Aftermarket Parts vs. OEM Parts: Which Should You Use?

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Mechanic at work (Photo: @jb01 via Twenty20)
When getting your vehicle repaired, you have the option of using two types of parts, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts and aftermarket parts. The type used depends on where you take your vehicle to have it repaired.
Taking your vehicle to a dealership will probably result in OEM parts being used, while taking it to an independent auto repair shop often means you’ll get an aftermarket part.
What’s the difference between OEM and aftermarket parts? And is there an advantage to using one over the other? Here’s what you should know.

What Are Aftermarket Parts?

Aftermarket parts are parts made for a vehicle by someone other than the vehicle manufacturer. You should be careful when using aftermarket parts, because they may void your vehicle warranty. As long as an aftermarket part is listed as a direct replacement part, you should be fine.

Pros of Using Aftermarket Parts

Price: One of the best features of aftermarket parts is their price, which is usually less than OEM parts. For best results, shop around when buying an aftermarket part to get the best deal.
Quality level: The quality level of some aftermarket parts is as good or better than their OEM counterparts. The development process of aftermarket parts means that the weaknesses of the OEM part have been worked out.
Variety: The high volume of aftermarket parts means that you’ll probably never be hurting for options when it comes to picking one. There are literally hundreds of companies out there who make aftermarket parts.
More widely available: You can find an aftermarket part to fit your needs almost anywhere. This gives you way more options when replacing a part on your car.

Cons of Using Aftermarket Parts

Quality level: The biggest thing to keep in mind when buying an aftermarket price is that the quality will vary. Yes, you might find one that’s better than what the manufacturer offers, but you might also end up stuck with one that’s not as good. You get what you pay for in many cases.
Overwhelming selection: The large selection of aftermarket parts can be overwhelming at times. Add in the chance of getting a bad quality part, and you can see how difficult it can be to pick the right one.
Warranty: In some cases, aftermarket parts are sold without a warranty. While it’s up to you whether you want to take a chance with this or not, you might be better off sticking with parts that have a warranty.

What Are OEM Parts?

OEM parts are those made by the manufacturer of your specific car. OEM parts match the current parts in your vehicle exactly as when it came off of the assembly line. Below you can find the pros and cons of using OEM parts.

Pros of Using OEM Parts

Easy choice: When choosing an OEM part for your vehicle, your choices are usually pretty limited and, in many cases, you only have one part to choose from. This eliminates the need to evaluate a ton of parts.
A perfect match for your specific vehicle: The best thing about OEM parts is that you can rest assured they’ll work just like the one you’re replacing. OEM parts are designed to work perfectly with the vehicle’s they are designed for.
Warranty: Most, if not all, OEM parts come with a warranty of at least one year. Better yet, if you have your car repaired at the dealership, chances are they’ll guarantee their labor.

Cons of Using OEM Parts

Price: The biggest drawback to using an OEM part is that it will usually cost more. On average, OEM parts tend to cost around 60% more than a comparable aftermarket part.
Have to buy at dealership: In many cases, you’ll have to buy an OEM part at the dealership. When you’re able to buy an OEM part through your local mechanic, it might take longer to receive it.
Of lesser quality in some cases: In some cases, aftermarket parts are equal to or of superior quality than an OEM part. This is true even in cases where the OEM part costs more.