In collision repair, the kind of part being used can really affect the quality of the repair. When choosing a part, technicians are concerned with the 3 F’s: Fit, Function, and Finish. There are 3 different kinds of parts; OEM, Aftermarket, and LKQ. As a consumer you should always be aware of your options, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
OEM: The first kind is OEM, which stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEM parts are created specifically for your vehicle by the original manufacturer of your vehicle. So, if you drive a Ford then the OEM part would come from Ford. Using OEM means that the part should function exactly as the part you are replacing, and provides a quality fit and function.
Aftermarket: Aftermarket parts are parts made by anyone other than the car’s maker. They could be a direct replacement or something to change how the car performs or looks. There is a wide range of manufacturers for these parts, and therefore a wide range of quality. An outside organization known as CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) test and monitor new aftermarket products. Aftermarket parts are the least expensive because they do not have to invest in research and development.
LKQ: LKQ stands for like, kind, and quality. These are recycled parts, and they vary greatly in quality and price. They are technically OEM, but can provide a lot of challenges due to previous damage or problems with paint matching.
To be honest, most auto body professions prefer to work with OEM parts because they have met Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and frankly they fit better. But if price is an issue, your auto body professional will know of trusted aftermarket manufacturers to help keep repairs in budget. Your insurance company may mandate that they will only pay for a certain kind of part, and in that case you have some options. You could just accept the aftermarket part, or you may demand an OEM part and pay the difference.