OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts for Collision Repair
OEM parts vs. aftermarket parts continue to be a debate in the mechanical and collision repair industry. While the debate often focuses on the cost-effectiveness of aftermarket parts compared to OEM versions, there is much more to the story. It’s fair to assume that every driver and collision repair business wants to save money, and aftermarket parts can provide significant savings. But unlike OEM parts, not all aftermarket products are equal in performance, longevity, and safety.
Aftermarket car parts have come a long way in the last decade, and finding established vendors with a proven track record has become easier than previous years. The increased quality and potential cost savings of aftermarket parts are good news for both body shops and drivers.
The benefits of using aftermarket parts in collision repair, especially the affordability, haven’t gone unnoticed by insurance companies either. However, it’s important to recognize the differences between OEM and aftermarket parts in order to understand the role insurance companies play and how your choices can affect shop aspects.
What Are OEM Parts?
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts are components and materials that match the original stock on a vehicle and are manufactured by the original automaker. The OEM parts are made using the same process as those installed on the car when it was new, so the quality and fit are all but guaranteed. Other advantages of using OEM parts are the established parts cataloging and the typical warranties associated. There aren’t many drawbacks to using OEM parts besides the increased cost and sometimes limited access. Most auto insurance companies don’t specify OEM parts or approve their use in collision repair because they consider aftermarket parts a suitable replacement by default. In these cases, the increased cost of OEM parts may be out of reach for typical drivers.
What Are Aftermarket Parts?
Aftermarket parts are made for a make and model by manufacturers other than the original one and are typically less expensive than the OEM alternatives. The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies estimates that aftermarket parts are priced 50 percent below the same OEM parts. Aftermarket auto parts are usually much more widely available than OEM parts, contributing to faster repair times. If a part meets the specs and costs less, using aftermarket parts makes sense for many repair procedures.
But there’s more to it than the enticing savings. Few aftermarket parts include warranties like their OEM counterparts, and verifying their quality can be challenging. While quality and durability can be a concern with non-original parts, finding options that meet or exceed OEM specifications is possible. Contrary to what you may have read, aftermarket parts don’t void a vehicle warranty. As long as the part is installed correctly and doesn’t affect the performance of other components, you’re good to go.
OEM Parts vs. Aftermarket Parts: Tale of the Tape
Whether a collision repair includes original parts or not, the goal at the best body shops is the same: install the right parts to restore a vehicle to its original condition after an accident. If an aftermarket part provides the same quality and performance as an OEM part, it’s probably the right part for the job.
Difference Between OEM and Aftermarket: Safety
The impact on the safety of aftermarket vs. OEM parts is a significant concern, especially with critical components found in ADAS. Aftermarket parts can cost much less than OEM versions, but the uncertainty in quality could prove them as a poor investment. Even though used OEM parts will give technicians the right fit and high quality, assessing that part’s stability and performance can be difficult.
The bottom line is that aftermarket auto parts often don’t have the quality control or construction found in the OEM manufacturing process. Unless the quality and performance of an aftermarket can be validated before installation, the safety implications can be catastrophic. However, testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals some encouraging results about the quality of aftermarket parts in general.
A few years ago, the IIHS conducted crash tests after a law firm contended that aftermarket parts were responsible for their clients’ injuries after an accident. The IIHS analyzed the firm’s data and concluded that the aftermarket parts performed as well as the OEM parts across the board. There is no room for guesswork when it comes to vehicle safety, and it seems as though the gap between aftermarket and OEM parts continues to diminish.
Aftermarket vs. OEM Parts: Performance
Because the IIHS results were specific to a particular make and model and the aftermarket parts used, it doesn’t mean aftermarket parts as a whole are up to par. According to a study published by the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA), most aftermarket parts don’t meet OEM standards. The study reveals that only one in four aftermarket parts provide the same performance as the OEM part.
CAPA is trying to correct that dangerous lack of quality and performance. The non-profit organization tests and certifies aftermarket auto parts independent of manufacturers and others in the industry. Parts that pass the test can be approved for CAPA certification, a moniker the organization hopes will minimize the use of substandard parts. The CAPA certification process includes approval of the manufacturing facility and the quality and fit of the part to ensure a safe and accurate repair.
How do you know if an aftermarket product meets OEM specs? Sourcing parts and materials from a reputable aftermarket vendor is a good start. Researching the benefits of investing in CAPA-certified or other vetted parts can also help balance the cost-to-quality benefits. Consulting the latest collision repair information for OEM-certified procedures will help your shop make the right choices.
OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts: And the Winner Is…
The insurance industry as a whole considers aftermarket auto parts to be the same quality as OEM parts, and State Farm takes an official stance on the issue. The insurance company says the two parts are equal, and the savings from using aftermarket parts are passed on to consumers. The company cites testing done by the IIHS that concluded non-OEM parts perform equal to or better than OEM versions. In 2005, State Farm got a chance to prove its position on aftermarket parts.
A class action lawsuit, Avery et al. vs. State Farm, was filed against the insurance company, arguing that aftermarket parts used on their vehicles were inferior. The plaintiffs complain that the aftermarket parts approved by the insurer didn’t restore their vehicles to a pre-accident condition as stated in their auto policies. The shape, durability, finish, and overall quality of the parts were some of the evidence presented on behalf of the consumers.
The defense stated that the aftermarket parts in question were in no way inferior to their OEM alternatives. They provided data from IIHS studies, and a track record of no national safety recalls to prove their point. The case resulted in a ruling for the policyholders and a $1.05 billion judgment against State Farm. However, the verdict was reversed when the company showed that the corrosive evidence was not typical of the aftermarket parts industry.
The State Farm case and the opposing verdicts are prime examples of why the debate over aftermarket and OEM parts continues. The state of flux regarding aftermarket parts’ quality, cost, and performance is well documented. For body shops to perform the safest and most accurate repairs cost-effectively, finding a definitive answer is difficult. Until a decisive verdict comes in, relying on proven vendors and the latest OEM collision repair information is the ideal approach.
OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts for Collision Repair
It’s no wonder collision repair facilities struggle with the aftermarket vs. OEM parts for collision repair debate. Much of what we read about the issue can be biased, making an informed decision difficult. Insurance policies, supply chains, and costs will continue to be part of the decision to use aftermarket parts or not. But when you invest in technology that keeps you up-to-date with the most accurate and comprehensive collision repair data, you can make the right call.
Fortunately, collision repair shops can use digital technology to access current OEM information, industry trends, and every detail of a specific collision repair. SUN® Collision Repair Information is built for collision repair. It’s a collaboration by SUN and major automakers to keep body shops in the know and profitable. Millions of real-world fixes and knowledge from professional technicians are part of the package and bring critical insights to OEM collision repair procedures.
The SUN Collision database consistently updates the most current repair information, recalls, TBSs, and position statements. Whether your shop falls on the aftermarket or OEM side of the parts debate, SUN Collision can help you find the right balance for the best repairs. When in doubt, you can use OEM parts and absorb some of the cost through profit margins, or you could use SUN Collision Repair Information. How you run your shop is your business — providing the tools and technology to make your life easier is ours.
Get your FREE DEMO of the industry’s most advanced collision repair technology and find out how you can optimize your body shop. If you want to learn more right away, call 877-840-1973 or use this short form.
Chris Bonneau is the Business Manager for the SUN Collision product line. He has been in the automotive repair and collision industry since 2006. Chris has served in several roles at Snap-on, including Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast United States and Supervisor of the Mitchell 1 SocialCRM Marketing Services. Chris is also an alumni of San Diego State University.