Aftermarket car parts make up a significant portion of the automotive industry. In fact, the sector brings around 20% of the revenue to the industry. Whenever someone looks to replace or modify components of their car, they can either turn to parts built by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), third-party manufacturers, or second-hand equipment. Aftermarket car parts are those made by third-party manufacturers, which refer to a different company other than the vehicle’s original manufacturer. Aftermarket parts are also sometimes known as generic, non-OEM, and/or competitive replacement parts.
It’s important to point out that there are currently over 230.5 million licensed drivers in the United States. Likewise, the age of vehicles on American roads averages out at around 11.8 years. It should come as no surprise then, that the entire automotive aftermarket industry is about $381 billion as of 2020, $282 billion of which is comprised solely of light-duty vehicles. In addition, personal consumption of auto parts in June 2020 reached an all-time high of $50.5 billion.
And given the current COVID-19 pandemic, DIY automotive projects have seen a steady rise. Likewise, buying auto parts online has also seen a steady increase. In fact, in 2020 the North American auto parts eCommerce business is expected to exceed $20 billion. Traditionally, the eCommerce aftermarket sector was increasing between 3.5% and 3.9% per year. Yet, in light of the coronavirus pandemic effects, aftermarket eCommerce is expected to grow at an even faster rate for the foreseeable future.
It should also be noted that the digital environment has had a significant influence on the overall automotive aftermarket industry. Around $140 billion worth of parts, components, tools, accessories, and services that have been sold through all sales channels, including brick-and-mortar stores and service shops, have been influenced to varying degrees by the digital environment. By 2023, that influence is expected to further increase to over $168 billion.
When it comes to car repairs, some insurance companies may have the option of using aftermarket parts, instead of original equipment manufacturer components. However, many vehicle owners may feel a bit concerned since these aftermarket components are not made by the same company as their cars. Nevertheless, there is more to these third-party manufacturer components and accessories. This guide to aftermarket car parts will shed some light on what automotive parts business owners need to know.
The Benefits of Aftermarket vs. OEM Car Parts
The topic of aftermarket parts and accessories has been going on for a long time among car enthusiasts. Many worry whether aftermarket parts are as good, safe, or reliable as their OEM counterparts. But over the years, aftermarket parts have gained a lot of popularity and acceptance as a good alternative to original manufacturer parts. In some cases, they are even seen as superior by using better materials and more advanced technologies than the car manufacturers, themselves. And according to the Insurance Information Institute, automotive aftermarket components should not interfere with a vehicle’s warranty.
That said, it’s essential to keep in mind that there are different types of aftermarket parts; structural and cosmetic. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), aftermarket cosmetic parts have absolutely no effect on safety. Everything from fenders, quarter panels, door skins, bumper covers, trims, etc., will not impact the safety of the passengers. Structural parts, on the other hand, are directly responsible for the safety of the occupants in the event of the crash. And according to the IIHS, some aftermarket structural parts can meet these requirements.
When it comes to safe structural components, buyers need to make sure that they have the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) certification. The association has very high standards and guidelines when it comes to aftermarket parts. The CAPA runs numerous tests on both the production and quality of materials, as well as part integrity. To become CAPA certified, the aftermarket components need to be considered as “functionally equivalent” to their OEM counterparts. By comparison to some insurance companies’ requirements that the parts should have a standard of evaluation of “like kind and quality,” the aforementioned CAPA “functionally equivalent” certification is a stronger alternative of the two. While the “like kind and quality” requirement doesn’t typically include the function and/or crash test performance, a CAPA certification does.
And aside from the fact that aftermarket products are more readily available than their OEM variants, they can also help buyers save more money. According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), aftermarket parts save consumers over $1.5 billion. Generally, OEM parts are 60% more expensive than those made by third-party manufacturers. And it’s because of these cost savings that some insurance companies choose to use aftermarket components after accidents.
Selling Auto Parts Online Best Practices
Given the proliferation of the automotive aftermarket eCommerce sector, more and more auto part businesses are looking to enter the online marketplace. However, the majority of them do not feel prepared to make the transition. While some lack the necessary technical skills and know-how, others lack a comprehensive strategy and business plan to do so. There are also those that do not have the necessary digital resources to operate their car or truck part business, at least partially, online. This guide to aftermarket car or truck parts will also provide some information on how to make the transition.
