Don't Let Your Auto Insurance Company Steer You From Genuine Parts and Glass to Questionable Aftermarket Parts

Some auto Insurance companies want you to accept aftermarket auto parts in order to save money on the insurance claim

Insist on Genuine Replacement Parts, Glass from Insurance Company
Image: Pixabay
February 22, 2018

The last time you needed body work done to your car or needed a new windshield, did you get Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) parts or did you get parts from a mystery parts manufacturer? If you're like most people, you probably don't know.

OEM parts are better, especially if your auto insurance company is paying for them.

OEM parts look better, fit better and typically work better than aftermarket parts. Most aftermarket parts go through rigorous testing; some don't. But it's really a gamble to take aftermarket parts, especially when your vehicle was damaged and you need to file an insurance claim. You should have the same parts replaced that were originally on the vehicle. The only drawback to needing OEM parts is that you'll typically have to wait a few days for them to arrive.

Aftermarket parts could be good for you, especially if you are at risk of a premium increase from your auto insurance company.

We're not knocking all aftermarket parts. Some can work pretty reliably for years. But they can be good in other ways. If you are making a collision claim and your auto insurance rates are expected to go up, the use of aftermarket parts can keep your total insurance claim low. If your claim is kept low, your insurance rates won't go up as much. You can read about how insurance rates go up after a claim in a related article.

Body shops love OEM parts because they cost more.

Body shops love to tell you all about how they don't trust aftermarket parts, either because of the quality, because they break sooner, or because they aren't as safe. But most aftermarket parts can perform just fine. All but the most discerning owners won't notice that a part doesn't fit as smoothly as the original. Oh. And the body shop makes a lot more money from OEM parts. But the body shop will still get a kickback from the insurance company if it uses aftermarket parts.

Auto insurance companies don't like OEM parts because they cost more.

Auto insurance companies use aftermarket parts to keep costs down, which in turn help to keep insurance rates low for everyone. But you aren't really getting exactly what you had installed on your car, unless your car already had aftermarket or sub-par parts. The body shop might be right. Aftermarket parts might not fit as perfectly as the original, but they might be good enough for you. After all, no reputable company wants to manufacture, sell or install parts of inferior quality because it means a bad reputation and having to fix it again. This includes auto insurance companies, who don't want to pay more money later if they guarantee repairs.

North Carolina auto insurance laws regarding aftermarket parts

In North Carolina, your auto insurance company is not required to get your consent before installing aftermarket parts and is not required to warranty aftermarket parts, nor can it require you to use an aftermarket part unless it is at least equal to the original part in terms of fit, quality, performance, and warranty. There must be a disclosure on the repair estimate that aftermarket parts may be used, identifying the specific parts, as well as an identification of the aftermarket part on the repair invoice. Your auto insurance company needs to specify in your estimate any costs for modifications necessary to install aftermarket parts. For more information about North Carolina's insurance regulations, contact the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

Some auto insurance companies, especially cheap insurance companies, won't cover OEM parts.

You've heard that you get what you pay for. The same is true for auto insurance. You may have gotten a great deal on cheap car insurance, but you might not get much back when you need to file a claim. So don't assume that your auto insurance company will automatically use OEM parts. Your policy might specifically exclude it, but you can always get an OEM parts endorsement.

Your auto insurance policy has all the details.

How do you know if your auto insurance company will pay for OEM parts? You have to read your policy. Most of us don't look over our auto insurance policies until we need to file a claim. That's when we are often hit with surprises. Read your policy and look for any declarations about whether the insurance company will use original parts or 'comparable' parts. In North Carolina, the auto insurance policy must have a disclosure if aftermarket parts may be used, though you do have an optional endorsement for OEM parts.

Auto insurance should restore your vehicle to the same or better condition than it was in prior to the claim.

Your auto insurance company is obligated to 'make you whole.' For example, if your vehicle is worth $3,000 and suffers $10,000 in damage, your auto insurance should offer you $3,000. If you have a brand new car and you damaged your bumper, the auto insurance company can't try to reshape it and then cover the damage with a can of spray paint. That's not the reason you have auto insurance! So if you crashed your new Lexus, would you want your insurance company to replace it with a new Kia (sorry Kia!) or a new Lexus? The same goes for parts. You shouldn't have to accept an aftermarket part when the damaged part was original. Do understand that unless your vehicle is brand new that an auto insurance company is allowed to consider the parts on your vehicle as used, which means it doesn't necessarily have to replace with brand new parts.

Auto Insurance companies love to use aftermarket windshield and other glass.

If you have ever busted a windshield, you may have been impressed at how quickly your auto insurance company could have a replacement. In some cases, you can have your new glass installed the same day. But there's a good reason for that. The glass you are getting is 'comparable,' 'replacement,' or 'like-quality.' However you slice it, you're getting aftermarket glass. Some companies like Geico recommend Safelite for glass replacement and even go through the trouble of connecting you a special representative in the company. Safelite exclusively uses aftermarket glass, which is about half the cost of OEM glass. If you can have the glass replaced quickly, you're more than likely getting a discounted product courtesy of your insurance company.

