Why Bad Drivers Prefer Aftermarket Over Manufacturer Car Parts

Do men or women make better drivers? It’s a question that I suspect has been debated ever since Henry Ford started mass-producing his Model T at the turn of the twentieth century.

One thing is certain, I know the question has always been a hot topic of discussion in my house, although I’ve always smugly maintained a slight edge over my wife in the debate.

Admittedly, the Honeybee would point out that I’m not a driver without blemishes on my record. She’s right.

Several years ago I got slapped with only my third moving violation in 30 years of driving — and the only one since we were married 15 years ago — an illegal left turn.

Then again, she got hit with a ticket for the very same offense not long after I did.

She also has a lead foot. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that, as a teenager, the Honeybee managed to crash her car into a tree stump. (Don’t ask.)

More recently, she put a nice dent along the side of our mini-van after brushing against a mailbox while backing out of her friend’s drive-way. We chuckle about it now, but I can assure you, it wasn’t funny then.

Unfortunately, my days of having the upper hand in the who’s-the-better-driver debate came to an end last week after I got into a car accident on my way home from work. Yep.

To make a long story short, I ended up rear-ending a car on the freeway; thankfully, nobody was hurt.

Luckily, because the speed at impact was not much more than ten miles per hour, the only appreciable damage to either car was on my 1997 Honda Civic: a slightly bent hood, a cracked grille molding, and a broken headlight housing bracket.

Assessing the Damage

Of course, I called my handyman father-in-law, Tony, who also happens to be a retired car mechanic, to come over and assess the damage. I was hoping he would tell me we could simply bend the hood back into place, but he recommended we err on the side of caution and get a new one.

So I called the Honda dealer to see how much it would cost to replace the damaged parts. Here’s what I was quoted:

  • Hood ($387.30)
  • Passenger-side headlight assembly ($232.00)
  • Grille molding only ($38.30)

With tax, the total bill came to $719.25.

Tony then suggested we go online to see if I could save a little money by finding suitable “aftermarket” parts, which is just another term for parts that are not made by the original manufacturer. Anyway, here’s what I found:

  • Hood ($129.64)
  • Passenger-side headlight assembly ($43.54)
  • Complete grille assembly ($43.00)

I bet you can guess which parts I ended up buying.

In the end, I decided to pass on the aftermarket grille because it looked nothing like Honda’s stock version.

Still, the aftermarket prices were so much cheaper than the dealer’s OEM parts, that I went ahead and tacked on a driver-side headlight assembly too for another $90.00. Why it cost almost 50 bucks more than the passenger-side assembly I have no idea, but I really didn’t care considering the money I was saving.

After taking a few minutes to find an online coupon code that knocked $25 off my bill, the bottom line was just $257.59, tax included. I know; I couldn’t believe the price differential either.

Comparing OEM and Aftermarket Parts

As my recent experience shows, OEM parts are extremely expensive. A fairly recent study by the Property Casualty Insurers of America (PCI) found that it would cost $73,049 to rebuild a 2005 Ford Mustang GT with car company crash parts — three times what it cost to buy the car new — and that excluded the cost of paint and labor.

Thankfully, aftermarket parts help keep repair costs down by ensuring a competitive market exists for consumers, which is why most insurance companies advocate using them.

According to Edmunds, there are pros and cons to both aftermarket and OEM automobile parts. For example, in addition to being less expensive, aftermarket parts are widely available and can be found from a multitude of suppliers. They also offer quality that can be either on par or, ironically, superior to their stock counterparts. However, Edmunds also cautions consumers buying aftermarket parts to be on guard for spotty quality.

Some aftermarket parts may not come with a warranty either, although many do. In my case all the parts I purchased came with a 1-year guarantee — which is exactly what Honda offered on their parts. The only difference was that Honda’s guarantee also covered their labor.

If you are making collision repairs, Edmunds recommends using only manufacturer parts because some body panels may not fit properly or have improper crumple zones. That being said, if you choose to go that route, keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for insurance companies to make you pay the difference between the aftermarket and OEM prices — and that can be a significant amount of cash.

