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Aftermarket vs OEM Parts (What To Look For)

Choosing Your Parts

Whether you’re upgrading a part on your vehicle or replacing one, you may ask yourself if you should contact your car manufacturer or simply take a trip to reputable retailers such as AutoZone and shop around a bit. This question is very common, and many drivers can give you their opinions on factory accessories vs aftermarket parts and most opinions may vary. We are here to tell you what to look for when it comes to purchasing parts that you are confident with.

OEM Parts

Maybe you’re compelled to your manufacturer because you want a smaller, more streamlined catalog to choose from along with guaranteed compatibility, meaning you won’t have to second-guess your selected parts and possibly find them to be incompatible. Most importantly, a warranty is issued with parts purchased from a manufacturer, which can be a huge advantage when it comes to installing new vehicle components.

When you purchase parts from the manufacturer, you usually have to buy them from the dealership for the fastest service since official online wholesalers have to ship you the item, sometimes taking a long time, which is not ideal. Buying the parts at the dealership also means you can choose to hire their mechanics who typically prefer working with OEM parts rather than aftermarket ones for the ease and compatibility. If you are not experienced in self-service repairs, this is the ideal way to go. Sure, aftermarket parts can save you money in the long-run, but if you’d rather leave it to a professional, so the job gets done perfectly, the OEM parts have your back.

Typically, these pros come along with a few caveats, such as an exorbitant price difference. According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), “When it comes to bodywork, OEM parts tend to cost about 60 percent more.” But we feel OEM brands are without a doubt the highest quality products you can purchase because no one knows your car better than the manufacturer itself.

A close up of the OEM high performance struts on a 2020 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown in gold.

Aftermarket Parts

You may prefer aftermarket parts, especially if you’re experienced enough in car repairs. You may even know someone knowledgeable who will be able to recommend a reputable brand they can rely on. A reputable brand like Duralast are typically known for their high-quality parts such as brake pads whereas brands like DeeZee make solid Truck Bed Mats, and both are solid recommendations that serve as an example.

Some aftermarket parts, as we mentioned, can outperform the OEM parts because the manufacturer has to consider many factors when it comes to designing parts such as cost, noise, etc. So what this means is that an aftermarket brand can focus on different aspects of a part to enhance it over the manufacturer’s parts.

There is plenty of room for trial and error when it comes to aftermarket parts because unlike OEM parts, some are designed to push your vehicle to its maximum limit, and not installing these parts correctly could end up costing you much more money in the long run. For example, a WRX can fit a plethora of aftermarket upgrades, but if you don’t tune correctly, the results can be disastrous.

These parts wildly vary when it comes to quality and reliability. There are literally hundreds of brands for you to choose, some are certainly better than others, and some are plain untrustable. Aftermarket parts get a lot of stigma for not lasting as long as OEM parts, which is not a good criticism because you want new car parts to last as long as possible.

Apples To Apples

We’re going to be comparing a few products both from Aftermarket brands and OEM. Our testing begins with a 2019 Chevy Silverado 2500HD WT 4WD with a 6.0L V8 engine. All items described are available from either Chevrolet or Autozone to keep things simple.

When shopping for a product such as bed mats, you can expect to pay upwards of $169 for an official Chevrolet Long Box Bed Mat by BedRug made out of a ¾-inch-thick custom-molded foam backing that is guaranteed not to scratch your truck bed and even boasts about its ability to prevent mildew and mold. This Bed Mat is easily cleanable, and you can use a hose, vacuum, or even use a power washer to clean it with no damage.

On the Aftermarket side of Truck Bed Mats, you can equip your Chevy Silverado 2500HD with a Bed Mat from DeeZee for $82.99, which is an astonishing 68% difference in cost to the OEM, which proves PCI’s previous statement of OEM parts costing roughly 60% more than Aftermarket. The Bed Mat from DeeZee is made out of thick ⅜-inch rubber and is guaranteed not to crack or break in extreme temperatures, which is a feature it shares with its OEM counterpart.

We really admired both products but found OEM to be our choice in terms of quality and durability. Regarding the price difference, although higher than we would like, we overall found Chevrolet’s offering the more compelling choice when backed up by the manufacturer’s warranty in addition to its reliability.

A birds eye view of a black bed mat inside the bed of a white GMC Sierra 1500.

Next up, we are going to be equipping a 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 with an upgraded Exhaust System to increase the diameter of our vehicle’s stock pipes and let the engine breathe better. If we were to purchase one straight from the manufacturer, then GMC can sell you a 5.3L Cat-Back Single Exit Exhaust with an MSRP of $1,345.00 and is made out of T-304 stainless steel with a Natural finish. The exhaust has a tip diameter of 4.5 inches, Outlet Outside Diameter of 4.5 inches, and an Outlet Inside Diameter of 3.65 inches, ensuring optimal airflow to your engine. This system will be sold to you with a 12 month / 12,000-mile warranty from GMC, which we feel makes this a very compelling offering.

If we wanted to upgrade our Exhaust System through the means of aftermarket parts, then we would be drawn to MagnaFlow Performance Exhaust System Kit for only $731.99, a 59% difference in price to the OEM offering. This system is made out of 409 stainless steel with a polished finish. With a Tailpipe Diameter of 3 inches and a Tip Outlet Size of 4 inches, it is underwhelming compared to the OEM competition.

When To Choose Aftermarket or OEM

From what we’ve gathered here, there are many reasons why you might want to get vehicle parts directly from the OEM, and on some occasions, aftermarket parts may be ideal if money is tight or you are a learning mechanic. The best thing about choosing an OEM offering is the confidence in your purchase, knowing that your selection will do exactly what it needs to and have it professionally assembled on-site.

As previously mentioned, one of the purposes behind aftermarket parts is to push your vehicle to its maximum potential whilst paying less in the process. But remember, you have to be ready for extensive trial and error, especially in the beginning. Both OEM and aftermarket brands have a strong place in the market, and essentially thrive off one another through this age-old debate on aftermarket vs factory parts, and we believe although both deserve their spot in the market, OEM parts should never be underestimated and unconsidered.