Auto repair: new or refurbished parts?

When doing DIY repairs, especially for those who are new to DIY repairs, the question gets asked a lot. Which part should I choose, new or refurbished? Occasionally, the question is settled by price alone. Sometimes, it is not so simple as cost as it can depend on a variety of factors.

What is the Difference?

New parts are just that, new. These parts are made to the same specifications as the original parts. Now there is an important distinction about new parts that should be kept in mind. New parts come in two types, OEM and after market. OEM new parts are parts built by the Original Equipment Manufacturer. After market parts are those that are built using the OEM specifications but are manufactured by another party. The reason why this is important is that in a few vehicles, the tolerances can be so tight as to necessitate the need for new OEM parts and not third party built. This is relatively rare, and typically only happens with foreign autos.

Refurbished parts, are basically parts that have been remanufactured or retooled. Old worn parts are usually sent to the manufacturer and are rebuilt back to factory specifications. This can easily be seen in parts such as water pumps, alternators, AC compressors and the like. Refurbished parts can come in any size such as a rebuilt transmission.

Which is Better?

There is almost as many opinions on this question as there is words on the internet. To be honest, there is no perfect answer. However, there are some rules of thumb that can help. For starters, it depends on the type of repair. A bad alternator or water pump, then refurb parts work just fine. You can get a good one or bad one, even with OEM parts. It could be something else that is causing excessive wear on the unit or quality control was having an off day. For minor repairs such as these, refurbished parts are usually fine. In the case of more critical components, that is where the answer changes.

When dealing with a critical repair such as changing a head or valve cover or fuel pump, opting to spend the money for a new part usually is the better way to go. To begin with, you don’t want to have to redo the repair if the part fails. While it is possible to get a bad new part, it is less likely. Also critical components see a lot of work on the car, therefore you want them to be dependable. If nothing else for your own peace of mind. For a more in depth look at refurb verses new, see this article on CNN living.

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  • I’m the thrifty kind but I never used refurbished parts for my car, I always buy new ones. All my appliances fail in the first year, I’m very unlucky when it comes to buying something. If I bought a refurbished one I will most likely end up stranded in the middle of nowhere.

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