Auto glass is important, but is all glass just glass?

You shouldn't skimp on glass. You might think that glass is glass, but it's not always that way. Through the years we have assisted consumers with glass repairs, all of which were arranged through auto insurance companies making recommendations. In each of the case, the auto insurance companies and the glass replacement companies pushed aftermarket glass because it had a higher markup (and was sometimes manufactured by the glass replacement companies). The promises all seemed the same: that they could have their windshields replaced the same day. Each time the insurance companies and the glass companies stressed it had the same quality and was made by the same companies that manufactured for the 'big guys.'

Aftermarket glass can have a lot of problems.

We compared the OEM windshields in the previous example to the new aftermarket windshields, each of which had some type of imperfection. Some had debris embedded between the layers of glass directly in the line of sight. Most quickly developed a lot of tony chips after only a few thousand miles, chips that the OEM glass didn't accumulate in 20,000 to 40,000 miles. Some of the aftermarket glass has water spots that refused to come off. One windshield was so soft that a paper towel scratched it. Another was misshapen and caused the wipers to skip. After a few thousand miles, about 25% of the windshields experienced some type of failure, such as the rear-view mirror mount falling down, taking part of the glass with it, or true stress cracks.

Many of the big insurance companies stand behind the repair or make it right.

Each of these owners contacted their insurance companies, explained they were not happy, and requested it be replaced with an OEM glass. To our surprise, all insurance companies arranged for a replacement OEM windshield at no additional charge. The drivers then reported no issues with the OEM glass. But we've heard from other consumers about repairs that didn't seem to hold up and discount auto insurance companies didn't want to help after the original repair was completed.

OEM lighting should be used, even if your auto insurance won't cover it.

Lighting, especially head lights, are very important for your safety. A number of aftermarket head lights on the market over the years had been pulled because they didn't meet federal requirements for illumination or reflectivity, meaning you couldn't see as well or as far at night. Many of the aftermarket head lights we have seen through the years developed a hazing after only a year or two, leading to reduced visibility.

Your auto insurance company can't require you to use a specific company.

If you don't want to use the repair facilty recommended by your auto insurance company, you don't have to. You are allowed under North Carolina law to use the repair facility of your choice. So if Geico wants you to use Safelite but you want to use the guy down the street, you can use the guy down the street. This is especially important if you have any doubts about whether the repair facility will try to pull the wool over your eyes by using used or aftermarket parts and claiming they are new OEM parts.

Should you let your auto insurance company install aftermarket parts after a major wreck?

If your car was damaged extensively and is being repaired, we think you should insist on OEM parts, provided your auto insurance policy doesn't exclude them. You don't know how well the part will perform until it's installed. Even if your insurance company stands behind the repair, you might find yourself returning frequently for adjustments. Some aftermarket bumps distort or change color over time. Some suspension parts may be tuned a little differently than others, meaning part of your car might respond differently. Would you want to take a chance with an aftermarket airbag or even a used airbag considering the massive recalls they are experiencing?

Ask your auto insurance company for OEM parts in advance, not after the car is repaired.

If you don't have an option but to accept aftermarket parts, it's time to start getting some insurance quotes. Some discount car insurance companies don't even offer OEM parts. But even if your auto insurance company offers OEM parts, it may not be automatic. So make sure to request the parts before your repair. If you have discount insurance, you might be required to pay a small fee

Even if you ask your insurance company for OEM parts, you might not be able to get them.

OEM parts are easy to find for newer vehicles. But it might be difficult if not impossible to find new OEM parts on older vehicles or discontinued manufacturers. Aftermarket parts or used parts might be all that your auto insurance company and body shop can find.

My auto insurance company doesn't cover OEM parts, but I still want them for my repair.

Just because your auto insurance company doesn't pay for OEM parts doesn't mean you have to accept aftermarket parts. You can always pay the difference and get OEM parts. This might be the way to go if you want to assume a little more risk and still do business with a discount auto insurance company. After all, you might never have to make an insurance claim. And depending upon the amount of your deductible, a windshield replacement might be coming completely out of your pocket anyway.

I have a dispute with my auto insurance company of the insurance company of the person responsible for my loss.

Sometimes things don't go as planned. If you run into any trouble negotiating a fair settlement or repair, you should contact a lawyer for assistance. You may use our North Carolina Law Directory to locate a North Carolina lawyer specializing in auto insurance issues.

The decision is ultimately yours, unless your auto insurance company is so cheap that it excludes OEM parts.

How you choose to repair your vehicle is completely up to you, unless your auto insurance company is telling you there is only one option. You may choose to fix your car, in which case we recommend OEM parts. Or you may choose to take the money and run, driving around a car without a bumper. Whatever your choice, make sure you understand the pros and cons of that choice.

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