Car owners who call dealerships are often shocked when they learn the cost of replacement parts. A trim piece that costs maybe $5 to make could carry a 5000% premium at the retail counter. Some parts are priced to the moon simply because many consumers don’t know any better. If only they took the time to shop around.
Research, Research, and Research
Why do we repeat the word three times? First, you need to know the new price of your item and get the average. Trusted sites like Parts, for example, can be your best reference. Second, you should look for the secondhand price in your nearest auto shops. You don’t need to visit them in person, of course. Just send an inquiry and ask for a price list. And third, you can now browse for online parts of which the price is not far from the one you’ve got from the previous two steps.
Verify Your Purchase
Call the dealership to confirm your specific part number before you complete any purchase. If you don’t confirm the part number, any grief that ensues is of your own making.
You’ll learn that some parts are unique to certain engine and transmission combinations. And the list of potentially affected parts is long, from computers, modules, and sensors, to more basic items like alternators and starters.
Be Extra Careful with Unique Parts
Some parts for hybrid vehicles, high-end models, and classics are unique. For instance, I once needed a DC-DC converter for a 10-year-old Honda Civic Hybrid. The price at the dealership was $1800, and neither eBay nor Car-Part listed it as available.
By going to a nearby junkyard that had the car in their inventory, I was able to locate this unusual part for only $100. I’ve found that specific modules for older or limited-run vehicles can create similar headaches. So if you’re buying rare, unique, and hard-to-find parts, your best bet is to try and track it down in person.
Consult a Forum
There have been times when I’ve finally been able to locate a rare part, but it seems to be as far away from me as Mercury is from Pluto. This is when I turn to fellow enthusiasts for help.
Online forums for your make and model usually have members spread across the United States. By asking for assistance acquiring a part that’s not local to you (and perhaps offering $50 for the trouble), you can still get what you need and help out a like-minded grease monkey in the process. Make/model forums sometimes have dedicated parts-listing threads, as well.
If enthusiast forums don’t work, try reaching out through Facebook. You’d be surprised what a friend of a friend will do for a little extra cash.
Pause for a While Before You Make a Deal
Shopping for an auto part online can be an intimidating process. And to make sure that you won’t be disappointed later, you must not be aggressive in making the deal. Take your time! Three days to give an offer a thought are still an acceptable time. However, say your intention in advance so that no parties lose their time for nothing.