How to Smartly Navigate the BMW Aftermarket

Buying your auto parts on the aftermarket is a great budget-minded option, whether you’re a professional mechanic or a hobbyist. However, buying secondary manufacturer parts poses potential risks. Shop wisely, though, and you’re going to walk away with unbeatable deals.

Do Your Research

Before you buy aftermarket parts, such as BMW auto body components, from a new source, do thorough research. Look for the following:

1. Reviews on the seller. Are they mostly positive? Are they from repeat customers? If there are any negative reviews, did the seller address the issue?

2. Warranties or guarantees. Is there a return policy for parts that don’t work properly? What if you order the wrong part? Would the business accept your return, even if the item was functioning?

3. How long they’ve been in business. Although this isn’t always a complete indicator of a reputable seller, sellers who have been in the business for over a year have had more time to prove their reliability and commitment to the market. You probably won’t have to worry about them dropping out of the aftermarket business and leaving you with an incomplete order.

4. Where they get their parts. Third parties — not BMW — manufacture aftermarket parts. These could either be licensed parts, typically called OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or unlicensed (but still legal) parts. Look for OEM whenever possible, as BMW oversees the make and fit of these parts. If you choose another aftermarket brand, see what the brand’s reputation is among other buyers.

5. Seller contact information. If you can’t contact the seller after the sale in the event of a problem, avoid buying from him. For example, forgo sellers at a flea market or those who only list a P.O. box.

Determining Counterfeits

Although many aftermarket parts are legal, particularly the OEM parts, not all are. When counterfeit parts hit the market, they’re typically made with substandard materials. Because of this, they are more prone to breaking and can even put you at danger when you’re driving. Keep in mind some tips for detecting the counterfeits from the legitimate, working parts:

Opt for OEM whenever possible sellers may mark the part with “OEM.” Aftermarket parts are still a great alternative.

Be suspicious if prices seem too good to be true. You can find a deal on aftermarket parts, but if a part that typically costs $40 is selling for $1, there might be something wrong.

Do your seller research. Again, sellers with positive reviews and guarantees are more likely to sell non-counterfeit parts.

If you order the parts and they’re not fitting how they should — if you have to resort to welding a part that’s usually screwed in, for example — don’t install the piece. You probably have a counterfeit part. If the seller is reluctant about giving you a refund or taking back the part, consider contacting the maker of the part; perhaps there are counterfeits that are in circulation and the company may want to be informed.

Stick With That Guarantee and Go Wholesale

One of the most inexpensive, but most reliable, ways to find quality parts in the aftermarket is through a guaranteed wholesaler. Divide the cost of a unit price, and you’ll find the per-component price much lower than you’ll find from people who sell individual items. Plus, when you rely on a business with a guarantee, it’s much different than purchasing from a private seller, who might not offer you a refund if your product doesn’t work. You can use the excess parts in the following ways:

Stockpile them for future repairs. Some BMW models might need frequent repairs for a timing belt, for example. Collect them now, and you’ll never have to worry about locating the right part for your model again.

Sell the items online. Put the starting bid at a price a bit higher than the per-item cost. This way, you can pocket the difference.

You can also sell the extra parts to an auto shop. A non-dealership mechanic might be willing to make a deal with you.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- About the Author: Jorge Baltes is a contributing writer and professional auto mechanic. He’s worked both for large dealerships as well as small repair shops.

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