Choosing between original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, and aftermarket car parts is all about squaring your priorities with your budget.
Each option has its benefits, but how long a part will last and its initial cost can vary widely depending on if you go with OEM or aftermarket parts. Which one you decide to go with will determine the impact on the overall cost of owning your car.
Here’s a comparison of the perks and drawbacks of OEM and aftermarket parts and which is the best option for certain situations.
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What’s the difference between OEM and aftermarket parts?
Let’s start with genuine parts, which are parts that were installed in your vehicle by the manufacturer when it was first sold. They often have the logo of the vehicle manufacturer, such as Honda or Subaru, printed on them.
Once you’ve purchased a vehicle and need to make repairs or replace parts for maintenance, the terminology changes to the following:
Original equipment manufacturer, or OEM. These parts are made by the same manufacturer that made the genuine parts in a car, but they’re installed when a car needs a repair. Because the same manufacturer makes OEM parts, they are guaranteed to fit in your car.
Some retailers use “genuine” to refer to OEM parts. This is a marketing tactic and doesn’t mean that the part will work better. A part is either an OEM part or not an OEM part — regardless of if it is described as “genuine.”
Aftermarket parts. These are made by manufacturers that did not make the original car parts and therefore do not qualify as OEM parts. They can often be used in place of OEM parts, but they carry the potential of not being fully compatible with your car.
Comparing OEM and aftermarket parts
There are benefits and downsides to OEM and aftermarket parts, and a quick comparison shows that OEM parts win for dependability as a longer-term investment. On the other hand, aftermarket parts offer more options and tend to be more affordable.
Here’s a quick comparison of their pros and cons.
Pros and cons of OEM parts
In general, OEM parts offer peace of mind, but that comes at a higher cost. Here are a few benefits and drawbacks to buying OEM parts.
Compatibility. OEM parts are manufactured to fit your vehicle and work like they’re supposed to with your car’s systems.
Longer life. Because they are made in the same way as genuine parts, OEM parts tend to be more reliable than aftermarket parts and last for longer.
Warranty. OEM parts should come with a warranty to protect you if the part is defective or doesn’t work properly. The specific warranty will differ by manufacturer.
Higher cost. Due to their better quality, OEM parts tend to cost more than aftermarket parts.
Limited availability. With a higher demand, OEM parts can have limited availability and