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Where To Buy Auto Parts?

Copyright AA1Car

Auto repair and maintenance often requires replacing certain parts. Auto parts can be purchased locally from an auto parts store or car dealer, or ordered online from various auto parts suppliers. So the question is, where is the best place to buy auto parts?

Regardless of where you buy your car parts, fluids and filters, brand name products are generally better quality than no-name or private label products. Ideally, you want original equipment quality with an aftermarket discount price. Buying parts from a local car dealer will give you OEM quality but at a significantly higher price. In some cases, though, you may have no choice because certain parts (control modules, collision parts, etc.) may not be available from aftermarket sources locally or online.

retail auto parts stores

Buy Your Car Parts Locally Advantages:

No waiting for parts if you need the parts now. Most stores stock a wide variety of commonly replaced parts. If a part is not in stock, it can usually be delivered to the store the same day or next day from a warehouse.

You don't have to pay a shipping charge for the parts you buy, or wait days or weeks for parts to arrive from who-knows-where?

Most retail auto parts stores give you the option to order online, then pick up the parts at your local store.

If you have a question, you can ask a real live person face-to-face in a store. You can't do that online.

If you have to compare parts to identify the correct replacement part, you can do that in a store. You can't do that online.

If you need to exchange old parts or return parts for a core credit, you can do that live in person without having to pay a shipping charge.

If you have a problem, a warranty issue, or want to return a part, you can also do that in person and talk with a store employee or the manager face-to-face. Resolving an issue online can often be a challenge.

You can browse in the store for sale items or other parts or accessories you might need (like motor oil, antifreeze, specialty chemicals, etc.). Impulse purchases can be fun!

You can have your alternator or starter bench tested to see if it is good or bad. You can't do that online.

You can get your old rotors resurfaced when doing a brake job.

You can support a local business that employs local people.

Things like motor oil, chemicals, coolant, wiper blades, filters, etc. are best purchased locally rather than online. Shipping charges for online orders can add additional cost that offsets any savings of a lower online price.

Buy Car Parts Online Advantages:

You can shop and compare prices from a wide variety of suppliers quickly and easily to find the best deal. Online prices are often less than local retail prices.

Online sellers don't have the overhead expense of maintaining a physical store, so their costs can be lower.

You may be able to find specialty parts and accessories that are not available locally.

Some parts you can buy online direct from the manufacturer.

You can shop places like Ebay for used parts, specialty parts or other hard-to-find parts.

You can shop Amazon and other online sellers to compare brands (and prices) that may not be offered in local retail parts stores. You may even get special discounts for ordering online and/or free shipping depending on the size of your order.

Parts are shipped to your front door eliminating the need to drive to a store.

Where I Buy Car Parts

I live in the Chicago suburbs, so within an 8 mile radius of my house there are probably two dozen auto parts stores. We have traditional parts stores such as NAPA and CarQuest, and retailer stores such as Advance Auto, AutoZone, PepBoys and O'Reillys, plus big box retailers such as WalMart. We also have a zillion car dealerships, all of which sell OEM parts through their parts departments.

Where I shop depends on what I am buying. For maintenance items like motor oil, spark plugs and filters, I watch for sales and buy from which ever store is currently offering the best deal. For motor oil, Walmart is hard to beat. For repair parts I need right now, I will call around to several stores or dealerships, compare prices and see who has the part in stock. If a store has a part in stock but wants a few bucks more than a competitor, I'd rather pay a little higher price than wait for a part.

If I'm not in a big hurry for a part and don't need it right away, I will shop online. But I will not go for the cheapest price. I avoid no-name parts from unknown vendors and try to stick with brand name parts that come with a warranty. I usually buy from the same online suppliers I have bought from before, and to date have not had any bad experiences. Shipping has been within a week or less, the parts have arrived okay and I have had no installation or other issues.

I did have a warranty return on an alternator I installed in my son's car. One of the diodes shorted out about 10 months into the one-year warranty. The name-brand supplier stood behind their warranty and refunded my money with no hassles (but I did have to ship back the old part at my expense, and it cost me $12 for the postage).

I shop ebay quite often for used parts or hard-to-get parts (antique parts, performance parts, etc.) Ebay is like an online swap meet. But you have to be careful. Some people who sell on ebay misrepresent the parts they are selling or are very slow to ship. Pay close attention to their feedback ratings, and avoid anybody who has more than a few negative feedbacks.

Click Here for a list of retail parts stores and online parts sources, .

OEM or Aftermarket Car Parts?

For many situations, new aftermarket parts are just as good as OEM parts, and usually cost less. Brand name products are always best, but many private label brands come from the same suppliers. Just be careful when buying remanufactured or rebuilt parts. Some are very good quality and others aren't much better than the old parts you are replacing.

Personally, I would not buy a reman part for one of my vehicles unless it came with a one year or longer warranty. A 30-day warranty is almost worthless in my opinion, and a 60-day or 90-day warranty is not much better. A short warranty tells me the supplier doesn't have much faith in their own product, so they don't really want to back it with a meaningful warranty. Avoid these kind of parts unless you are selling a vehicle and just want a cheap fix (that probably won't last).

As for OEM parts, there is usually no question about quality, fit or function. OEM service and repair parts have to meet certain criteria, and are as good as the OEM parts they replace. But car dealers charge full list price for the OEM parts they sell, so OEM parts are often more expensive than new or reman aftermarket parts. Dealers also tend to stick it to consumers on parts that are not available in the aftermarket (like Saturn fuel filters for $90!!!).

The choice is yours. There is no law that says you have to install OEM parts on a vehicle to keep its warranty in effect. Just make sure the parts you install are quality parts that meet or exceed OEM specifications, and are backed by a meaningful warranty. That's my advice.

Update: January 2011

You Don't Have to Take Your Car Back to the New Car Dealer to Get It Fixed

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a Consumer Alert in response to a release by Honda stating consumers had to have their vehicles serviced and repaired by a Honda dealer, otherwise it would void their warranty. The FTC alert states that consumers can have their vehicle maintained ANYWHERE they choose, or they can do the work themselves without fear of voiding their warranty. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act gives consumers the right to have their vehicles serviced and repaired at the location of their choice.

While the Honda release states that warranty coverage might be voided if a non-original equipment part causes a problem with the vehicle, the FTC Alert warns that the manufacturer or dealer must be able to demonstrate that it was the aftermarket part and/or service, and not another defect, that caused the problem.

The FTC Alert can be viewed at

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