Due to ongoing supply chain disruptions and historic levels of inflation, vehicle parts have increasingly become more expensive and hard to find since the start of the pandemic. As a result, fleets that used to swear by parts from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have started looking towards the aftermarket to reduce spend and source components more consistently.
If you talk with fleet professionals and read trade publications, you’ll quickly find that opinions on where fleets should procure their parts are mixed. One side argues that the performance and reliability of OEM parts make them well-worth any additional expense. The other asserts that aftermarket parts are comparable in terms of quality and superior in terms of price to OEM equivalents.
What's important to your fleet?
Both sides of the debate have strong arguments, so we won’t be declaring an outright “winner” at the end of this blog post. By exploring how the two options compare across several categories, we hope to provide you with a balanced perspective you can consider when determining what kind of parts are right for your fleet.
Performance, compatibility and reliability
Proponents of OEM parts believe that vehicles and parts produced by the same company are inherently more likely to work well with one another than aftermarket parts. While it’s hard to empirically prove that notion as studies on the subject are scarce, many fleet pros subscribe to the idea. After all, OEM parts are more or less bespoke whereas aftermarket parts are often designed to work with a broader range of vehicles. Supposedly, this greater level of compatibility results in better performance out the gate and superior longevity over time.
But fans of aftermarket parts would beg to differ. While they’re likely to concede that aftermarket parts are more of a mixed bag in terms of quality, they assert that, with enough shopping, fleets can find parts that are equal to if not better than OEM offerings. Aftermarket parts are reverse engineered from OEM parts and that process can result in design improvements. On top of that, vehicle OEMs have to make countless compromises in order to produce vehicles that are both affordable and profitable. Those calculations aren’t as stringent with aftermarket parts which allows brands to produce higher-end parts (albeit with higher price tags as well).
Availability, selection and cost
When it comes to ease of procurement and breadth of offerings, the aftermarket holds a definite advantage over OEMs. The sheer number of aftermarket part manufacturers means that, even when supply chains are disrupted globally, some brands are likely to be less affected than others. For fleets, this level of “redundancy” increases their likelihood of being able to find the parts they need, so long as they aren’t particular about who produced them.
And as for selection, the aftermarket provides a wealth of options. From bargain basement to top-shelf and everything in-between, there are parts at every price point. Some aftermarket brands specialize in specific parts while others aim to be as comprehensive as possible. For fans of variety, the aftermarket simply can’t be beat. Conversely, if you’re the type to occasionally suffer from analysis paralysis, having to sort through a dozen or more variations of the same spark plug may prove frustrating.
Finally, no discussion of OEM and aftermarket parts would be complete without mentioning warranties. In this category, OEM parts tend to prevail. While warranty coverage varies by brand, most aftermarket parts can’t compete with what’s offered by OEMs. Additionally, it’s important to note that the use of aftermarket parts can void some OEM warranties. This makes using aftermarket parts a very risky proposition on newer vehicles.
How to manage parts effectively
Whether your fleet opts to go OEM or aftermarket, you’ll need some means of keeping track of your parts. For very small fleets, a parts inventory spreadsheet might prove sufficient. With Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, fleets can log inventory counts, record part prices, and store warranty information.
Fleets with a dozen or more assets would likely benefit more from a comprehensive fleet management system. Many FMSs include a parts inventory system that intakes and relays data from connected fleet management and maintenance management modules. In addition to alleviating data entry, FMSs also provide useful fleet reports that make it easy for fleets to track their parts spend.