Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why are Auto Parts So Expensive?

Automotive parts are an interesting thing. We don’t much think about them when we buy a car, because why would we? The only time the cost of these items come up is after the warranty runs out, after we bump our insurance deductible up to save money when the value drops enough, or when we’re standing at the parts counter asking a cashier why the bill is $800, and why can’t you get that part at your local discount auto parts store?

The answer to that, as usual, is convoluted. When you break down the reality of the situation, though, you’ll begin to understand why prices are higher, particularly after the vehicle is no longer being built any more. Dealers and salvage yards are all willing to help, but seldom will you find the part and the price that really make you happy. Auto parts are tricky critters after all, and you might not realize this, but they’re actually relatively limited production items. Manufacturers only produce “X” number of parts during a vehicle’s production run. They make the parts for the cars that are going out of the factory, and they also make a few extra parts that they can warehouse for when those cars start to break. After that, the molds and tooling required to produce those parts are either destroyed or sold to aftermarket companies. Getting OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts a few years after the production run of a vehicle ends tends to get harder and harder.

It’s the law of supply and demand. OEM parts fit better than aftermarket parts, since the tooling and molds aren’t worn. They go to dealership service departments, who are well aware of the quality of parts they have, and price them accordingly. You can expect to pay 25%-50% more for dealership-quality parts than aftermarket parts, but you’ll get better quality parts as well, since those parts usually are produced at the same time that the original parts on your car are produced.

Even parts from salvage yards tend to be priced higher than aftermarket parts, but while these are more expensive, they’re typically priced lower than new parts. Unless, that is, the yard owner doesn’t think you know what you’re talking about when you ask for the price. Always be aware of the new price, and remember that what you’re buying is typically better quality than what you’d find in most places. More importantly, though, there is only a relatively limited amount of time during which you will actually be able to obtain that part, at any price. After all, once no one’s making them any more, you’re going to be completely out of luck in trying to find one.

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