OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts: What do they mean in cars?

Vehicles have become an integral part of the life of several people. We use cars to take us to our destination quickly. However, what happens if it breaks down? You would most likely need to replace its components. It is where aftermarket and OEM come into action.

If you visit a local store or browse online, you may encounter the terms OEM and aftermarket. What do these mean? Is one better than the other? Are their prices similar or different? There are a few things worth knowing before dealing with it.

bumper cover OEM

Aftermarket items are often cheaper than OEM because it is not the same manufacturer as the vehicle. Do you think they are less durable and reliable than their OEM counterpart? Not necessarily. All brands have a reputation to keep, so they will unlikely produce a part that is not on par with the standards.

With that said, what are their differences? This article dives deep into both types. By the end, you will have a better understanding of each. 

What does OEM mean & stand for?

OEM stands for an original equipment manufacturer. What does it mean? It means the manufacturer is the same for the part and the vehicle. An example would be a Honda sedan and its Honda-made headlight or a Toyota SUV and its Toyota-made side steps.

A Jeep manufacturing a catalytic converter for its products is another good example. However, it is rare for a car to have pure OEM parts. These automobile manufacturers usually outsource some. It includes things such as the seats, audio system, and others. You must remember not all branded items you see online or in-store are original or genuine. Some of these replacement items are counterfeit. We recommend buying parts from a reputable seller or store.

If you are considering Amazon for these items, please carefully checkout your order. Analyze before proceeding and doubt if you think the price is low for what you are getting. 

Alternatively, OEM components can also be designed by the car manufacturer for a specific purpose but produced by a different manufacturer. Regardless, the design is exclusive to it. These are usually available from a dealership. 

Large-scale dealers have an entire department packed with factory-trained personnel that knows both types and the different car models. These people can provide customers with the best support and advice in choosing the best replacement part.

car part

What is an aftermarket car part?

Aftermarket car parts are otherwise called non-OEM or generics. They are manufactured by a company other than the vehicle’s brand. Several car owners have replaced a component or two in their cars. If you have not encountered this issue, you will come across it in the future. You can choose between OEM or aftermarket when buying new or replacement ones.

Most owners will face this dilemma at least once, so it is important to understand their differences. Knowing their differences will help you in making the best decision.

Aftermarket components have been designed to meet the same functionality as the original one. Essentially, it can be a replacement for the original one when doing repairs.

On the other hand, the same company manufactures both the component and the vehicle for OEMs. For example, Subaru genuine parts are OEM products for any Subaru-made vehicle. One could say these parts have the same quality level as the ones you will find in a brand new one.

The difference lies with the choice. There is a wider selection to choose from in any vehicle model for aftermarket ones. You could not say the same thing for OEMs because they are exclusive to a manufacturer. 

When should you choose an OEM over an aftermarket?

OEM car part

We do not recommend choosing the cheaper option always. Aftermarket ones are cheaper than the OEM but come with an uncertainty level. Their quality varies with several factors that need consideration. These are not exclusive to one make and model, so we suggest contacting a trained mechanic or technician regarding the best options.

On the other hand, an OEM will cost you more but will likely come with a warranty and aftersales support. It is exclusive to your vehicle, so compatibility is a guarantee.

We think replacing a part with an OEM is best practice if your vehicle is for repair after a collision. The damaged body panels will make it difficult for aftermarkets to fit correctly. Moreover, it could void your warranty, especially if you are leasing.

Pros and cons between aftermarket and OEM

Truck, RV, or car repairs have two options – take it to an independent shop or dealership. You may already know that, but there are important details to know. Dealerships work with OEM, while independent shops typically work with aftermarkets.

OEMs are the ones you get from a vehicle if they are fresh from the manufacturer. On the other hand, the aftermarkets only have a similar design. It may have compatibility with several makes and models.

The following sections will discuss the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, the decision lies with you. 

OEM parts: Pros and Cons

OEM exhaust system

The following are the pros.

  • The quality is guaranteed – The design of these parts is the same as the original one.
  • Warranty – Automakers and dealers offer warranties for these OEM parts.
  • Simple and easy to choose – These usually come in one type, so you will not have trouble choosing.

The following are the cons.

  • The availability is limited – You can only find these components through some suppliers and the automaker itself.
  • Higher cost – These cost more than their aftermarket counterpart.

Aftermarket parts: Pros and Cons

The following are the pros.

  • It could have better quality – Aftermarket components could potentially have better quality than their original counterpart.
  • Variety – You have more choices and a range of prices too.
  • Lower cost – These parts cost less than their OEM counterpart. However, brand plays a role, so sometimes it could be more expensive.

The following are the cons.

  • No warranty – Most of these items do not come with a warranty.
  • It could have worse quality – These may not function 100% the way they should.
  • Extra selection – Variety could make it harder for you to choose.

How do you get an aftermarket radio to turn off with the ignition?

You deal with a few annoying things if the radio does not turn off. Radios in vehicles draw minimal power, but they could potentially drain your battery if left for extended hours. How exactly can you fix this issue and prevent it from happening again?

The root cause of these issues is typically the electrical wiring. We will walk you through some troubleshooting you can do. There are a few things worth checking if the radio does not turn off when you expect it.

