Auto Insurance Org. Reports on Safety of Aftermarket Parts

Car with front-end damageThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has contributed to the debate over the reliability of aftermarket auto parts with a new report on the topic in its latest Status Report newsletter. Although the IIHS has consistently asserted that the use of cosmetic aftermarket parts has been shown to not adversely affect crash results, new research shows that this is not necessarily true for structural parts like aftermarket bumpers.

When an auto is taken to a shop for repairs, any replacement part that is used will be classified either as original equipment manufacturer (OEM), aftermarket (non-OEM) or like kind and quality (LKQ).  OEM parts are, as the name implies, made by the original manufacturer; non-OEM parts are made by a third-party company; and LKQ parts are those taken from cars sent to salvage yards that generally have been declared total losses but still have some usable parts left intact.

The IIHS reports that most non-OEM parts used are cosmetic and, therefore, “irrelevant to crash safety.” But the organization points out that parts contributing to the structural integrity of the vehicle, such as bumpers, need to be certified as meeting the standards of the originals.

The issue arose recently with the release of the Certified Automotive Parts Association’s (CAPA) new certification standard for aftermarket bumpers. Although CAPA has generally focused on cosmetic parts, the IIHS reports, insurers and members asked that the association direct its efforts toward structural parts.

Three vehicles with aftermarket bumpers were tested in the Insurance Institute’s study — two that failed to meet the CAPA standards and one that did.

As documented in Status Report, the certified bumper performed as well as an OEM bumper. The other two tests showed that the non-certified bumpers had different results when compared to the certified bumpers’ results.

The IIHS stopped short of saying that the non-certified bumpers’ results were drastically worse. In fact, one test resulted in the non-certified part’s having lower repair costs in the aftermath of the crash. The Institute’s president, Adrian Lund, however, said that this is not necessarily positive since non-OEM parts are supposed to react the same way in a crash as their OEM counterparts — not better or worse than them.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, most states have laws in place regarding whether it is necessary to inform an auto owner that an aftermarket part is being used in a repair. These laws, though, vary. For instance, 39 states require the use of aftermarket parts to be identified in an estimate statement, and 13 require prior consent from the owner in order for this type of part to be used legally.

Car insurance coverage providers generally prefer to use non-OEM parts over OEM parts, as they often come in at lower prices than the manufacturer’s. The yearly savings to insurers from the use of non-OEM parts has been estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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