing. A vehicle is composed of thousands of parts and these parts list cover everything, including the nuts and bolts! Though generally, there are three basic categories of parts, their name describes their origins. There are OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), Aftermarket, and Used/Recycled parts. Let’s talk a little bit more about what each of these types of parts are and their pros and cons when it comes to repairing your vehicle.
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEM parts are the same parts your vehicle rolled off the assembly line with, made by the same company that manufactured the vehicle. For example, Ford is an OEM supplier of Ford parts. Honda is an OEM of Honda parts, Tesla is an OEM of Tesla parts, and so on.
Since these people who made your vehicle also made these parts, they are pretty much guaranteed to fit correctly and be of good quality. You can take comfort in the fact that every other owner that has your vehicle also has these parts and effectively vouch for their quality.
When it comes to sourcing OEM parts, you might be able to order them yourself from a third-party retailer or even from the company themselves. But you shouldn’t have to unless you really wanted to. Most repair shops have a relationship with manufacturers for ordering parts, they can see exactly what’s available. Your repair shop should also have access the OEM’s well labeled diagram of parts to ensure they are selecting the factory-correct and currently recommended part for the repair.
The newer your vehicle it is, the more likely OEM parts for your repair are available. Though on an extreme end of the spectrum, your vehicle could be so new that the manufacturer hasn’t produced many parts for it yet! Or on the opposite end, your vehicle could be so old that the manufacturer has decided it isn’t worth their time and money to produce replacement parts anymore. Another thing to keep in mind is the popularity of your vehicle. If you have a very popular vehicle, supply of its OEM parts may be high, but they could also be in higher demand which could affect the part’s price.
|Straight from your manufacturer||Subject to availability, depends on Year and Model popularity|
|Reliable quality||Might be your only option or required for the repair|
|Well catalogued||Typically the most expensive|
Aftermarket parts are basically any part made for your vehicle not made by the original manufacturer. OEM parts and aftermarket parts are mutually exclusive.
The aftermarket is known for creating solutions and parts that meet, and sometimes exceed, the quality or functionality the vehicle requires. A prime example of this would be the Jeep aftermarket parts market (say that three times fast), led by West Chester based company Quadratec. Most commonly, aftermarket parts are used when an owner wants to modify their car for either cosmetic or performance reasons. Aftermarket parts can also be used in auto body repair and may even be manufacturer approved, though some may not be!
When Aftermarket Parts Are Used for Auto Body Repair
Some aftermarket parts companies may have a relationship with OEMs in which the aftermarket company might acquire the OEM’s original tooling or molds. If you’re considering aftermarket parts for your repair, and want OEM-like quality and assurance, we highly recommend researching the company to see if they have manufacturer approval for that part or an existing relationship similar to what we described.
In any case, we recommend using caution when considering aftermarket parts for your auto body repairs. If you see aftermarket parts listed on your estimate, be sure to ask the body shop why it’s aftermarket, rather than OEM. Though you may get the part for less, at what cost is it to your vehicle’s safety and integrity? Many aftermarket parts manufacturers don’t all go the same length to ensure quality as OEMs would. If you think about it, no OEM (e.g. Ford, Ferrari, Tesla, or Mercedes) would put out a car not knowing the safety of its parts, think of the lawsuits!
Keep in mind that no manufacturer recommends the use of aftermarket parts for their vehicle’s body repair. This is for many reasons, but consider that most aftermarket parts aren’t crash tested, their installation could affect air bag timing. Some aftermarket, especially used parts, also have an unknown trauma history. Their installation could have a major affect on the repaired vehicle’s structural integrity.
|Could be cheaper than OEM, but not always||Subject to availability|
|Large source of consumer feedback for evaluation||Could not have guaranteed quality|
Lastly, no manufacturer recommends the use of aftermarket parts for their vehicle’s body repair. Most aftermarket parts aren’t crash tested, for example some part’s installation could affect air bag timing. Some aftermarket, especially used parts, have an unknown trauma history, which would have a major affect on the repaired vehicle’s structural integrity.
Company Perspective: At Conestoga Collision, we only use OEM parts to ensure that our repairs are factory-correct. There should be no difference from when you drove the car off the dealer’s lot to when you drive it off our lot! And because we warranty our work, we have to know that the parts we are using will last. For this reason, it’s common amongst body shops to refuse to repair with customer-supplied parts out of concern for the integrity of the final repair.
