If you're among the 88% of Americans who owns a vehicle, routine maintenance is an important part of your daily life. After all, you want to make sure that it lasts for its entire 200,000 mile lifespan!

To make this happen, it's essential that you get the right replacement and spare parts when your automobile is in need of some love. But should you go with aftermarket parts vs. OEM alternatives? Read on to learn more about both types of car replacement parts and to get some insight into why aftermarket parts may be a better option for your vehicle.

What Are OEM Parts?

OEM stands for "original equipment manufacturer." As this implies, OEM parts are those made by the manufacturer rather than a third party. These parts are made to fit into any your specific vehicle perfectly based on the precise specifications of its make and model.

Extreme car enthusiasts and new vehicle owners may like to purchase OEM parts for their vehicles. This is especially true of racers or off-roaders. However, day-to-day drivers with regular commutes and auto needs will not see the difference between OEM and aftermarket options.

The Pros of OEM Parts:

  • They're made to fit precisely to your vehicle without any needed modifications or adjustments
  • They're specifically made by the manufacturer to keep your car closest to being "new"
  • Some OEM parts come with warranties and/or insurance plans to provide an extra layer of protection to your investment

The Cons of OEM Parts:

  • OEM parts typically cost more than their third-party aftermarket counterparts
  • You can get all of the OEM parts you want as aftermarket parts for less money
  • Produced at a lower volume (so they may need more frequent upgrades)
  • Some insurers don't let users purchase OEM parts with insurance

Defining Aftermarket Parts

Aftermarket parts are those made and sold by a third party rather than the manufacturer. They fit most cars because there are a diverse range of options that you can choose from. Additionally, aftermarket parts can be very inexpensive while still being high-quality.

Many times, aftermarket parts will even be made in the same factory as OEM parts will be. They are sold more cheaply despite this fact, so you can get a similar-quality product at a far lower price.

Like OEM parts, aftermarket alternatives are regulated and inspected so that they are safe to use. Buying from the manufacturer may sound more official, but the distinction doesn't matter since both undergo the same regulations. They must meet the exact same Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) standards.

The Pros of Aftermarket Parts:

  • You pay less money to get the same parts as you would from the manufacturer
  • They're produced in a higher volume so you won't need to wait for parts
  • You work with reputable third-party sellers that can answer any questions or concerns
  • Some insurance plans require that repairs take place with aftermarket parts
  • Aftermarket parts are made to fit virtually any vehicle (so OEM part's specificity is irrelevant)
  • They keep the value of your vehicle high since it will still be in good shape after maintenance

The Cons of Aftermarket Parts:

  • Warranties may not cover aftermarket parts while covering OEM parts
  • Some people prefer the peace of mind that comes with working with a dealer (though the dealer is no more reputable/safe than a third-party aftermarket seller)
  • Not all aftermarket parts will fit your vehicle. Some adjustments may need to be made to either the part or your vehicle when installing.

Virtually every user should go with aftermarket parts if they're looking to save money while still getting a quality product.

Build Specs for OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts

OEM parts are built to the exact specs that the vehicle had when it was new. This appeals to many people because they feel that the car will remain in better condition if they keep treating it like a new car. Unfortunately, this simply isn't true- the metal, rubber, and frame of a car will slightly change over time.

When you ride in your car or carry heavy loads, you add weight to the vehicle. Moving it along the roads regularly also creates normal wear and tear. This means that your vehicle's geometry will change as the years go by... and so will the specs for its parts.

Aftermarket materials are engineered to accommodate the changes that older cars grapple with. This means that they generally are a better fit for vehicles (with the sole exception of very new ones). They will:

  • Fit better within the vehicle
  • Last longer because they're made to fit your car as it currently exists
  • Work with your car as it wears down so that you can make the most of its lifespan

Combine this with the fact that aftermarket parts usually include simple DIY installation tools and you have the perfect recipe for a better, easier fit.

There is also more variety when it comes to aftermarket parts than OEM parts. Your OEM will generally only give you one option for a given part while aftermarket providers will give you dozens. This lets you find one that meets your specifications, not just the manufacturers'.

Manufacturing Processes for OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts

OEM and aftermarket parts are the same to the point that they're sometimes manufactured in the same facility. OEM providers simply charge more because of dealer upcharge and the fact that their name is attached to the part.

The manufacturing process is more versatile for aftermarket parts, giving buyers more options. This means that you can also use aftermarket parts to improve on a manufacturer's design. While many racers, off-roaders, and car enthusiasts love OEM parts, they actually will find more value in choosing from various aftermarket alternatives.

Be Mindful of Part Warranties

Replacing car parts isn't just a matter of finding the best fit for your vehicle. The process is highly dependent on what your warranty will cover. Many warranties will at least partially for a replacement part if the original one succumbs to wear and tear, but it may specify whether you can only replace these parts with OEM or aftermarket options.

If you have an OEM-exclusive warranty that doesn't cover the entire cost of the part, purchasing aftermarket alternatives may be a smarter idea anyway. While they may cost slightly more than an OEM part covered by the warranty, they likely won't cost a high enough price that the better-quality aftermarket part isn't worth the investment.

However, there are sometimes extended aftermarket warranties that you can invest in. These are generally a good choice for those who want to get the full value of their cars over the coverage period. They also last longer and cover more parts, which can bring drivers peace of mind.

Will My Auto Insurance Cover Aftermarket Parts?

Different insurance plans will also vary coverage-wise. Many plans only cover aftermarket auto parts, which is great since they're less expensive and better-quality anyway.

Still, you should see what types of parts your insurance covers before reaching out to an aftermarket provider. There may be some areas of your policy that you're unaware of. Learning the ins and outs of your car insurance lets you make the most informed decision when it comes to spare parts.

Should I Choose OEM or Aftermarket Parts?

While deciding between aftermarket parts vs. OEM parts may sound like a challenge, the choice is clear in most situations. Now that you know why buying spare and aftermarket parts is the best way to go, it's time to get started. We're committed to helping you determine the parts needed to make your vehicle operate at its highest potential. That's why we're excited for you to reach out and discuss the types of aftermarket parts that you might need. Contact us with any remaining questions that you have about aftermarket car parts and how to choose the right ones for your specific vehicle.