What Are Aftermarket Car Parts?

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The average age of cars currently driving up and down American roads is 11.8 years. This is the highest ever age since this statistic first started being tracked more than 20 years ago. As more and more drivers keep their vehicles on the road longer than ever, the need for automotive aftermarket parts and components has never been more pronounced. Vehicle owners have basically two options whenever they want and/or need to buy auto parts and accessories; original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or aftermarket manufacturers.

All stakeholders in the automotive aftermarket industry, be it manufacturers, retailers, distributors, or other service providers, will have to keep track of the overwhelming number of possible vehicle configurations, part numbers, and numbering nomenclatures that exist for any mechanical parts, electrical components, and accessories they are dealing with. In addition, they also need to predict future demand, as well as remain current on all the new auto parts and vehicle configurations that can change on a monthly basis. But before we can get into that, we will need to take a closer look at automotive aftermarket parts and components.

What are Automotive Aftermarket Parts?

To put it simply, automotive aftermarket parts are replacement components manufactured by third-party companies and not made by original equipment manufacturers (OEM). They are typically used to replace damaged or worn-out auto parts but can also be used for enhancement or tuning-up. It’s up to the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) to issue guidelines for aftermarket car parts, acting as the standard when it comes to car safety, as a result of rigorous standards and quality testing.

It’s important to keep in mind that collision repairs can be expensive, and some motorists may insist on using aftermarket car parts from a third-party manufacturer wherever possible. The reason for this is that these components tend to be less expensive than those made by original equipment manufacturers. But depending on the policy issued by the insurance company, installing aftermarket parts instead of components manufactured by original manufacturers can result in the car insurers changing the coverage going forward. However, this may not necessarily be the case when talking about aftermarket car parts and accessories, such as those used for entertainment or lighting purposes.

OEM vs. Aftermarket Car Parts

In many cases, the issue is not whether quality auto parts exist or not, or whether they are the best option. Sometimes aftermarket car parts are the only option available. This applies equally as well when it comes to car repairs as it does to tune-ups. For example, if the car is of an older make or model, aftermarket car parts may be the only option. And while some of these components may be of questionable quality, many are equal or better than those made by the vehicle’s manufacturer. In many cases, aftermarket car parts are also more readily available than original equipment. Below are the differences between OEM and aftermarket components. 

Aftermarket Car Parts

As mentioned before, aftermarket car parts are components that are not made by the vehicle’s manufacturer. If the components are made specifically to function the same as their OEM versions, they will not typically void the car warranty. Many aftermarket manufacturers design their products to function the same and, in some cases, even better than the original equipment. Also, around 80% of professional independent repair shops use aftermarket parts. Below are the pros and cons of aftermarket equipment.

The Pros

  • Cost Benefits – Aftermarket parts are usually less expensive than OEMs. However, saving money will depend on the type of the specific brand. Generally, the qualities and prices are directly relatable. This means that a low price will tend to pose questions regarding the actual quality.
  • Quality Auto Parts – In some cases, aftermarket parts can be of better quality than OEMs. Many aftermarket companies will reverse-engineer their components, working out any existing weaknesses, or improve it based on customer demand and overall car safety.
  • More Part Variety – Since there are hundreds of aftermarket manufacturers, some will specialize in specific components and accessories, while others will build pretty much any part imaginable. In any case, this means that the automotive industry provides a greater selection and a wider range of qualities and prices.
  • Increased Availability – Similarly to the point above, aftermarket components are more readily available than OEMs. Whenever motorists need a specific part at a moment’s notice, the automotive aftermarket tends to provide.

The Cons

  • Varying Quality – Just because many aftermarket products have a similar or even a superior quality than OEM versions, it doesn’t mean that all of them are the same.
  • Huge Selection – While having a wide variety of options available on the market has its benefits, for some buyers, trying to decide between OEM or aftermarket parts can prove to be too overwhelming.
  • Lack of Warranty – In order to keep the costs down, several aftermarket parts may come with no extended warranty. These components will usually not have a Certified Automotive Parts Association certification. Depending on the type, high-quality aftermarket parts will usually have equally good warranties, and car insurers will prefer them for collision repairs. 

OEM Parts

Since OEM parts are made by the vehicle’s manufacturer, they will be sure to match the buyer’s vehicle. Like third-party manufacturer products, OEMs also have their pros and cons when it comes to car repairs or other improvements. 

The Pros

  • Easier to Find The Right Part – When end users look for a part for their vehicle, the OEM versions will typically come in one model. As such, they will not have to worry as much about fitment data. 
  • More Consistent Quality – When it comes to OEM vs aftermarket components, it should be fairly obvious that the OEM versions will work exactly the same as the one it replaces. 
  • Come With an Extended Warranty – The majority of car makers will back their OEM parts with a warranty. For motorists who repair their vehicles at an authorized dealer, the manufacturer will also back up their labor as well. 

The Cons

  • Generally More Expensive – OEM parts tend to cost more than their aftermarket counterparts. According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), OEM parts used in auto body repair tend to cost around 60% more, meaning that users will typically be saving money when they install aftermarket parts instead of OEMs . 
  • Are Typically Found Only at Dealerships – Another drawback when it comes to working with OEM parts is that they are typically sold through accredited brand dealerships. That said, they can still be found on eBay, Amazon, and other online wholesalers, but the overall number of places where these parts are available is far more limited than when dealing with aftermarket products. 
  • The Quality May Not Always Be Better – Even though customers may typically pay extra for the OEM part and will have consistent quality, this doesn’t mean that the extra cost will automatically equate to better overall quality than some aftermarket components. As mentioned earlier, many aftermarket parts, components, and accessories have an equal or, in some cases, higher quality than OEM parts. 

Auto Parts Data Complexity

It’s also important to keep in mind that the average vehicle is made up of anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 mechanical parts, electrical components, and accessories. And for every new vehicle that enters the market, third-party manufacturers need to source, produce, and determine whether their existing parts will be able to replace any of those components. This applies equally as well in terms of a vehicle accident, breakdown, regular wear and tear, or various forms of enhancements. 

In addition, this information needs to be processed and maintained based on the vehicle’s own year, make, and model. Suppliers and retailers in the automotive industry will reference this information in the form of fitment data, application data, or compatibility information. Every month, distributors and retailers will receive roughly 130 million data records, which they will need to maintain and accommodate for all the new entries on the market. If this is not done regularly and consistently, customers looking to purchase automotive aftermarket products on eBay, Amazon, or the retailer’s eCommerce website, will not be able to find the parts they are looking for. 

Auto Parts Database Software

An auto parts inventory management software will come in handy, as it can be used to manage the auto part database on an ongoing and consistent basis. Every month, retailers will need to upload the right fitment data to fit with the new changes that occur on the market. With software such as myFitment, retailers will be able to upload their fitment data in bulk and have their database automatically updated on a monthly basis.  

The myFitment solutions tool was created to maximize fitment productivity – with the right fitment data that’s updated regularly, automotive aftermarket retailers will ensure that their customers will always find the parts, components, and accessories they are looking for. Feel free to contact us for a free trial.