Honda Parts Unlimited

701 W. Bell Rd
Phoenix, Arizona  85023
Phone: 1 (866) 493-1265

Store Hours

  • Monday: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Tuesday: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Wednesday: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Thursday: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Friday: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Saturday: Closed
  • Sunday: Closed

What the average auto parts store doesn't want you to know

September 4th, 2015


Keeping your car on the road can be an expensive endeavor. You need to keep the fuel tank full, tags current, insurance paid, and your car fixed quickly and for as cheap as possible when it breaks, because let’s face it; your car is your life. You use it to get to work, pick up the kids, run errands, take trips, and many other things. Also, if you’re like most people reading this, you don’t have endless funds to go to the dealership to get it fixed when something happens. You probably do what most people try and do, and the repair the car yourself. So where do you go?

A lot of people just go a short distance to their neighborhood, nationally branded and chained auto parts store. There they find all sorts of parts advertised as a better option than visiting the local dealership. You hear and see ads everywhere that tell you that you can get better parts for better prices there. Your dad always went to one. Your friends go to them. You think this is the way to save money on parts. And you’re not alone.

The automotive replacement parts business is a multi-billion dollar industry, which utilizes great marketing tactics to get you in the door, and even better sales techniques to get your hard earned money. But is it really the best option? Today we are going to take a look at what your auto parts store does that you may not have thought about to not only get your business but keep you going back to them, and them only, when it may not be the best option.

Same looking part - But less quality

So you’ve made the decision to bypass the dealership, and head straight to the auto parts store because the dealership is way too expensive. You walk in, approach the guy at the counter, give him your vehicle information, and he shows you on his screen a multitude of parts they can get you. The screen shows the cheapest parts at the top with the shortest warranty and then gets more expensive as he scrolls down eventually ending at the most expensive part which is labeled to something to the effect of “OE specification” or “OE Equivalent”.

Even the most expensive part they carry is much cheaper than the OEM one, so you buy it. You get home and take the old part off. It looks basically the same. The guy at the auto parts store was right. Or was he? The truth is no auto maker actually manufactures their own parts. When the vehicle is designed, the auto maker gives their specifications to an OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer. They produce the parts for the auto maker, and then more of them so the auto maker can sell them as Genuine OEM parts. The OEM then starts making more parts to sell to your local parts store. This is where the similarities between these parts end.

The simple fact is the auto maker’s specifications are to meet standards set by the federal government in most cases, meaning they need to comply with guidelines set forth by organizations like the EPA and NHTSA. The design and materials used are for that specific vehicle, and cost more the manufacturer. The OEM couldn’t possibly make the money they want to on their own selling them at a price lower than the dealer, so what do they do? They use similar but lesser quality materials and manufacturing techniques to create a similar part that’s cheaper in price – and quality.

Take these tires for instance:

As you can see these tires look identical at first glance. They have the same model number, size, speed rating, and basically same tire number. If you go into a tire shop they might sell you the one on the right. After all, it’s the same model, but cheaper than the dealer.

The reality is the tire on the right is made with lesser quality chemicals and materials for a different auto maker, and is typically sold to you with the explanation, that the dealer marks up the tire to make more money. The tire shop also sells tires of far lesser materials using different model names in hopes you’ve associated that brand with the brand you should have with your vehicle. Ever hear the phrase, “These are comparable to the_____”? The truth is this tire does not meet the standards the EPA requires to meet the MPG rating for the vehicle or the ride standard the auto maker has set for the vehicle to be sold new, but you are led to believe they will work exactly the same as the original tires. The problem is you’ve driven the car as the tires wear and have forgotten what the car drove like off the lot in most cases, and these companies know that.

Now we aren’t saying that an OEM won’t sell the exact same part through a typically auto parts store, however unfortunately most times, there isn’t a way to tell which manufacturer made the part for the car maker, or if that part is of the exact same quality at the auto parts store. In fact in some cases parts manufacturers exceed the specifications of the OEM, but unless you know what the specifications are, there is no sure fire way to tell.

