During the life of your car, it is likely you will be forced to replace some of its parts, or you may choose to voluntarily upgrade some components. When the need for new parts arises it pays to weigh up whether to buy Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts or aftermarket parts. Taking the time to do some research on your options will help you feel more confident in your choices and may even save you some money.

The key difference between OEM parts and aftermarket parts is that OEM exactly replicates the original parts that came with your vehicle from the manufacturer. In comparison, aftermarket parts are designed similarly to OEM components, but they differ mainly in quality, price and other details.

Deciding to replace your parts with OEM equivalents is usually the safest bet when it comes down to risk versus reward. The quality guarantee you receive when buying parts from your car manufacturer gives you peace of mind, knowing that your new part will function just as the original did. Also, buying OEM often comes with the added bonus of the warranty offered by most automakers and dealerships.

One disadvantage of aftermarket parts is that they often don’t come with a warranty, especially if you are dealing with cheap parts, as the absence of a warranty helps vendors to keep their prices low. Due to this, you should be cautious when purchasing aftermarket parts if you are hoping to have a warranty to fall back on.

A key difference between OEM and aftermarket parts is the huge variety offered in the aftermarket range. This is because there are a large number of third party manufacturers that make and sell adaptations and variations of parts, whereas OEM manufacturers tend to vary much less in their offerings. This, in turn, gives you a wider selection and more competitive pricing. However, this wide range can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with aftermarket brands.

Despite poorer quality often being mentioned as a downside of aftermarket parts, that’s not always the case. If you’re not confident making the call yourself, it can pay to ask your mechanic or a knowledgeable friend to recommend trustworthy brands. An online search will often reveal ratings and reviews too, but it may take some digging to uncover them.

The availability of aftermarket parts is also convenient for consumers, as your local auto parts store will more than likely stock the aftermarket variation of the part you are looking for, rather than the OEM version. If you wish to buy OEM you may have to go through the dealership itself and these parts may even have to be ordered in, which can take weeks and end up costing you more.

Your choice between OEM and aftermarket parts is dependent on what is best for you and your car. If you are willing to ask around and do some research you can often get a good deal, but keep in mind that aftermarket parts are not always quality-guaranteed like their OEM equivalents.