There’s no question that Americans love their vehicles. For some, their vehicle’s brand is akin to a favorite sports team: there are fierce rivalries between brands and allegiances almost never change. While this is certainly still true for some, technology is quickly becoming the most important factor when choosing a vehicle. A recent report found that vehicle options are becoming more important to buyers than the vehicle’s color or brand. With options becoming such a high priority for consumers, it is somewhat surprising that a large section of the automotive industry, the aftermarket, is seldom talked about.
The aftermarket can be a fairly broad term. According to the United States Department of Commerce, “aftermarket parts are divided into two categories: replacement parts and accessories. Replacement parts are automotive parts built or remanufactured to replace original equipment (OE) parts as they become worn or damaged. Accessories are parts made for comfort, convenience, performance, safety, or customization, and are designed for add-on after the original assembly of the motor vehicle.”
From there, the definition of the aftermarket continues to divide into different categories. The installation of aftermarket parts can either be done by the owner or taken to a professional. Aftermarket parts can also be purchased in two different ways: one can purchase an aftermarket part from a traditional brick and mortar location or they can shop online.
It should not come as a surprise that the automotive aftermarket is quite large. In the United States alone, it represents a $36 billion industry and employs millions of Americans. The aftermarket is also growing at a rapid pace. The average vehicle on the road is 11.5 years old and, as clunkers continue to wear down, the need for replacement parts continues to grow. With vehicle prices reaching all-time highs, drivers are holding on to their vehicles longer and needing to replace parts for their clunkers more often. Additionally, as the use of the Internet becomes more ubiquitous in American life, parts are now easier to order than ever before, which helps the aftermarket’s growth.
The aftermarket can be, at times, an afterthought in the automotive world and many consumers may not even know what the term means. However, it represents an enormous industry that offers significant value in improving the driving experience. On Monday, we will look at both the pros and cons of purchasing parts through the aftermarket.