Are genuine parts really all they’re cracked up to be?
After an accident, your car might need replacement parts to repair it. Whether those parts come directly from the original manufacturer or an aftermarket manufacturer will depend on your insurer. The only difference between a genuine or original part and an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) replacement part is the name on the package, but many insurance companies won’t fork out the cash for original or OEM parts after a crash.
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Differences between car parts: OEM vs genuine vs aftermarket
There are a number of options when it comes to purchasing parts for your motor vehicle.
- Genuine (or original equipment). Genuine parts are what automakers use at the factory when building a car and are the most expensive on the market. The packaging will usually carry the manufacturers’ branding, though in some cases, a sister company may supply the part.
- OEM or original equipment manufacturer. Car manufacturers do not produce every single vehicle component. A company employed by the original manufacturer to produce these parts is the OEM.
OEM parts makers often sell components under their own name and branding. These items are identical to genuine parts but present a substantial cost saving.
- Aftermarket. Aftermarket parts are those not produced by or connected with the manufacturer. Aftermarket producers may also design and manufacture upgraded performance parts that exceed the operation and standards of an original part.
What about replacement part condition?
In addition to new parts, whether genuine/original to your car, OEM or aftermarket, you can also find different used parts.
- Refurbished/reconditioned. It’s possible to purchase genuine, OEM or aftermarket refurbished components. The best ones go through a quality inspection and rebuild process. Common refurbished parts include big-ticket items like engines, turbochargers, gearboxes and steering boxes/racks. It’s important to check to see what kind of guarantee comes with these components.
- Used/salvaged. In an effort to cut costs, some workshops may fit used parts, such as those taken from a junkyard. For older or classic cars, these may be the only option. Used parts can offer a substantial saving, but it can be difficult to determine their source.
- Counterfeit reproduction. You should never under any circumstances purchase spurious copied parts. The quality levels of these parts can vary wildly — to the point of being unsafe. Knockoff part makers may use lower-quality materials and even try to pass them off as OEM.
Which parts will my insurer use?
You can find out which components your insurer will use to repair your car in your insurance policy. Most insurance policies will use aftermarket parts to repair your car. If you want to make sure you’ll get OEM or genuine parts if you get into an accident, check with your insurer before purchasing a policy and make sure to get that in writing in your policy.
Is my repairer required to notify me about the parts used in repairs?
Yes, if you live in one of the 31 states that require a disclosure statement about the use of non-OEM parts to be included with the repair estimate. That list includes Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Do I need genuine parts?
No. OEM parts are exactly the same as original parts, and the only difference is the name on the package. OEM parts are still made by the same manufacturer, but they might not have, say, the Toyota logo on the part. It doesn’t make the part any less effective.
In many cases, aftermarket parts can also work just as well as OEM parts, but they don’t always fit perfectly, so they often need to be adjusted by a mechanic. You also want to make sure that you’re getting a high quality aftermarket piece. Most reputable mechanics will only buy from manufacturers they trust, but it’s a good idea to check where your parts are coming from.
If you have a new car, it may be more important to get OEM parts. If an aftermarket part causes a failure in your vehicle, it won’t be covered by your warranty.
Getting the best replacement parts
If your car needs a replacement part, it’s up to you to make sure you’re purchasing a quality part.
- Use common sense. If a component sells for $500 from the dealer and $400 as an OEM-branded part but sells for $100 online, ask yourself why. The $100 is suspiciously cheap.
- Only purchase from trusted sellers with good reputations. Sellers outside of the US may not adhere to the same level of consumer rights regulations.
- Ask your repair shop for an itemized invoice including parts numbers. Most garages are willing to do this, and it allows you to check up on where each part comes from.
- If you add performance-modifying parts, tell your insurer. Failing to do so can invalidate your policy in the event of a claim. Some alterations are only covered under specialized policies, including:
- Nitro or hydrogen injection systems
- Custom paintwork
- Turbocharged or supercharged engines
- Racing harnesses
- Roll bars
- Roll cages
It’s in your insurer’s best interest to pay for parts that work and are safe, but as the owner it’s up to you to check that your mechanic is ordering parts you’re comfortable having in your car. If you’re concerned, check with your car insurance company to find out what parts they’ll cover in a crash.