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When shopping for auto parts, there are many factors to consider, some of which may not be obvious to the layman. Even if you don’t know much about cars, you can learn how to ask the right questions and to make an informed decision based on the answers.
How to Сompare Auto Parts
Every car is different, and so are the needs of every driver. Before purchasing any car parts, you must do research, read auto parts reviews, and ensure that you understand how to properly compare many different products. A bit later in this process, you will want to ask some very specific questions, but for now, start with some general ones, such as, “What parts do I need, and what exactly do I need them to do for me?”
Many auto parts manufacturers and retailers specialize in certain categories or sub-types of parts. Your local garage probably has a small selection of tires for sale, but if you’re concerned about getting exactly what you need, consider companies that specialize in it. In many cases, you can break this down even further; there may be a company that only sells racing tires, while another only sells rugged off-road tires.
In short, avoid comparing prices until you’re sure that you’ve narrowed your choices down to a category of parts that are truly comparable to one another. Never feel pressured to make a purchase right away; you can always bookmark online products to come back to later, or tell a salesman that you need time to do research.
What Customers Like and Dislike About Purchasing Auto Parts
Based on consumer reviews and complaints about auto parts from pissedconsumer.com and several other review platforms, people who buy automotive parts tend to have pretty clear ideas about what they like and dislike.
- Honesty and transparency from dealers, mechanics, and auto parts stores. Auto parts distributors, at least in some parts of the world, have a reputation for shady business practices, often trying to aggressively upsell ignorant customers on parts or repairs they don’t actually need. Most consumers greatly appreciate it when mechanics or salesmen take time to understand their needs and discuss auto parts in plain language, without overly pushy sales tactics or doomsday predictions.
- Quality workmanship. Routine car maintenance is a known expense that you can plan for, but unexpected breakdowns or problems are quite another. Most people don’t like having to spend money unexpectedly, so when they suddenly need replacement parts, they at least want to feel reassured that the problem is truly fixed. Even with routine maintenance, consumers want to know their car will be healthy until its next checkup. Solid craftsmanship of the parts themselves and reliable installation (if applicable) are very important to customers.
- Good warranties. Even when buying auto parts from a trusted manufacturer, a generous warranty adds another layer of protection for consumers. A good deal is nice, but peace of mind is priceless.
- Being overcharged/unnecessary upselling. If you don’t know much about cars, you may dread a visit to your local mechanic or dealership, fearing they will tell you that your car is going to explode within weeks if you don’t purchase their expensive service package. Customers don’t appreciate their ignorance being exploited, and such tactics are not a wise long-term plan for the business, either.
- Problems with online order fulfillment. The internet has done wonders for shopping, and automotive parts are no exception. However, many consumers complain about receiving incorrect parts when ordering online; there are millions of car parts, and many of them look very similar, so it can be hard to know you’ve got the right one just by looking at pictures on a website. Suppliers and retailers aren’t immune to errors either, and can make their customers feel more comfortable by triple-checking online orders for accuracy.
How to Select the Right Parts and Accessories for Your Vehicle
There are several important decisions to be made once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a workable list: who to buy your parts from, what exact parts to buy for your particular needs, and who will install them.
Manufacturer vs. Aftermarket Parts
When it comes to deciding who to buy your car parts from, there are two basic options: manufacturer or aftermarket. Both have their own pros and cons.
- Are made by the same company who makes your car.
- Are usually fully guaranteed, if an approved mechanic or dealer installs them.
- Are generally more expensive than aftermarket parts.
- May be harder to find, particularly if you drive a foreign car or one that has been discontinued or was never very popular.
- Are made by companies other than the makers of your car - their expertise may vary.
- May or may not have guarantees or warranties.
- Typically cost less than manufacturer parts.
- May be offered in varieties or configurations not offered by the manufacturer at all.
- Are generally easier to find, as many different companies will offer the same parts.
Where, How, and How Much Do You Drive?
If you live in the desert southwest of the United States, you will not want the same tires that someone living in Norway needs. Ambient temperature, weather patterns, terrain, elevation, and general road conditions all factor into deciding what kind of tires to buy - and the same variables influence some other car parts as well.
Consider also what your vehicle needs to do for you. Do you go camping every weekend, hours from the nearest town? Do you need to be able to haul heavy loads in a trailer? Perhaps you just want to maximize your fuel efficiency? Considering these questions ahead of time will make your purchasing experience faster and easier.
For example, if you’re researching brake pads, make sure you understand why one set costs $80 and another sells for $450. If you drive a fuel-efficient sedan back and forth to work on paved roads, you probably don’t need brake pads meant for drag cars. Similarly, if you intend to sell your car in the next six months, you may not want to spend extra money on expensive long-life pads that last for years.
Prioritizing Your Needs
Once you have a clear understanding of what kinds of parts you need, there is one final filter to apply: how much can you afford to spend, and what will your budget get you in terms of quality? Perhaps you need tires and brakes, but only have $750 to spend on both. You can get excellent tires with economy brakes, or vice versa - or opt for mid-range parts in both cases. Finally, remember to think about your future needs as well as your present desires; if you intend to drive the same car for another ten years, consider emphasizing longevity over high-end performance.
Who Will Install Your New Car Parts?
Once you’ve decided what parts to buy, it’s time to figure out who will install them. Like the choice of aftermarket vs. original parts, you have a few options here, each with upsides and downsides. As always, be sure to read reviews for auto parts companies when considering hiring someone to do work for you.
- Factory dealers often charge the most for parts and installation, but specialize in your particular vehicle and will usually strongly guarantee their work.
- Independent mechanics typically charge less for their services, but still perform quality work, especially if they are ASE certified and/or specialize in your make of vehicle. Parts and labor guarantees may not be as robust as those offered by a dealership.
- Installing the parts yourself is usually the cheapest option, but may require special tools or advanced knowledge. Repairs performed incorrectly may void your warranty.
There is a lot to consider when purchasing and installing automotive parts, but by following this simple guide, you should be able to get the result you want at a reasonable cost.