The day-to-day costs of running even a small, economical car aren’t cheap, and there are some aspects of car ownership that can really add up. But obtaining the right car parts doesn’t have to mean forking out big bucks. You just have to be aware of ‘false economising’ – in other words, wasting rather than saving money by purchasing a cut-price part that quickly breaks or doesn’t fit or function properly. It is also important to understand the difference between Original Equipment Manufacturer parts (OEM, made specifically by and for the vehicle manufacturer, and typically supplied by dealerships) and ‘aftermarket’ parts, which are usually provided by an independent store. Consumers are increasingly choosing to order replacement car parts online, and with such a wide range of products available, even many specialty and rare parts can be sourced and shipped from all over the world, and online shopping makes it easier to compare retailers and make an informed decision. Competition has driven down the prices of more common parts.
Local dealerships and OEM parts
If you want peace of mind and are willing to pay extra, a visit to your local dealership might be preferable to sourcing the product online and waiting to have it delivered to you; plus their mechanics should also be able to install the part for you if you’re not confident about doing it yourself. Sometimes, even something seemingly simple like fitting a new headlight bulb can be a tricky and time-consuming job. It’s possible you may still need to wait a few days or even weeks, depending on the availability of the part – and that waiting time might be better spent looking around for a better deal… However, a major advantage of buying an OEM part is that it is guaranteed to exactly match and work identically to the part it is replacing, and ordinarily will be covered by warranty.
The main advantage of ‘aftermarket’ parts is the enormous range of product options, with relatively quick and inexpensive worldwide shipping available. There is significant money-saving potential, and although the quality can vary considerably, many do function just as well (and sometimes even better) than OEM parts. It’s sometimes worth paying a little extra for warranty to be included – aftermarket parts are not always provided with one.
The importance of research
Always do your research – be an informed consumer, and find a reliable supplier. There are popular websites, for example, https://www.findapart.com.au, which have comprehensive databases of new, reconditioned and used car parts that can help you source what need at the click of a mouse, and you can narrow your search according to category, location and price. Before proceeding with your purchase, ensure that the website offers secure payment, and has a return policy, and that you are able to track your order. Ensure you have the correct serial number and always double check before making any online purchase.
Auto salvage is a good bet
Don’t overlook the opportunity to source the part you need from an auto salvage company (wreckers yard). In days gone by this would entail a visit to a scrapyard and looking around for the part you needed, and dealing with a possibly cantankerous and unhelpful scrapyard owner, which some people might understandably feel uncomfortable about. Nowadays auto salvage is big business and many companies sell parts online, and are therefore accountable to customer reviews, return policies, and state resale laws. It can be a great way to pick up the exact part you need at a cheap price – and if it came from an original car then you would be getting an OEM part for a fraction of the cost.
Go offline for unique parts
There are some parts you shouldn’t buy online. For example, if you are looking for a rare part for a hybrid vehicle, a high-end model, or a classic car, you are best advised to buy in person. These parts are unique, and you need to be sure that they are the right ones, and not cheap knock-offs that may end up compromising the roadworthiness or safety of your vehicle.
Cheapest option rarely the best
The smart choice is not always the cheapest choice – it is the one that offers the best value for money. So don’t be too tempted by a low price, as you could end up paying more in the long run.