Choosing Car Parts: Genuine, Aftermarket, Rebuilt, Reconditioned, Recycled?
With car parts divided into various categories it’s easy for motorists to become confused. Such categories include genuine, aftermarket, rebuilt, reconditioned, and recycled car parts. As a motorist, it’s important to know about each of them. Inevitably you will choose between these various categories of spare parts to carry out repairs and/or maintenance on your vehicle – or that decision will be made by a mechanic on your behalf. We’ll highlight the considerations and differences for drivers to be aware of.
Genuine and aftermarket car parts are the most commonly selected parts, carrying longer warranty coverage. Repairs conducted through a vehicle manufacturer or their dealer network will often utilise (new) genuine car parts. Independent repairers and mechanics will readily carry aftermarket replacements. While both are sourced new, the key difference is that genuine parts are those specified as the original equipment installed in the vehicle. That is, it is the specific (OEM) part listed in the vehicle’s build specifications.
Meanwhile, aftermarket car parts are those which at least conform to said specifications, and may even provide superior quality – think belts and hoses which last longer. With quality that rivals the OEM parts available, motorists often choose aftermarket parts because they can sometimes be significantly cheaper. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the parts to be manufactured by the same provider, with branding details instead carrying aftermarket branding.
Depending on how old the vehicle you’re driving is, or how difficult it is to source certain parts, it may become viable to use rebuilt or reconditioned parts. This is typically an option that mechanics will offer to motorists driving older vehicles, or classic cars. Rebuilt parts involve full disassembly, followed by remanufacturing the part to restore or include new components. Such parts are tested for conformance to manufacturers’ specifications and will typically have a generous warranty period.
Motorists often assume that reconditioned parts are the same as rebuilt parts. Although they are similar in their disassembly, their remanufacturing typically does not guarantee ongoing performance like rebuilt parts. This is because reconditioned parts are designed mostly to the extent that they will become functional once again. Nonetheless, both rebuilt and reconditioned parts can be significantly cheaper than OEM parts, and slightly cheaper than aftermarket parts.
Last but not least, recycled parts are from vehicles no longer in operation. They may be sourced from vehicles which were involved in a crash, no longer viable to run, scrapped, and so forth. Often favoured by DIY hobbyists who are repairing their own vehicle(s), or owners of vehicles that have stopped being manufactured some time ago, the parts vary considerably in their condition. As always, it’s beneficial to search for parts from a newer vehicle, or one with a lower odometer reading.
Cosmetic or functional parts may be attained with less concern for their condition. Performance parts however require greater attention to detail. They may hide hidden problems and are likely to have a shorter lifespan compared with the preceding options – nor are they necessarily covered by warranty. It’s also important to ensure the part matches your vehicle. If seeking help with installation, make sure your mechanic is comfortable installing said parts.
One last thing – the industry is still battling the problem of fake car parts, which are often passed off as genuine. To ensure your safety, and the safety of those around you, always obtain your parts from a reputable supplier, merchant or qualified mechanic.