Some parts for your car are generic. You can go into a Pep Boys or an Auto zone and find the oil filter, brake pads, and what not to do general maintenance on your car.
Some parts, on the other hand, are not so generic. When you need, say, a tail light housing for your car, you need to go find an original manufacturer part. No two ways about it.
This isn’t necessarily hard. You can probably order the parts through a dealer. The problem? It’s usually really expensive. Browse through a catalog of OEM parts, and you’ll quickly find out that things are needlessly expensive.
The Expensive Option
Let’s take into consideration a few examples. Recently, I’ve had to look for a few replacement parts for a used 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier that I bought.
The first thing I needed was a driver’s side sun visor with a mirror. I had some trouble finding it, because some dealer catalogs only listed the convertible version (which is ungodly expensive). I finally found a suitable replacement at GM Parts Dealer for $30.16.
Next, I needed a driver’s side tail light housing. This time, I found a suitable replacement at GM Parts Direct for $56.54. This was also substantially discounted from the MSRP.
Finally, the most obscure piece I needed was the “Cavalier” emblem that is mounted on the bottom side of the trunk. I also found that at GM Parts Direct, for a discounted price of $11.84.
In all three cases, I had to do some lengthy browsing around the parts dealers’ catalogs. The catalogs aren’t very user friendly, and in most cases (these and other examples) the search option didn’t help me find what I wanted. I had to manually browse through the categories until I happened upon the one part that I was looking for.
The Cheaper Option
I wasn’t sure where to go at first. The prices for new replacements from the parts dealers seemed expensive, and in the beginning I was having trouble finding what I wanted.
I eventually went to a place that I often go to when I need something obscure that I thought should be readily available on the internet but wasn’t: eBay. A few months back, I was looking for a replacement lens cap for my Nikon Coolpix P80 and I couldn’t find one anywhere except on eBay. So I thought I’d give it a go again…
In all three cases, I was able to quickly and easily find like new replacement parts that were cheaper than if I had ordered them through the parts dealer. I found replacement visors for about $15 to $20. I found a bunch of nice replacements for the tail light housing, and eventually settled on one that cost $30. The Cavalier Emblem was easy to find as well, and I picked one up for about $5. If I had been more patient, I could have gotten a whole set of emblems (“Chevrolet,” “Cavalier,” and the two Chevrolet logos) for just a little bit more money.
There are a lot of smaller parts dealers that want to sell random, used parts collected from salvage yards. It’s probably not cost effective for them to develop a fully functional website to list their inventory, since it changes so readily. Instead, eBay provides a national market for them to quickly and easily offer their inventory for sale. At the same time, consumers (like you and me) can search eBay listings and quickly find the random replacement part that we need… without paying OEM pricing.
So next time you’re looking for a random OEM replacement part, don’t go to the dealer or to a large parts dealer. Check eBay, quickly browse through the small parts retailers that have what you need, and find a cheaper replacement.