Are genuine car parts best?
Your car is a bundle of parts, and there are lots of different ways those parts can be supplied, and who can make them… so, are genuine car parts best?
What sort of car parts can you, and should you buy?
- copy parts look identical or similar to the OEM part, but importantly, are branded differently so they’re not counterfeit or “non-genuine”. Often these are non-visible parts, for example CV joints.
- different parts are, well, different – they may be styled differently, stronger, different dimensions or some other design change. Examples of different parts would be stiffer suspension springs, a revised radiator design, restyled tail lights, or different specification of oil.
- New-car warranty – OEM parts won’t affect new-car warranty. Quality aftermarket parts will be warranted for the part only, but if that part fails and causes problems elsewhere in the car then good luck getting either the car maker or aftermarket company to take responsibility. Note that you don’t need to use a dealer to supply or fit OEM parts to maintain your new car’s warranty.
- Cost – almost without exception, OEM parts are more expensive for the same function than copy parts. That’s because the aftermarket needs to offer something different to the OEM and if the part is the same, price is the differentiator. However, aftermarket parts are often different designs, or higher quality. In this case they may well be more expensive than the OEM parts.
- Quality – OEM parts tend to be a consistent quality, which typically means acceptable to very good. There are however some poor quality OEM parts, and in many cases aftermarket parts are higher quality than OEM. Some OEM parts are built to a tight budget. For example, the tie rod on my Defender was quite weak, and LC100 front differentials are not known for their strength. There are some very poor quality aftermarket parts which are not counterfeit, but in general any counterfeit parts tend to be extremely poor quality as by definition they are fraudulent, and you don’t even know who made the part in the first place so there can’t be any comeback.
- Fit for purpose – the OEM parts tend to be rather general purpose. Aftermarket parts can be more focused, and that’s what is meant by ‘different’ parts in the definition above. For example, with 4WDs it is very common to throw brand new suspension away as the OEM parts aren’t designed to handle a heavy vehicle over rough terrain for extended periods. Sportscar drivers who drive on racetracks usually replace brake pads, brake lines and brake fluid, if not the calipers and rotors themselves. Or maybe owners are after personalised cosmetic touches such as different wheels, grills, bonnets or tail lights. People that tow heavy trailers may fit an upgraded cooling system.
- Availability – this varies, but often OEM parts aren’t as readily available as aftermarket as they are single-sourced, but sometimes it’s vice-versa. It’s not unusual to wait weeks for certain parts, so you’d often want to take what you can get. Not all OEM parts will have an aftermarket equivalent either, but in some cases there will be multiple aftermarket options. Wheels are a good example of where you’re almost certain to find plenty of choice.
- New – brand new, never been used. These will be the most expensive, but the highest quality.
- Used – already used on another car, just a drop-in replacement. This is the cheapest option, but can be hard to find. Wreckers are a good source of these parts. These parts are also known sometimes as ‘salvaged’ parts. Used parts can be a real bargain, but must be carefully inspected to ensure they are still fit for purpose and have not been damaged either during the previous car’s life, or in storage since. There is a thriving trade in secondhand parts, usually when a modified vehicle is returned to stock form or owners decide to change parts.
- Re-manufactured / reconditioned / refurbished – a used part that has been overhauled, perhaps with new consumable sub-components like bearings, gears, new grease, been retuned and generally made as close to new as possible. Common examples are complex items such as starter motors, gearboxes and alternators. These parts are priced somewhere between new and used.
Just because a part is made by the OEM and fits your car doesn’t mean to say it’s appropriate or legal in Australia. Some parts fit our vehicles but haven’t been approved for use in Australia, for example Toyota Racing Developments make a nice set of braided brake lines for the 86, but they aren’t ADR-approved so can’t be used here. Happily, there are aftermarket alternatives.
OK, so how do I choose which part to use when?
All that choice makes it hard to figure out which type of part to use when, at least for the layperson who isn’t living and breathing cars. That’s because part choice very much depends on the part required and the situation.
How can an aftermarket part possibly be as good as the OEM part?
What’s the real risk with buying car parts?
Is the counterfeit risk real?
- OEM parts are made or approved by the manufacturer.
- Aftermarket parts are produced by other companies.
- Aftermarket parts may be a direct equivalent of the original part, or designed differently for different uses.
- Any part can be supplied as new, used or reconditioned.
- Whether to use OEM, aftermarket or how new the part should be depends on a range of factors. Seek expert advice, but don’t listen to anyone that says one is always better than the other.
- “Non-genuine” parts could be counterfeit aftermarket or OEM parts.
- Never use counterfeit parts, which are usually sold very cheaply pretending to be OEM parts from disreputable outlets.
- Why isn’t it available for my vehicle?
- Grey market imports – what’s the risk?
- How to get a good deal from your 4WD accessory supplier
- Why we need car lemon laws in Australia
- Dealer vs non-dealer servicing
- Counterfeit parts found in China
- FCAI’s Genuine (better read as “OEM”) is Best website: http://genuineisbest.com.au/
- European counterfeit trade report.