Should You Gamble on Aftermarket Parts?

Toyota’s are reliable vehicles, built to last a long time. But with any vehicle that you are going to drive for as long as you’ll own your Toyota, there’s no doubt that a few parts will need to be replaced during the life of your vehicle.


Are Aftermarket parts just as reliable as OEM Parts? Not necessarily - they’re a bit of a gamble.

There are a variety of options at your disposal when you are looking for replacement or upgrade parts for your Toyota vehicles. You could go to the dealer and have them find the right part and do the work for you, and while this option is convenient and provides peace-of-mind, it is generally costlier than some of the other options which include the big online warehouses, local specialty shops, and store parts founds at retail chains like WalMart.

The key consideration is whether one ought to purchase original equipment manufacturer parts (OEM) or aftermarket parts.

What’s the difference between aftermarket parts and OEMs?

The manufacturer.

OEM parts for Toyotas are made by Toyota specifically for Toyotas, whereas aftermarket parts are made by a vast array of manufacturers.

The upside to aftermarket parts and tires is they are often cheaper. But less expensive does not always equate to better value. In many of these instances, you are getting exactly what you pay for. You won’t know who made the part, where it was made, or exactly what vehicle it was designed for.

OEM parts, on the other hand, are generally more expensive, but you know they are specified exactly for the Toyota vehicle you are repairing/upgrading.

Now this isn’t to say that you can never get good value or good parts from a generic aftermarket manufacturer, but the problem is that you are basically playing “radiator roulette” when you opt to buy generic parts to fix your Toyota’s cooling system, for instance. You just don’t know what you are going to get. Do you really feel like gambling?

OEMs are made by the automaker and comes from the same assembly line that builds the original stock parts, therefore it is exactly the same size, same specifications, same composition, heck the same package! Such isn’t the case with the aftermarket products; you’ll rarely if ever get a part with the exact same tolerances, materials and design characteristics.

With an aftermarket part you’ll sometimes get one that fits just right, that has been specified for the proper expansion coefficient, etc., but oftentimes you’ll get a part that appears to be roughly the same, but doesn’t quite fit like it should or vibrates more than it ought to or other small and minor issues that you won’t notice at first, but could potentially be the impetus to bigger issues down the road.

Like I said, you’re gambling with aftermarket parts and like a blackjack table in Las Vegas, the house generally has the advantage at this game of chance; you might get lucky and get a part that works perfectly, but more often you’ll be on the losing end, and occasionally you’ll be especially unlucky and will get a total lemon part that either doesn’t work at all or worse, seems to work yet fails you at the most inopportune time.

Most serious automotive aficionados insist on OEM parts for their precious “motorized babies” or they do a tremendous amount of homework and research to ensure that their aftermarket part manufacturers are reputable and reliable and then they do the installation and maintenance themselves so they now every nook, cranny, hum and purr of their Toyota vehicle.

If you are that type of person and have the time and energy and know-how to pull that all off, then you might be able to beat the house gambling on aftermarket parts. But for the rest of us, when your Toyota needs an upgrade or a part repair, the safest, most cost-effective bet is to stick with Toyota parts for your Toyota vehicle, thus leaving your car or truck in reputable hands and not handed over to the twists of fate.

Guest author Jack Payton likes to gamble, but he usually loses. He is a freelancer for online tire retailer