Repairing your car yourself can be a great way to save money. But when it comes to buying spare parts, you need to make sure you’re getting the right part for the right price. If you don’t have much experience shopping for spare parts, it can be hard to know who to trust and where to get the best deal.
Where to look
When it comes to buying spare car parts, it’s important to know your options when it comes to sellers. Whatever part you need, you’ll likely come across these five types of sellers. Each type of seller comes with its own pros and cons.
- Auto part retailers
There are a range of auto part retailers in Australia, selling parts and accessories for cars. They are a fairly safe option as they need to maintain a reputation as a reliable seller to continue growing their business. Often these retailers are big box businesses with an extensive range of genuine parts across brands and manufacturers. They will have parts for common cars, but it may be harder to find spares for more exclusive models. Auto parts retailers are generally pretty reliable. However, don’t expect expert mechanic-level customer service. Additionally, since most of these stores cater to the general public, you generally won’t get the best prices on parts. But you pay for convenience.
- Online retailers
Not all retailers will have a physical store. There is a large market now for online auto part retailers. You can buy parts from anywhere in the world. This may be necessary if your car is an exclusive model or not common where you live.
However, the quality of online retailers can differ greatly as they may not be as well regulated as physical stores. This variation can include the quality of parts, prices and the reliability of the service. Additionally, the cost of shipping parts internationally may significantly drive up the overall price. The other obvious downside to online parts retailers is the delivery time. So if you need a part straight away, online probably isn’t the way to go.
- Private sellers
Private sellers can sell car parts through online marketplaces like eBay or Gumtree, auction sites or classifieds sites. They can also sell parts in person at auto swap meets. Buying from private sellers can be risky, but you can get bargains.
Private sellers generally won’t have as large a range of parts as commercial retailers, although they may have hard-to-find parts they have sourced themselves. An individual seller may not be as reliable as a commercial retailer. They do not necessarily need to build a name for themselves, or they may not be as competent as they portray themselves to be. Therefore, the parts could be faulty, poor quality or even sold as a different item.
It’s also easier for individual sellers to take advantage of a buyer online than in person, so be careful when purchasing parts online. Only use reputable sites and check the seller’s rating and history.
- Junkyards and wreckers
Junkyards and wreckers are a good source of used and second-hand parts. Stock availability and quality can vary, but the prices are usually pretty good. You can save money at some wreckers if you’re willing to remove the parts yourself. Some wreckers will specialise in particular manufacturers, models or regions. For example, if you’re looking for Mazda 6 parts, it’s worth starting at a specialist Mazda or Japanese car wrecker.
- Car manufacturers
If you want to go directly to the source, then you need to speak with the manufacturer of your car. They may offer parts for sale or can recommend manufacturer approved sellers. You can be certain that the parts you get from the manufacturer will be genuine and of a high quality. However, they may be expensive.
Clearly, there are risks and downsides involved with purchasing car parts from anyone. Therefore, you need to know how to weigh up your options to get the best deal possible.
How to choose a seller
Purchasing spare car parts is a tricky business but narrowing down the seller is an important step. Consider the following points to make this process easier.
If your car is a common make and model, like a Ford Falcon or Mazda 6, you should have no trouble finding spare parts for it. However, if it’s a more exclusive or uncommon vehicle, availability may be an issue.
As you consider where you would like to purchase from, think about the likelihood of that part being available. For example, your options may be reduced to the car manufacturer or international online retailers.
The available car parts may not always be of a high quality. While some third-party car parts can be high quality, others can be poorly made. You may also only be able to find second-hand or used parts. These can vary in quality too. But they are also likely to be cheaper, which can be a benefit if you’re on a tight budget.
Think about the quality you would like and find appropriate sellers. For instance, you’re likely to get good quality parts from commercial sellers and car manufacturers. However, you may get a better price for second hand or used parts from a junkyard or wrecker.
While it can be tempting to go with the cheapest option available, it may not always be the best. Cheap parts can be a poor quality — you should question if the price seems too good to be true.
So you won’t be caught out, do your research to find out what is the average price for the part you want. Look at different sellers and see what they sell the part or similar parts for. Only purchase the part if the price seems reasonable and fair, even if it’s not the cheapest.
If price is a concern for you or you’re on a tight budget, you may need to sacrifice quality or look at second-hand or used parts.
Don’t forget to consider warranties and return policies when looking at prices. It may be a better option to purchase a more expensive part that is covered by a warranty or is able to be returned if it is not suitable for your car.
Speak to sellers to find out what their warranty and return policies are. And if you do purchase from them, make sure you keep a copy of these policies on hand in case you need to use them.
Even if your seller meets your requirements for part availability, quality and price, you need to ensure they are also reliable. An unreliable seller can cost you hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, as well as plenty of time.
A reliable seller will be able to confirm that the part is correctly advertised — you shouldn’t pay for one part and get another. They should also be able to confirm that the part is the correct fit and make for your vehicle. You may need to provide them with information about your vehicle including the VIN, make and model to make certain of this.
The best way to find a reliable seller is to get a sense of their business and to find out what other customers think of them. Look online for reviews or complaints. Ask if family or friends have purchased from the seller and what their experience was. Don’t forget to trust your gut instinct. If you don’t feel sure of the seller, or it feels too good to be true, look elsewhere.
It may take some time and some research, but if you follow this process to narrow down suitable car part sellers, you won’t end up purchasing a dud. You can then get back to the important business of fixing up your car.