Auto maintenance: Aftermarket vs. OEM parts

Auto maintenance: Aftermarket vs. OEM parts
aftermarket parts

When your vehicle’s in the shop, is it better if the mechanic uses a manufacturer-supplied part or an aftermarket version?

The answer is not always obvious, though aftermarket parts typically cost less and may be more readily available than original parts, top-rated independent mechanics tell our team.

Original parts are those produced by the “OEM,” or “original equipment manufacturer.” They’re made by the carmaker or its suppliers, and are the parts that dealer service departments use.

Numerous companies make aftermarket parts. Their quality can vary greatly and they don’t always have a warranty, whereas most OEM parts do.

Top-rated independent mechanics tell our team that they consider quality and cost when deciding whether to use OEM or aftermarket parts, or to present the customer with the choice.

Through databases and experience, mechanics say, they learn which aftermarket parts are reliable, and which to avoid. For example, one top-rated mechanic told us he steers clear of aftermarket motor mounts but likes aftermarket water pumps.

Some top mechanics say that aftermarket parts usually cost less than OEM, an estimated 25 to 50 percent less, but not all are cheaper. Some say they prefer to use OEM parts if prices are comparable. Others say that aftermarket parts are, at times, better than OEM.

If you have questions about parts for your vehicle, feel free to ask your mechanic. Reputable service pros want to provide good value, which may mean OEM or aftermarket parts, depending on the specific situation.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, the nation's most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home improvement to automotive repair. Follow Angie on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.