Top 9 Things You Should Know About Auto Parts?

Choosing Auto Parts

The US auto parts, and accessories business is a $365B per year business. With a market that large, the number and diversity of repair parts can be a lot.  This article shares some insider tips to help you find the right parts for your car.

1- What are the Different Categories of auto parts?

Knowing a bit about the different part categories can help you find the right parts for your needs. When reading a repair estimate, you will see several different categories of parts.   Being aware of these categories offers a good filter for understanding parts quality.

  • OEM Parts – Parts branded and sold by the automaker (Original Equipment Manufacturer) who made your vehicle.   OE parts are generally considered the highest quality replacement option.
  • Aftermarket Car Parts – Parts backward engineered and branded by a reputable company other than the automaker. Some examples include Bendix, FRAM and Robert Bosch
  • Supplier Brand Parts – Aftermarket parts manufactured by the supplier who made the OE part. 
  • Remanufactured Auto Parts – Remanufacturers take a used casing and install all-new components. These are often a less expensive and high-quality alternative to a new aftermarket part.
  • Rebuilt Parts – Rebuilders take a used part and replace only the broken pieces. These are generally a lesser quality than a Remanufactured part
  • Salvage Auto Parts – Parts that are removed from a used/totaled vehicle. Salvage yards can be a good way of finding parts that are out of production or an economical way to replace an obscure body part.

2- When do OEM parts matter?

OEM parts are generally considered the highest quality replacement parts in the marketplace. So, you should use OEM parts if you have a newer car or want to maintain factory quality on your vehicle. 

Also, OEM parts matter during the warranty period. There are laws that protect consumers. But the automaker generally has no obligation to honor the warranty for aftermarket parts or parts that are damaged by an aftermarket component. So, there are advantages to using OE parts if your vehicle is under warranty. 

3- What is in the brand?

There are a lot of different categories of parts, from very high-quality name brands to very inexpensive parts. In general, if reliable aftermarket parts matter, you should look for name brand components. However, cheap auto parts may be OK if you are keeping an older car on the road. 

4- Does the Store Matter?

The part store you’re buying from can be a good predictor parts quality.  Distributors carry the parts they can sell. So, in general, consumer facing outlets generally carry consumer grade product and wholesale focused outlets usually carry higher quality parts demanded by repair shops. 

So, if you want the same quality parts a shop would use when repairing your vehicle, go to a wholesale parts outlet.  And if you want recognizable name brands and DIY focused components go to a retail auto parts store. Both are great choices depending upon your needs and budget. 

5- Where Should I buy my parts?

If you need parts right away or you don’t know what you need, go to a retail outlet near you. However, if you have time and confidence in what you are buying buy your auto parts online. Since the internet is more competitive, pricing tends to be much cheaper even with shipping costs included. And eBay is a great place to find obscure automotive parts for older vehicles.

6- What are Performance Parts?

Repair parts are to keep your vehicle running as it was originally designed. Performance parts are to make your car go faster.  Many performance parts need to be installed in groups, so do your research before customizing your vehicle or you could do more harm than good.  And if you need specific advice, ask a friend who’s a motorhead.  Customizers can give you good advice on what to do and not to do.

7- Do I always need top quality Parts?

The need for top quality parts depends on your interests and your vehicle.  If you have a brand-new car and you want to keep it running well, top quality parts probably make sense.  However, if the car is 30 years old and just needs to be held together a little longer, the lowest cost parts probably make sense.  

For me, it comes down to cost of the parts versus the value of the vehicle. So, if I have a $2,000 car for one of my college aged kids, I’m going to put in cheap parts. For my new cars I install only OE parts. And, for my 10-year-old average mileage car, I compare OE and name brand aftermarket parts and use the parts that offer me the best value.

8- How Can I Avoid Paying Too Much?

The key is to shop around.  Check prices at several parts stores or check online for pricing.  If you are taking your vehicle to a shop for repairs, ask for part quality options.  And if you think you’re being overcharged, ask to see their parts invoice BEFORE they repair your car.  You should expect to pay around a 100% markup on installed parts.

Also, you are less likely to be pay extra for large components than clips and fasteners.  If every part on your invoice ends in .99, then parts are being marked up to the nearest dollar.  So, for example, you could be paying 99 cents for a 15-cent clip.  This can add up if your repair requires 20 clips or fasteners.

9- What’s in a parts warranty?

An excellent warranty can matter a lot. Most OE parts offer 12- 36-month warranties, while many aftermarket suppliers offer limited warranties. So, read the limitations to make sure the warranty is right for you. In particular, look for transferability and coverage limitations.  

About the Author

Karl Krug has been in the automotive industry for over 25 years.  During his time in the industry, Karl has managed multiple product lines for automakers and aftermarket manufacturers.  In his time in the industry, Karl has formed a unique insider perspective on the automotive parts and repair industries.  Did you find this article helpful or want to hear more?  Send us your comments.  

Karl Krug

Karl Krug

Karl Krug is the Chief Strategy Officer of 3NG Consulting and specializes in automotive parts and service solutions and marketing. 

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