More options - But they aren't as they seem

When you were looking at that screen did you notice more than a few options as far as parts go? There are typically many different brands, with many different prices and warranties. Would you believe these are all the same part? Most people wouldn’t, and auto parts stores won’t tell you but a majority of these parts are made by the same manufacturer.

This is a fairly common practice used by auto parts stores, to give you the illusion that you are in control of what you’re buying, or that they carry such a good selection, they should be your first choice to get a good quality part (which is what they typically advertise). Many times though, the part made by brand “a” is the same exact part as brand “b” but comes with different packaging and a more expensive price point and warranty period. For obvious reasons you aren’t going to buy multiple parts to make sure they are different, and the auto parts store knows this as well.

Just because a part is offered doesn’t mean it should be

Sometimes certain Genuine OEM pats only come as an assembly. A good example of this is suspension arms – primarily the upper and lower control arms. Depending on the design, the ball joint and bushing(s) may be attached. With some suspension arms, the ball joints and bushings can be replaced. With some they cannot, or so says the dealership.

“Wait though, the auto parts store down the street has that ball joint or that bushing separately. Was the dealership lying to get more money for the whole assembly?"

The auto parts store could have you believe that even though in most situations, that isn’t the case.

In reality the ball joint or bushing isn’t sold separately for a reason. Usually the reason is simple. The arm itself is not made to withstand the force of pressing a new one in. This means if you were to press a ball joint into this arm, you risk bending the arm. If you are not aware of this there is a good chance you’ll have difficulty getting an alignment performed costing you hundreds of dollars in trying to figure out why the vehicle can’t be aligned properly.

Now would the auto parts store know this? Of course not. Simply put they are not trained to know technical information about OEM parts, and only offer what is in their catalog. Now this isn’t to say it cannot be done at all, as in some cases the car maker simply doesn’t have any left in their supply chain, and can’t offer them. In that case getting an aftermarket part would be your best choice.

The truth about lifetime warranties

When asked what the biggest buying factors are when determining where parts are found most people can probably agree price is the number one factor. The most common response to number two, would most likely be the warranty the part carries. Most Genuine OEM parts come with a 12 month warranty for defects. The part you get at the auto parts store comes with a lifetime warranty. You’d think that the part you get from the auto parts store is a better choice since if it fails after a year, you’re still covered. The OEM’s understood this mentality as well, and used this understanding to their advantage.

In most cases, the Genuine OEM part is the same one that was made originally when the car was made, or is made with the exact specifications the car maker sets when the part was first made, and typically lasts the same amount of time as the one that failed. This means if the part broke on a car with 150,000 miles, chances are this pat is going to last the same amount of time, but most people don’t realize this. Instead they see that most commonly used buzzword, “lifetime warranty”, not realizing that the lifetime of the aftermarket part is far less than he OEM. This means more time repairing your vehicle instead of simply fixing it and moving on. Auto parts stores know that instead of buy a part that will last longer, because it is of better quality, they can keep you coming back to take advantage of the “lifetime warranty” to get the same lower quality part over, and over, and over, until you sell the car, and pass that part off to the next owner.

Now that you know

In the end, your decision to buy parts is dependent on numerous factors, and only you can make that choice. We can only show you this information as a way to educate you into making an informed decision. We can tell you that that if you buy parts from a Honda dealership, whether it be your local dealership, or from us here at Honda Parts unlimited, you can count on 3 things.

  • You’re going to find 100% Genuine OEM Parts and Accessories. No sort of OEM, no OEM made with lesser materials.
  • These parts are of the exact same specifications and are guaranteed to be that way and fit right the first time.
  • The information you’re getting is from factory trained specialists. These people know about Hondas and the parts that keep them together - and that’s all they know.

Now we know this doesn't always mean that getting a genuine OEM part is the best way to go. If you are into racing for instance, getting performance upgrades will vastly improve that components level of performance over he OEM part, so in that sense it doesn't make sense to buy OEM, however we hope that this article helps you in the search for quality replacement parts, and serves as a look into an industry most people really don’t fully understand.