In 2017, the global automotive aftermarket generated a staggering $990 billion in revenues. What’s more, market experts forecast this to grow further to a whopping $1.42 trillion by 2024.
In the US alone, the 2021 projected value of this market is $433 billion.
This has a lot to do with the fact that 95% of American households own a car. To reduce car ownership costs, motorists turn to lower-cost aftermarket car accessories.
Whether you’re looking to repair or upgrade your ride, consider aftermarket products. Just because they cost less doesn’t mean that they’re of sub-par quality. In fact, many of them perform as well as OEM (original equipment manufacturer) products.
The question now is, how exactly do you find the right aftermarket accessories and parts? What should you look for in online sellers?
We’ll address all these questions in this post, so be sure to keep reading!
Find Out Your Car’s VIN
The easiest way to buy the right aftermarket or OEM car parts is through a car’s VIN. This stands for “vehicle identification number”. It’s a string of numbers and letters that make up a total of 17 characters.
No two operational or registered vehicles have the same VIN.
Each VIN has a code for its world manufacturer identifier (WMI) and specific maker. There are also characters denoting the car’s brand, specs, model year, and assembly site. The last six characters indicate the serial numbering system used by the manufacturer.
As you can see, your VIN is a wealth of information. With this alone, online accessory and part suppliers can already figure out the exact kind of car you have. They’ll know right away what your car’s factory specs are, from the seats to the stereo system to the engine.
This will then make it easier for them to provide you with the exact part you need.
That said, most cars have their VIN stamped on a plate or sticker to the left of the dashboard. This should be easy to find if you stand outside your car and look at the left side of the windshield.
You may also find the VIN on the inside of the driver’s door. There should be a sticker there with the VIN on it.
Make Your Online Search Easy With Advanced Search Filters and Queries
Some online suppliers of car parts and accessories use advanced product filters. Aside from make, model, and year, you can even search by part position! You can also narrow your search by entering your ride’s sub-model classification.
Some sites also have keyword search functions, product suggestions, and questionnaires. You’ll also find categories based on part function.
For instance, cold air intake systems will be under the “speed” or “performance” category. On the other hand, you’ll find brake system parts in most “vehicle safety” categories. If you need mufflers, you’re likely to find them in parts designed for fuel-efficiency.
Either way, you should use as many of these advanced guided search tools as possible. All these can make it easier for you to locate the exact part or accessory you need.
Use a Year-Make-Model Lookup Tool
Simply shopping around for aftermarket or OEM replacement parts? In this case, look for an online supplier with a year-make-model lookup tool. This will give you a list of parts and accessories specifically made for your car’s year, make, and model.
If you don’t have access to your VIN, you’ll find these details on the exterior backside of your car. There should be an emblem or decal there that indicates your ride’s make, model, year, sub-model, and trim.
This information should also be on your vehicle history report. In fact, this report would also contain your VIN.
Compare Products From at Least Three Online Suppliers
Once you’ve carried out your initial search, time to compare the prices! Make sure that you acquire prices from at least three different online suppliers. Don’t forget to compare the guarantees from each supplier too.
Make sure to look up consumer reviews on both the suppliers and accessory/part makers too. Look for any complaints made against the companies, especially regarding product quality and returns/exchange. This will give you a good idea of how reliable the company and how easy (or hard) it will be to file an exchange request.
There should also be a dedicated customer support hotline for product inquiries or complaints. This way, you’ll know that you can contact them anytime in case something’s wrong with your order. The last thing you want is to buy a part or accessory online and receive the wrong item.
Installing aftermarket parts on a car won’t void your vehicle’s warranty. However, you may void your warranty if you install an incorrect part and it damages your car. In this case, you’ll likely be responsible for shouldering the cost to repair the damage.
Make Sure the Supplier Offers a Warranty
Stick to aftermarket car accessories and parts that come with a warranty. Be sure to read the terms and conditions too, as exclusions may apply. The supplier should also have a policy on returns and exchanges.
A longer warranty may be more worth it even if the part or accessory does cost more. If there’s only a small price difference, it’s best to go with the product that has a better warranty.
Upgrade Your Wheels with the Best Aftermarket Car Accessories and Parts
There you have it, your ultimate guide on buying aftermarket car accessories and parts online. While aftermarket products do cost less than OEM, their prices — and performance — can still vary widely. That’s why you should take as much time as you can in comparing not only the products but also their makers and suppliers.
Ready for more in-depth guides like this to get the most out of your ride? Then be sure to head over to our site’s Auto Stuff section!