Pow! Bang! Boom! Great! Just when you thought your day couldn’t get any worse you get into a fender bender. Thankfully, you have comprehensive collision coverage on your auto insurance. So, your vehicle will be repaired as good as new, right? Well….not exactly.

When your car rolls off the assembly line it’s been built with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts that are engineered for quality & longevity. They’ve also been crash-tested for that specific vehicle. However, when you get into an accident, your insurance company might steer you toward non-OEM (aftermarket) parts made by third party companies, as they tend to cost less. Non-OEM parts are built with respect to OEM standards but without certainty of having the same quality, or being made of the same materials, as the original ones. You might think it’s a good idea to go with the cheaper non-OEM part to save money…but while non-OEM parts might save your insurer cash, they could actually wind up costing you more in the long run. OEM parts will save you time, money & protect your safety. Here’s how…

  1. Time: By using OEM parts that are manufactured for your car, they are sure to fit properly and adhere to the manufacturer’s specifications. The use of non-OEM parts can cause the repair shop and consumer a lot of frustration if the part doesn’t fit properly, turning a 2-3 day repair into 2-3 weeks!
  2. Money: Purchasing those lower-cost non-OEM parts might cost the insurer less. But what about your own wallet? OEM parts keep your vehicle closer to its original state and will boost the value of your vehicle when it’s time to trade it in or resell it. Dealers are trained to check the repair history on vehicles being traded in, so you’re more likely to get a better value with the car fully intact with original OEM parts. This brings us to the last point.
  3. Safety: While they may not look so different on the outside, underneath the paint, cars have become vastly more complex over the past decade. Greater numbers of manufacturers are using a host of complex metal alloys in frames & unibodies to lighten vehicles for better fuel efficiency. The physics of how these metals respond to collision impact is complex & carefully engineered to protect the occupants. Not only are non-OEM parts not crash-tested – they aren’t even guaranteed to be made of the same alloy as the original OEM part. Even a part as seemingly insignificant as a bumper can affect the energy path, and therefore the safety performance, of your vehicle.

Ultimately, you should have the right to decide which parts are used to repair your vehicle. And there are a few insurance companies which request the use of OEM parts as a matter of policy. Thomas Walsh, Director of Claims at Oregon Mutual Insurance, says “We … use OEM parts for exterior sheet metal and safety items (i.e. headlamps).We ask .. the shop to use OEM if [we] notice aftermarket parts on the estimate.” Other insurance companies like Safeco sell OEM add-ons or endorsements to complement your existing policy and ensure that OEM parts are covered. So be sure to read the fine print of your insurance policy and talk to your agent. Your agent is your advocate representing your best interests … even when your insurer’s corporate policies may not.