Exactly What are Aftermarket Auto Parts Anyway?
Aftermarket auto parts are, in short, simply new parts for your car not sourced from the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM. They are generally less expensive than new OEM parts, so they are often selected for use by insurance companies, collision and mechanical repair shops, and by vehicle owners themselves as a more economical way to restore a vehicle after an accident, or simply to keep an older car on the road.
Why Use Aftermarket Auto Parts?
Their lower price is of course the main reason why many aftermarket parts are selected for use. However, availability and customization are two other big reasons why a person, shop, or insurance company might choose aftermarket over OEM parts. Sometimes on older cars the manufacturer discontinues certain parts, and the only way to get them readily are through the used or aftermarket channels, and some parts like plastic textured mirror caps or chrome bumpers cannot reasonably be found used. Also, as any hot rodder, off-roader, or enthusiast of almost any car type can tell you, aftermarket parts offer a way to customize your car that cannot be found any other way. Aftermarket parts offer almost endless ways to change the look, upgrade the functionality, or wring the most performance from any vehicle. In a free-market economy, they also play a role in keeping prices lower by offering people choices other than the dealer.
Types of Aftermarket Parts Available
Almost every part on a modern car has an aftermarket alternative available. Everything from body crash parts such as bumper covers, fenders, hoods and trunk lids to internal engine components like pistons and connecting rods can be purchased from aftermarket part companies. The quality and variety vary greatly, from bare bones cheap knock-offs to extremely high-quality exact OEM replacement parts that are certified for use by insurance companies. Let’s say your car is in a front-end collision. You could obtain every part needed from aftermarket sources. The bumper components, including not only the paintable plastic cover, but also the styrofoam absorber, reinforcement bar and stays, any brackets, fog lamps and bezels, and lower valance all are readily-available for most makes and models. The headlamps, all cooling and AC parts and even the radiator support itself can be purchased from aftermarket vendors.
When OEM is Not OEM
Another little-known fact about aftermarket parts is that many parts on new cars are not made by the manufacturer at all. Windshields and other glass, radiators, air-conditioning condensers, and of course tires are all sourced from other companies, then assembled by the manufacturer. So, let’s say you need a new radiator for your car. These are almost always made by a third-party then simply installed at the factory, so why go to the dealer for the part, when you can get the same quality part for less money somewhere else?
Aftermarket Auto Parts are Here to Stay
When you look at all the benefits of aftermarket parts vs OEM, it should be obvious that they are going to continue to be a great option for professional shops and insurance companies as well as the hobbyist or person who just needs a cheaper alternative for a long time to come. When it’s time to buy parts for your car, give the aftermarket a chance and save money!