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 38 years — and the only one since we were married — 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 awhile back 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.
And while I know a guy who buys junk cars, I didn’t need to go that route because the speed at impact was not much more than ten miles per hour; as a result, 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 that I tacked on a driver-side headlight assembly too for another $90.00.
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.
Comparing OEM and Aftermarket Parts
As my recent experience shows, OEM parts are extremely expensive. A study by the Property Casualty Insurers of America 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, ironically, can even be of superior quality to their stock counterparts. However, Edmunds also cautions consumers that aftermarket parts can also be of spotty quality.
Some aftermarket parts may not come with a warranty either. In my case all the parts I purchased came with a 1-year guarantee — the same that Honda offered, although Honda’s guarantee included labor.
If you’re making collision repairs, Edmunds recommends using only manufacturer parts because body panels may not fit properly or have improper crumple zones. Just 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 sum.
The good news is, the non-profit Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) argues that all aftermarket parts certified by them are 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