Used, and sometimes called Recycled, parts vary widely and you could get them anywhere from and online marketplace like Craigslists, to the junkyard, to a shop’s spare parts inventory. The origin of these parts and the vehicles they came from isn’t always 100% known. Because used parts are, well, used, their condition will vary widely. Though it may look good in photos, you don’t know how it’s been used up to that point or if it experienced trauma.
This doesn’t mean quality parts cannot be sourced from this category! Namely, there can be used OEM parts or used aftermarket parts. For example, some car owners may have a car deemed totaled for something unrelated to the body and might choose to sell their car in parts (a process known as parting) in an effort to recoup some cash. Used or recycled auto body parts may also be the only option for older vehicles, for example the only way to complete a rust restoration job may be to find a replacement part from a used marketplace.
Finding good used/recycled parts definitely takes some decent digging, but that work can be more than worth it when you see your repair bill. This is because used part availability varies widely. A good quality, used part for a Honda Civic that has sold hundreds of thousands of units over the past decade will have much greater availability than a part for a sports car only 3,000 people bought ten years ago.
|Could be an absolute steal of a deal||Condition varies widely, unknown use & trauma history|
|The only market for rare/old parts||Availability varies widely|
OK, now let’s talk money. At the end of the day, vehicle manufacturers sell vehicles, not parts. Since OEM’s aren’t in the business of parts making, OEM parts are going to be more expensive due to their quality and availability. Aftermarket parts have a wide price range. It really comes down to which company and what specific part you’re getting. Generally the more expensive, the better quality when compared to other aftermarket competitors. Used/recycled parts really could be your diamond in the rough but take some work, luck, or both to find.
Are there cheaper parts for my collision repair?
Almost always yes. But are they going to be as good? That really depends. With enough determination you may be able to find OEM comparable parts that you can purchase yourself at a cost lower than what you were quoted. But you will need to thoroughly evaluate customer feedback, the seller’s reputation, and if they have a relationship with the manufacturer before buying. You will also need to secure an auto body shop that works with customer supplied parts as that poses a liability to their business. Cheaper exists, but choose wisely. And be sure to get multiple estimates from different auto body shops to make sure you’re getting a fair price on all parts parts.
If you want the best repair, choose OEM parts. They’re more expensive, but they’re the safest for your repair and sometimes the only parts an auto body shop will use! Your insurance may not cover the full cost of using OEM parts, but using anything other than OEM parts may invalidate your warranty.
Aftermarket parts can cost a lot too, though you can sometimes find a deal. They are more typically used to modify a vehicle, but could be used when there is no OEM-equivalent. This is why aftermarket parts are usually listed at least few times in every estimate. When they are, just be sure to ask your body shop what that part is and why it’s aftermarket and not OEM. Using aftermarket parts may not be allowed if you’re leasing the vehicle or could invalidate your warranty coverage.
Used/Recycled parts can be either Used OEM or Used Aftermarket. They will be the cheapest but finding good ones takes time and research. These kinds of parts may not be covered when it comes down to insurance or warranty claims.
Ultimately, our answer to “Which is the best part for my vehicle’s auto body repair?” is “Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts.” That is considering the value you get for the price of the part in return for the safety and integrity it provides, its wider acceptance with insurance companies, and ease of identifying and acquiring. Constraints due to insurance policies or costs or availability will always affect what parts are available to you and how much repairs cost. A good step to take no matter what is to do your own due diligence using the resources at your disposal. Online reviews or forums, customer service departments, the manufacturers themselves, and hopefully this article, can all provide invaluable information to help you expertly navigate the collision repair process.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Does my insurance cover OEM parts?
Some insurance policies and warranties specify exactly what kinds of parts are covered for replacement. Be sure to refer to your policies to understand what’s covered or ask a representative if your policy doesn’t specify.
Can I force insurance to use OEM parts?
If your insurance company “refuses” (or they may use verbiage like, “deny” or “we can’t accept”) an estimate with OEM parts, you can insist. Just as you have the right to choose your auto body shop, you have the right to use OEM parts. However, your insurance plan may not fully cover OEM parts. You would have to pay the difference in price out of pocket.
Why are the parts listed for a different make than what my car actually is?
Let’s say you have an Audi, but the part listed says it’s a Volkswagen part. Here’s why that may be. In many cases, one car brand is owned by another larger, parent brand. In this case, Audi is a part of the Volkswagen Group. Audi uses many Volkswagen parts on their cars. A quick search online will immediately alert you if two brands are related in such a way where they might use each other’s parts. Situations like this could even apply to individual cars, for example, the Toyota 86, Scion FRS, and Subaru BRZ is a collaborative car between multiple manufacturers.