- Doing Market Research
Starting a business almost always involves a fair degree of market research. One of the fastest and most effective ways of doing this is by talking with anyone buying and selling auto parts. This can include everyone from car enthusiasts, auto repair shop owners, local mechanics, and even people who decided to do a small project on their car some time ago. Ask them about their wants, needs, expectations, and pain points. Try to figure out what manages to drive a sale or a purchase for them. Also, ask them about the experiences they had while they made an online purchase. This data will help you learn what to use and what to avoid to improve the overall shopping experience of your buyers.
- Know Your Online Demographics
Like with any other type of business, successfully running an aftermarket auto parts company means that you need to know the customers. These consumers can be divided into two broad categories: B2B and B2C consumers. Business-to-business consumers typically include wholesalers such as auto shops, garages, and other such vendors. The benefits of selling aftermarket car parts to B2B consumers typically translate to higher sales volumes, more stability, and lower costs overall. By and large, auto shops and garages tend to purchase components that need to be replaced more frequently, such as tires, oil filters, plug wires, spark plugs, fuel pumps, and more.
Retail customers (business-to-community buyers) such as end-users and car enthusiasts, will tend to provide less stability and lower volume than is usually the case with B2B buyers. Nevertheless, you will have access to a wider customer base and will be able to provide them shorter delivery times, such as same day shipping. By extension, this means that you will also be able to provide a better customer experience. Likewise, car enthusiasts are generally more interested in cosmetic parts, such as mirror accessories, suspension kits, seat covers, car covers, center caps and other such accessories.
- Choose Your Automotive Aftermarket Niche
While some aftermarket auto parts businesses choose to sell parts to both B2B and B2C customers, it’s often better to focus your services on a specific niche. If for example, you will be building your eCommerce website, catalog, and business predominantly on repair shops, garages, and other such vendors, the bulk of your inventory should also be geared towards parts that are most frequently used by these consumers. It’s a good idea to analyze which car parts are most commonly replaced, such as control arms, brake pads, fuel tanks, air filters, fuel pump, wiper blades, headlight bulbs and tail lights, oil filters, batters, spark plugs, oil pans, etc. You should also take a closer look at the components that are most prone to wear and tear, such as fuel systems, water and oil pumps, tires, belts, fuses, alternators, engine sensors, mufflers, etc.
When it comes to B2C customers, such as car enthusiasts and people who commonly engage in DIY projects, you can focus more of your inventory on cosmetic, rather than strictly functional and/or structural parts. By doing so, you will be able to provide a much better shopping experience, greatly increasing the chances of repeat customers. That said, you will also need to keep a constant eye on the best-selling auto parts, as these have a tendency to change over time. Nevertheless, there are certain parts and accessories, such as tires, GPS trackers, car DVRs, smart locks,mirror accessories, seat covers, car covers, plug wires, headlights, tail lights, fog lights, or jump starters, among others, that are fairly consistent top-sellers.
- Check Out the Competition
Once you have a general understanding of your target audience, it’s a good idea to take a quick look at your competition. Examine all of their sales channels, such as Amazon, eBay, eCommerce websites, and other third-party aftermarket automotive sites. Determine how these auto parts businesses set their prices and how they operate to get a better understanding of how to outcompete them. Compare this information with what you’ve learned during the market research phase and determine how you could do things better.
- Proper Images and Comprehensive Product Descriptions
Professional images go a long way whenever you are selling car parts and accessories online. People want to see how these components look as they try to gauge the overall quality of the product. Low-resolution photos or stock images will typically deter people from making a purchase and can even end up hurting your brand’s image.
When it comes to describing the car parts and components, you should really take your time and go as in-depth as you can. By using fitment data in your listings, your customers will also be able to find what they are looking for much more easily. Fitment data will tell them whether the part they are looking at will actually fit their vehicle and if it will be able to satisfy all of their needs. Lastly, when you are putting together the product descriptions, don’t forget to mention whether the part is aftermarket or made by original equipment manufacturers.
Selling Auto Parts on Amazon
Due to its huge customer base, Amazon makes for an excellent sales channel for automotive aftermarket parts and components. But in order to have access to the Automotive & Powersports product category, you will also need to have a Professional Seller account. So, you can either get Amazon’s approval in this product category or get it to review your independent eCommerce website. There are several basic requirements that will get you qualified to sell auto parts on Amazon. These include the following:
- Have a professional selling plan.
- Have compliant product images.
- List the UPC codes of all major brands of your products.
- Warrant all certified refurbished Automotive & Powersports products with the manufacturer or re-manufacturer.
While most automotive parts and accessories can be sold on Amazon, some tend to work better than others. By and large, exterior and interior parts, as well as lighting and LED products, tend to be best-selling categories on the platform.