On the bright side, the non-profit Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) argues that all aftermarket parts certified by them are just as good as their OEM equivalents because they’re thoroughly tested to ensure they “fit, perform and last the same as the originals.”

Ultimately, the final decision is up to you. Either way, it’s another one of those debates that doesn’t look like it’s going to be settled anytime soon.

Photo Credit: Marianne O’Leary


  1. 1

    Spedie says

    The Ford dealer wants nearly $30 for a plastic screw that keeps the headlight from vibrating on the passenger side of my hubby’s truck. It’s just a slight vibration – the original one got damaged in a small collision.

    The plastic screw is not much bigger than my fingernail.


    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      I’ll say it’s ridiculous — that’s highway robbery! So did you try looking for an aftermarket part or alternative replacement part? I bet you can find one over the Internet if you type in the Ford part number and “aftermarket” or “alternative part.”

  2. 3

    DC says

    Of course, sometimes those after market parts are counterfeit parts that do not meet OEM standards for strength, etc. That’s probably not a big deal for some parts on cars, but for anything that is critical, like the brake system, I think you are better off with OEM.

    The REAL problem with counterfeit parts is the airline industry, where counterfeit parts do not meet FAA standards. You don’t want critical parts failing mid-flight.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      That’s actually quite disturbing, DC. I hope the issue isn’t too widespread. Thankfully large passenger jets in the West have enough redundancy built into to them that a malfunction of one part (or even an entire subsystem like an engine, for that matter) is not supposed to ever result in a catastrophic system failure. Not so sure about the smaller commuter airliners — but I suspect it’s the same thing.

  3. 6


    Sorry to hear about your accident. Glad you’re ok!

    Were you enjoying the scenery, texting or just thinking about your wonderful wife and were a little distracted?

    • 7

      Len Penzo says

      Well, Dr. Dean, it’s a long story. And, by the way, technically, the first and last options are kind of related! πŸ˜‰

  4. 8


    That’s a MONSTER difference in price! With the savings between OEM and aftermarket prices you can now take her out to celebrate her new “better-driver-than-you” designation.

    • 9

      Len Penzo says

      Hey, I’m not admitting she’s the better driver now, Joe. Just that things are now, well, too close to call. LOL πŸ˜‰

  5. 10


    Plus with a 1997 Honda Civic you can get a carbon fiber hood with your mesh grill and a set of fake HIDs. I bet that would be similar to the OEM price, haha.

    Glad you are okay!

  6. 12

    Againstthegrain says

    Great info about the parts.

    But maybe you and the Honeybee would consider taking some driver’s ed refresher courses. *Only* three moving violations in 30 years, including 2 between the two of you in the past 15 years; backing into a mailbox; and rear-ending another car? I guess since no one has ever been hurt and you haven’t totaled a car, maybe you and the Honeybee aren’t terribly bad drivers, just lucky. πŸ˜‰

    • 13

      Len Penzo says

      Yikes; tough crowd. πŸ˜‰

      Are three moving violations in 30 years (and over a million miles of driving, 95 percent of it on busy Southern California roads and freeways) really the sign of a bad driver?

      I mean, I don’t know; is it? I kind of thought that was pretty good. After all, one could argue the absence of tickets and accidents is also a sign of luck, you know. :-)

      On second thought, are you offering lessons on how to be an icon of driving excellence? I probably *should* take a couple. And the Honeybee too. πŸ˜‰

  7. 14

    Tim H says

    after market parts?

    Being frugal is one thing, but being cheap is another.

    If your car was a rolling pile of junk to begin with…

    If you are not going to keep the car more than a few months…

    if your not overly concerned with the proper function of the safety systems built into the car…

    if you don’t care about the resale value or trade in value of your car…

    just to name a few examples, then sure go ahead and use aftermarket parts to fix your car.

    but if you plan to keep your car for years to come…

    are not the best driver in the world and may need the safety systems to perform optimally…

    are driving a leased car…

    would like to park in your inlaws driveway when visiting instead of three blacks away…

    don’t want to undergo extensive prosthetic or plastic surgery in the event of a minor fender bender gone awry…

    then maybe you should consider factory OEM parts.

    of course colored duck tape is also readily available and the Nascar crews swear by it!

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