When it comes to cars and the automotive industry as a whole, there are plenty of disagreements about what's best. Those debates can be about the best types of engines, transmissions, or even wheels. Still, one of the most enduring arguments is about the different types of replacement auto parts, including the distinction between genuine, OEM, and aftermarket auto parts.
In this article, we're going to try and clear the confusion surrounding this issue. Hopefully, as we explore each category, you'll understand better the difference between genuine and 'non-genuine' parts.
While we’re on the issue, we’ll also debunk the misconception that non-genuine parts are the same as counterfeit (hint: They’re not!).
There’s a lot to explore, so let’s go through them one at a time.
What Are Genuine Car Parts?
When anyone talks about genuine car parts, they’re referring to the ones that you can buy directly from the car manufacturer via the dealerships. People sometimes refer to these as ‘original equipment’ parts, because they are the very same ones that manufacturers use when assembling that particular model in their factories.
When you order genuine car parts, you’ll receive them in proper packaging that carries the manufacturer’s brand and logo.
What can you expect when you buy genuine car parts? Aside from the hefty price tag, you can expect that these parts will work perfectly in your car; there’s no question about it. The specs of the parts are tailor-made for your make, model, and trim, hence the term ‘original equipment’.
In simple terms, genuine parts are as ‘real’ as it gets, which is also why they’re the most expensive car parts on the market.
What Are OEM Car Parts?
OEM car parts are those that come from Original Equipment Manufacturers (hence, ‘OEM’).
Remember how we said that genuine parts were also called ‘original equipment’ parts? That’s because car manufacturers usually don’t make those parts themselves. Instead, they order them from Original Equipment Manufacturers who build the components up to the manufacturer’s specs.
So, when you buy an OEM car part, you're actually getting the exact same item that manufacturers would use to assemble that car at the factory. The only difference? The parts don't carry the manufacturer's branding.
Suppose you're ordering an OEM part for a Holden model. What you'll receive is the same part they would've used at a Holden assembly plant, minus the Holden logo and branding on the box.
In simple terms: OEM parts are the highest quality parts you can get, but since they don't carry the manufacturer's branding, they're significantly more affordable than genuine parts. Being high-quality and affordable also means that they're easier to get since more sellers would be willing to keep them in stock.
What Are Aftermarket Auto Parts?
Aftermarket auto parts come from third-party manufacturers. Usually, the companies that make and sell these parts are unrelated to the car manufacturer or Original Equipment Manufacturers. Instead, they’re independent companies that take it upon themselves to produce parts to fit your car and perform the same functions.
Since these parts are produced independently, that means you have plenty of options to choose from. You can find cheaper parts with the same functionality but at lower qualities. You could also find expensive aftermarket parts that perform better and last longer than genuine or OEM parts!
Of course, the quality of these parts will differ according to the company that makes them. With genuine or OEM parts, it's safe to assume that they’ll work well and last long. That’s not necessarily the same when it comes to aftermarket parts.
So, if you decide to go with these kinds of parts, you’ll need to practice a bit of caution and do your homework. Check for reviews online, or talk to your trusted mechanic. They’ll be able to give you advice on which aftermarket parts will work best for your make and model.
What Are Counterfeit Car Parts?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Believe it or not, there are dishonest manufacturers (and sellers!) who try to sell counterfeit car parts to unsuspecting buyers. These parts are fake, through and through. Everyone, from OEM companies to mechanics and even your buddy the ‘car guy’ will tell you the same thing: stay away from counterfeit parts at all costs.
Of course, that’s not always easy to do, as they’re called ‘counterfeit’ for a reason. These parts are the ones that pretend to be genuine, OEM, or aftermarket parts. They might look like the real deal and sell for much cheaper, but they’re not worth the financial or safety risks that come with them.
You see, a counterfeit part may have the same functionality as any other. However, these parts are not built following the strict quality and safety controls you’d find at an OEM or aftermarket manufacturer’s factory. Even worse, they’re probably not tested as rigorously as other parts, if at all!
On top of that, the materials that they use in counterfeit parts are typically subpar, exposing you to even further risk.
At a minimum, you might discover that counterfeit parts fail after a while, forcing you to buy a replacement. Worst case, the component fails while you’re driving, causing an accident, injury, or worse yet, loss of life.
Avoiding counterfeit parts isn't always easy. But the best way for you to reduce your chances of buying one is to only shop from trusted and reputable sellers, whether it's online or in a physical shop. And always remember: if the price of a spare part is too good to be true, there's a chance it might be a fake.
Hot Take: Non-Genuine Parts Are NOT The Same As Counterfeit Parts
There is some controversy in the automotive world surrounding this discussion on the different types of car parts. Some people in this debate are what you’d call ‘purists’, or people who insist that genuine parts are the only acceptable spare parts you should buy and use.
According to their logic, anything that isn’t a genuine part is automatically fake, a counterfeit, and absolutely horrible overall.
But as you’ve seen throughout this article, that’s obviously not the case. Counterfeit parts manufacturers are clearly in the wrong, and they pose an undeniable danger because of their inferior standards, manufacturing processes, and materials. Plus, those manufacturers pass off their spare parts as being from other brands, which means that they have zero accountability over their products’ safety and performance.
All of that is the complete opposite of OEM and aftermarket parts, whether you buy them brand new or second-hand. You see, even with a used OEM or aftermarket part, you know exactly who made them and where they come from.
As a result, OEM and aftermarket car part manufacturers are accountable for the performance and safety of their parts. They’ve got real ‘skin in the game’, as they say, which is why the materials they use and the manufacturing and testing processes are in line with industry standards.
So, to sum it all up, it's just plain wrong to say that non-genuine parts that come from OEM and aftermarket manufacturers are the same as fake car parts. Not only are they just as good as genuine ones, but some of them also perform even better than genuine parts do!
If you’re in the market for OEM or aftermarket car parts, check out the listings over at Carpart.com.au. If you can’t find what you need, you can always use the Parts Finder to send a request to suppliers all across Australia!
By Ray Hasbollah