When your car needs repairs, you have two options when it comes to choosing new parts – aftermarket, or genuine Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts.
A lot of people do not really know what make of parts are being used when they bring their vehicle in for repair, but when it comes to aftermarket parts there are many different companies who manufacture them. This means that the quality and performance can vary greatly.
Insurance companies often favour using aftermarket parts when making repairs, in order to keep costs down. This article from the BBC highlights the practice in Northern Ireland, although in this case the customer was informed. Check your insurance documents to see whether your own insurer has documented a preference.
If you take your car to your official dealership, you know that you will be getting official parts, but if you take it to an independent shop, it is much more likely that they will use aftermarket parts. But what is the difference?
With official OEM parts you know that your part has been manufactured in the same factory as your car itself, and designed to fit that exact make and model. You may pay a little bit more, but you know that you are getting a quality part that is made exactly for your car, and often official parts are covered by a warranty.
Generally, you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to buying car parts, and you may save a little money initially opting for aftermarket, but they may be of lower quality, and not last as long, costing you more in the long run.
Particularly when repairing damage from a collision, using aftermarket parts can cause a safety risk. There are several reasons for this, the first being that when new cars are manufactured and tested for safety they are tested based upon their original parts, and often things are carefully calibrated.
However once you replace parts with aftermarket ones, the material, weight, and other factors change. This could mean the airbags do not deploy when they are supposed to, which could be serious.
In 2016 Action Fraud released a public warning that counterfeit airbags were being sold on eBay, and explosives were found inside them. Cases like this highlight why you should only ever go to a reputable garage for your repairs.
Due to the variation in quality of aftermarket parts, you cannot always guarantee that your car will perform well. There are many different aftermarket manufacturers and lots of competition, and while some aftermarket parts are reverse engineered, to improve performance, sometimes they are just poor copies of the original.
Often aftermarket parts are made to fit several different models of car, and occasionally this can cause the part to break, not function quite as well, or cause additional problems down the line.
We spoke to VW Motor Parts, an official parts retailer, who told us “overall we recommend that members of the public always use official parts, as the safety and reliability is well worth the slightly higher price”.