Car parts: cheaper is not always better

Car parts: cheaper is not always better

When booking a car in for a service or for repairs, few of us are prepared for the shock when we realise the cost of the replacement parts. Depending on what dealership or garage you take your car to, these costs can vary because different types of parts are used.

Les Mc Master, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), says it's important to know exactly what parts are being fitted to your vehicle for your own safety, the good running of your vehicle and for insurance purposes. He says there are three types of parts typically available to South Africans: OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), non-OEM (generic parts) and pirate parts (parts manufactured with no quality control measures in place).

OEMs are usually available from your car dealership's service department and they're used as a direct replacement to the original part that was fitted on your car on the assembly line. Although these parts are more expensive, they usually come with a warranty and they are stringently tested for quality. Non-OEMs or aftermarket parts are non-branded and in many case they are as good, or even better, than the OEM counterpart. Some vehicle brands have even started to develop their own non-OEM lines as an additional income

"Many warranties require consumers to use OEM parts and they would be voided if approved parts are not used," explains Mc Master. "But this is not always the case, so check with your insurance service provider if you want to use non-OEM parts." Additionally, some non-OEM parts might not be a good physical fit for a specific vehicle, and using them could cause damage to your vehicle if fitted incorrectly. However, Mc Master points out that in most instances, the non-OEM parts offer good, affordable quality, making them favourable options for older models. "In fact, if it can be proven that the generic part is of the same quality as the OEM part, many insurance companies themselves ask repair shops to use these generic parts to lower costs."

Pirate parts are the 'cheap and nasty' offering and with these products there is no way of knowing what kind of quality you are getting. Some of these products are just as good as the OEM parts, but others are, frankly, extremely dangerous. They are cheaper because they cut corners and use poor quality materials and besides the potential damage to your vehicle, using these parts creates a very real physical risk.

If you receive a lower than expected quote, don't simply take it at face value, cautions Mc Master. "Pirate parts are usually an inferior-quality forgery and they are never a bargain, because the losses you will incur are invariably higher than the savings you think you will make." Not knowing what parts are being fitted to your vehicle could have expensive and
dangerous consequences. "However, making an educated choice could save you money. Ask questions and understand what parts are available, the requirements of your vehicle warranty and how different parts impact your vehicle's safety and resale value," concludes Mc Master.