Among these we can include the following:
- Billet grille upgrades
- Wind deflectors
- Front lip/side skirt lip kits
- Wind deflectors
- Center caps
- Door mirrors
- Shifter knobs
- Dash kits
- Floor mats
- Window tints
- Seat covers
- Universal molding trims
Other Parts and Accessories
- Tail lights
- Brake lights
- Turn signal lights
- Running board lights
- License plate lights
- Air Filters
- Car Covers
- Car Tires and Rims
- Instrument cluster and gauge lights
- Marker lights
- Halo lights
Selling Auto Parts on eBay
The second most prolific third-party sites to use when selling automotive parts and accessories is eBay. The platform is designed in such a way to streamline the entire process for both the buyers and sellers. Selling auto parts, components, tools, and accessories on eBay is pretty straightforward. If you don’t have an account, you will need to sign up on eBay and select the Sell option. You start by creating a product listing and provide eBay with all the details about that component. You will need to select eBay Motors in the Categories section and choose Parts and Accessories. These categories will become more and more specific as you advance with the listing.
However, for an auto parts business, creating listings one at a time can be incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming. Luckily, eBay’s Seller Hub can greatly streamline this process. Also, when you are creating parts and accessories listings, you can also use eBay Motors Parts Compatibility. This tool allows you to add fitment data, such as the year, make, and model of the vehicle, trims, manual or automatic transmission, engines, fuels, and other such information.
Some of the most commonly-sold parts on eBay include:
- Replacement grilles and upgrades
- Steel bumpers
- Door mirrors
- Tail lights
- Fog lights
- Light bulbs
- License plate lights
- Struts lift kits
- Suspension kits
- Leveling kits
- A/C Compressors and A/C control systems
- Air Filters
- Alternators and Generators
- Jump batteries
- Vacuum pumps
- Clutch kits
- Control arms
- Cylinder heads
- Disc Brake Pad System Parts
- EGR System Components
- Oil pans
- Oil pumps
- Mirror accessories
- Intake manifold
- Timing kits
- Spark plugs
- Plug wires
- Fuel tanks
- Seat covers
- Shocks and Struts
- Wheel bearings
Selling Auto Parts on Your eCommerce Website
Whether you decide to sell auto parts and accessories on Amazon, eBay, or both, as a business, you should also consider building your own eCommerce website. To build an eCommerce site basically means that you will be building on an open-source framework or self-hosted eCommerce system. Most commonly WordPress is the go-to open-source website platform. But if you are not particularly tech-savvy and don’t have the necessary know-how, you should look to collaborate with a web developer and designer to help you design and develop your site. While there is more investment to be made, building your own site provides you with plenty of opportunities to customize and integrate the pages and information however you want.
A different alternative is to host your eCommerce site. You can do this through hosting platforms such as Shopify or Bigcommerce. These hosted systems will spare you from having to upgrade, maintain, or host your site. That said, the customization possibilities are fairly limited when compared to building your website from scratch.
Whether you are looking to sell fog lights, bumper covers, floor mats, brake pads, or any other type of car parts, accessories, components, or tools on eBay, Amazon, or your own eCommerce website, you will need to keep in mind that simply setting up your channels is only the start. There is plenty of competition out there, and you will need to do as much as you can to make sure that you stand out. Among the most important aspects here will be to always stay up to date on all industry trends and new components that enter the automotive aftermarket on a regular basis. You will also need to know what digital tools to employ to give you an edge in managing your eCommerce catalogs on all of your sales channels.
When you are optimizing your auto parts store and eCommerce platform listings, you will need to make sure that you use the highest-quality product images possible and provide comprehensive and relevant product descriptions. To avoid confusion for potential customers looking to buy car parts online, make sure that each product is backed up by the necessary fitment data. In doing so, you will maximize visibility whenever these customers perform a keyword search.
Most importantly, however, is that detailed and up-to-date fitment data will ensure that every time a potential buyer looks up an auto part or accessory, they will know whether or not it will actually fit their vehicle. What’s more, that fitment data will also let them know if that particular car part will be able to satisfy all of their needs. However, making sure that every listing in your auto parts catalog has the correct fitment information attached to it, it’s easier said than done. As new vehicle configurations are being introduced and new aftermarket products enter the market on a regular basis, fitment data will change. This means that keeping your own data up-to-date will be an ongoing process. MyFitment can help you with building your online catalog, as well as updating and maintaining it on a regular basis. At myFitment, we have decades of automotive aftermarket industry experience. We will help you increase sales with clear, accurate fitment data that eliminates buyers’ doubts as to whether the part will fit the intended vehicle. Ask us how we can help you identify opportunities, save time, beat the competition, and build your brand.