Even though automobiles last longer than ever, parts and systems suffer wear and tear. After working efficiently for tens of thousands of miles, many of them fail (usually unexpectedly). The question is, when components fail, should you be confident in the quality of rebuilt replacements or should you always purchase new? Choosing the former will help you save as much as 50% from the cost of new replacements. Choosing the latter costs more, but has the appearance of higher quality.
Below, we’ll explore whether you should place your trust in rebuilt auto parts (RAPs) when you need to replace failing components. I’ll first explain what they are and clarify some of the terms that are used interchangeably when referring to them. Then, I’ll explain why RAPs may be a better option than their newer counterparts (the reason has little to do with price).
Demystifying The Terms
A lot of consumers – and even mechanics – use different terms when referring to rebuilts. For example, they’ll often call them remanufactured or reconditioned components. Let’s take a moment to clarify the terms.
Most experts agree that parts that are remanufactured are those which are completely disassembled for inspection. Any individual pieces that are worn and on the verge of failure are replaced. In so doing, the remanufacturer typically restores the component to OEM standards.
Reconditioned parts are technically defined the same way. They too, are disassembled, inspected, cleaned, and reassembled after all worn pieces have been replaced.
Rebuilders use the same process. They take components apart in order to inspect and replace the individual pieces before reassembling them.
So, what is the difference between these options? On the surface, not much. The most important factor is whether a given component that is rebuilt, remanufactured, or reconditioned has been restored to OEM specifications. The only way to know whether that is the case is if the rebuilder (or manufacturer) offers auto parts that are OEM-certified.
Can Rebuilt Components Deliver Higher Quality?
RAPs are less expensive than new replacement parts. That’s the reason millions of consumers choose them when components fail. However, many people would be surprised to learn that rebuilts can actually offer higher quality.
Some components go through very few changes over the years. For example, an alternator that was manufactured in 2001 will be very similar to one that was manufactured this year. Other components are different. They’re complex and are often improved upon every few years. Transmissions are a good example.
Suppose your car’s transmission failed after 80,000 miles (early in its life). Your options are to buy a rebuilt or a new replacement. If you choose the former, there’s a good chance it will incorporate enhancements that address flaws in previous designs. If you choose the latter (i.e. new), those flaws likely remain. Given this, buying from a rebuilder can actually deliver higher quality for a lower price.
Prices, Warranties, And Peace Of Mind
As you would expect, all new car parts come with a standard warranty. If the component fails or malfunctions during the coverage period, you’ll be able to have the problem fixed without charge. RAPs also come with a warranty, but it’s usually much shorter – sometimes, as short as 90 days. For some parts (e.g. hoses), there’s little concern since they’re inexpensive to replace. On the other hand, for catalytic converters, fuel pumps, and master cylinders, a short coverage period is problematic.
Some rebuilders offer much longer warranties than their competitors – occasionally, as long as 3 years. Combined with OEM certification, these longer warranties provide their customers with a level of confidence similar to new components.
Should you use rebuilt auto parts when replacing those that have failed? That depends largely on your budget and how you perceive the value of new replacements. For many people, rebuilts are the most sensible choice.