Misconceptions About Aftermarket Parts

Imagine you’re standing with a friend at the repair shop after having been in an accident. You have the appraiser’s quote in hand. You’re ready to get back on the road. The mechanic looks at you and says “Your insurance will cover 100% for aftermarket parts, after your deductible. If you want OEM parts, you’ll need to cover the difference.”

As you’re wondering what to do, your buddy leans over and says “Pay the difference! You don’t want to ruin your car’s warranty, do you? Plus, I’ve heard those aftermarket parts aren’t as good.”

You look at the estimate for OEM, and the parts are 50% more than the aftermarket ones. But if your friend is right, you could be putting your car at risk. What should you do?

Misconceptions about Aftermarket Parts


What your friend shared with you, unfortunately, is wrong. His heart was in the right place, though, and he’s only repeating misinformation and misconceptions about aftermarket parts, much of which is promoted by the car companies themselves.

The misconception of aftermarket parts – also known as alternative parts – is that they are inferior, will void your warranty,  and are bad for your car.  The truth is they are just as good and sometimes even better than OEM but at a fraction of the cost.

So, what might you have heard about alternative parts that just isn’t true. Below, we’ve collected just a few of the most common misconceptions about aftermarket parts to help clear the air about their quality and use.

Misconception #1: Aftermarket Parts are Counterfeit


Alternative body parts are not counterfeit parts. In fact, true alternative parts are labeled with the manufacturer’s name and indicate on the package and the part that they are not OEM parts. Counterfeit parts will try to pass as OEM parts by using look alike logos and packaging to confuse the consumer. Most alternative collision parts manufacturers have been in business for decades and many also make OEM parts as well as their alternative parts so they would never jeopardize these relationships to build counterfeit parts. 

There are counterfeit parts on the market, the most famous recent example being Honda airbags that were stopped by US Customs and Border Protection. These airbags were labeled as OEM parts. 

While the car companies would like you to believe that these counterfeit bags represent aftermarket parts, in reality, they are an argument for using alternative parts, not against. Because alternative parts are sold under the aftermarket manufacturer’s name, there is no possibility of something like airbag fraud.

Misconception #2: Aftermarket Parts are Inferior


This is such a common misconception about alternative parts and one that is disproved by independent research and testing, such as the Certified Auto Parts Association. Alternative parts are designed using sophisticated CAD imaging capturing the specifications of the OEM parts. This high tech design and development can actually lead to an improvement on the original design.

All certified parts must endure extensive metallurgy analysis and destructive test alongside the car company parts to demonstrate they will have the same performance specifications. Additionally, some alternative parts manufacturers will crash test their parts to ensure and validate the performance of their parts. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also done crash testing to verify that the alternative parts performed similarly to the OEM parts.

Misconception #3: Aftermarket Parts are Not as Safe


Replacement parts – whether OEM or alternative parts – are divided into two categories. The first is cosmetic. These are parts that exist for the look of the vehicle, like fenders, quarter panels, door skins, and trim, and are not responsible for contributing to the safety of the vehicle’s occupants. These parts don’t alter crash results, according to the IIHS and other agencies.

The second is structural or functional. Structural parts include those that maintain the safety of the vehicle, such as front-end crush zones and safety cages. Functional parts, like lights and mirrors, are specialized in their role on the vehicle. These replacement parts must replicate exactly the original parts to uphold the crashworthiness of the original parts. This is true of both OEM replacement parts and alternative parts, many of which do meet these requirements.

Misconception #4: OEM is the Best Choice

The car companies will try to convince the consumer and repairers that only their parts should be used in the repair process, falsely implying alternative parts could void warranties or cause future problems, but this is simply not true and violates the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.

What they do not tell you is that you will pay as much as 50% more for the OE branded part which actually may not even be the same as the original brand part your vehicle was built with. Consumers buy alternative brakes, tires, batteries and other parts everyday without concerns, why should alternative body parts be any different, especially when they have no impact on your car starting, stopping and getting around town.

Misconception #5: Repair Shops Refuse to Use Aftermarket Parts


Service departments within dealerships, of course, always turn to OEM parts. And there are a few repair shops out there that prefer OEM parts to aftermarket. While these shops say that’s because of concerns about alternative parts, in reality using OEM parts takes pressure off of the repair shop. The OEM will handle warranties for their parts, and the repair shop doesn’t need to do any research to ensure that the part they are using is a top-quality part. The heat is off of them – but it’s on to the consumer, who ends up paying a premium because the shop won’t look beyond OEM.

Misconception #6: Your Car Will Lose Value Because of Aftermarket Parts


According to Kelly Blue Book, the experts on car value, “the use of OEM car parts has little to no effect on the value of your vehicle”.

Misconception #7: You’ll Void the Warranty with Aftermarket Parts

In 1975, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnuson-Warranty Act, which was meant to help consumers better understand and compare product warranties. Under that act, a dealership
cannot void the warranty on your car unless they can prove that the part that you used was the cause of the failure. In other words, if you replace a headlight with an alternative part, and then your transmission stops working, the dealer cannot void your warranty because of the headlight. 

It’s important to note that many quality alternative parts manufacturers offer extensive warranties on their parts, and stand behind them. 


Believing the misconceptions and misinformation about alternative parts will keep you from
saving both time and money. Alternative parts are well made, less expensive, and more readily available than the same OEM parts.

But while alternative parts are good for you and your bank account, they aren’t so good for the car companies, who want you to believe the misinformation. Competition is helping to keep the cost of OEM parts lower than the car companies would like, and they will do nearly anything to try and drive out the competition. Having a choice as a consumer, though, is important. If you don’t want the car companies to push out alternative parts and be able to set prices to whatever they’d like, get involved. Write to your representative, telling them that you have a right to choose what to put on your car. Together, we can keep the car companies from controlling the parts market and the cost of repairing your vehicle.

If you’re concerned about maintaining healthy competition between OEMs and alternative parts manufacturers, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant website. And contact your state and federal representatives and let them know that you want to keep your choice, and your voice when it comes to what goes in and on your car.

Keep the cost of repairing your car reasonable, and the cost of auto insurance from climbing

If you’re concerned about maintaining healthy competition between OEMs and alternative parts manufacturers, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant website. And contact your state and federal representatives and let them know that you want to keep your choice, and your voice when it comes to what goes in and on your car.


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