The most common reason is an incorrectly wired head unit. Another possible issue could include a problem with the ignition switch. It is worth noting the design of some radios is to remain on for a few minutes unless the door opens.

The following are the most common reasons preventing a car radio from shutting off with the ignition.

  • It is a part of the design to stay running – A few car radios stay running for some time as part of their design. If this is an issue, you must consult with a technician as soon as possible.
  • Ignition switch – Ignition switches could provide power even if it seems it is powered off.
  • Head unit wiring – If you have been facing the issue since its installation, there could be an issue with the wiring. 
  • Ignition and key cylinder – An overused ignition cylinder may seem to switch off when it is really switched on. 

Where can I buy aftermarket car parts online?

OEM refinished wheel

Are you looking for aftermarket component sellers? We have a curated list just for you. Gone are the days when you do not have a choice but to visit the store. You can look up parts online these days, and the first step is finding where to search.

Rock Auto

If you know what to find, Rock Auto is one of the most user-friendly websites to navigate and look for your needs. The user interface is simple and clean. They also offer every model and make of the vehicle, allowing you to sort everything down.

Whether you are looking for exotic imports or as part of a daily driver, Rock Auto has it for you. They source their products from different manufacturers, giving you access to one of the lowest prices in the market.

However, they do not offer free shipping. If you are thinking of ordering multiple items, we advise finding a way to get them from the same vendor. 

Parts Geek

Parts Geek offers discount aftermarket and OEM items for different models and makes. If you are looking for rare items, this is the place to find them. The negative side of Parts Geek is the questionable customer service policies. For example, if they send you an incorrect or missing item, the return costs are on you. The shipping costs are non-reimbursable.

However, all of these negative things aside, they have one of the most affordable prices in the market. They also offer free shipping on all orders, which is a good plus. 

OEM roof rack one above another

Advance Auto Parts

They offer a wide selection of car batteries, which are long-lasting and reliable. Aside from the battery, they also have other vehicle items. The good thing is they offer complimentary shipping to over 5,200 stores in as quick as 30 minutes. 

National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA)

NAPA is a full-service online store. You can order items, schedule appointments, and get estimates on their repair stores. Aside from components, they also sell accessories, diagnostic equipment, and tools. How-to guides are also available on their website.

Buy Auto Parts (BAP)

BAP has one of the best customer services in the market. They offer live support and a one-year unlimited mileage warranty.

They cover return costs if you encounter any issues. Moreover, they also offer a 60-day return and refund. 

eBay

For vehicle components, eBay may not be the first place that comes to mind. If you know what you’re looking for, it can be a terrific way to get what you need for less! Numerous sellers sell anything on eBay, from brake pads to ignition plugs.

Not only can you locate the components you require, but they also provide all the details for the individual part you’re looking at. It includes which vehicles it will fit. Shipment costs are dependent on the seller, so check with each post. 

OEM roof rack

Amazon

Amazon sells almost anything, so why not buy your vehicle needs from them too? Amazon Prime members get complimentary two-day shipping for most items. They work with different vendors, so you will likely find the things you need. 

Eckler’s

Eckler’s specializes in automotive performance and restoration. If you are looking for cheap products, Eckler’s is not the one for you because they specialize in premium, high-end components. They offer an excellent array of choices too.

We recommend Eckler’s if you are looking to supercharge a new car or rebuild a classic one. If you are looking for a headlight replacement for one that recently popped up, this is the wrong place.

1A Auto

1A Auto provides a wide selection of vehicle components, specializing in home mechanics. They release weekly home repair videos showing how to replace components.

FCP Euro

We recommend grabbing your parts at FCP Euro if you have a European car, such as:

  • Audi
  • Mercedes Benz
  • BMW
  • and Volkswagen.

They exclusively sell parts for European-manufactured vehicles. This exclusivity lets them focus their sourcing on this market.

FCP Euro provides free shipping for a minimum spend. They also offer a lifetime replacement guarantee on parts that fail. A 90-day return policy makes shopping worry and hassle-free. 

OEM suspension part

Auto Anything

Auto Anything sells different car parts for almost any vehicle you have. They work with top brands to provide you with the components you need. Moreover, they also offer OEM replacement parts. 

CarParts

CarParts specializes in aftermarket and OEM body parts. They offer everything from headlights to bumpers. Although they offer free shipping, the delivery time may differ depending on the item’s size. Large items, such as front grills and bumpers, will take longer to arrive than small parts. 

4 Wheel Parts

4 Wheel Parts is the store of choice if you are looking for off-road and truck components. They have almost everything you need for your Jeep or utility terrain vehicle. 

Auto Barn

Auto Barn sells a small selection of car parts but has a wide array of care products. Glass cleaners, interior cleaners, car wax, and polish are some of the items they sell. 

FAQ

The following are the frequently asked questions.

Is OEM quality good?

It is good quality. It matches what came with your car and has the same quality. 

Is OEM the same as the original?

It stands for an original equipment manufacturer. Yes, it is the same as the original. On the other hand, genuine parts are approved as an alternative. 

Can you use aftermarket parts on a Honda?

It should work with your Honda, but it will void the warranty. Honda will also not cover any damage to the vehicle for using aftermarket parts.

Are NAPA parts as good as OEM?

National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) is a retailer of automotive replacement parts. They sell aftermarket components, which may have a comparable quality with OEMs.