The Choice Between New Or Rebuilt Auto Parts

March 4, 2011

Replacement parts in the car repair industry are available in two flavors- new and rebuilt. You should know how the rebuilt or remanufactured (reman) supply stream works, what parts on a car are usually good buys in the rebuilt version and the possible pitfalls.

Understanding the rebuilt system is not difficult. There is a network of rebuilders in the industry who specialize in the different component groups found on a car. Starters and alternators would be one group and axle shafts would be another, for example.

The rebuilding takes place at the rebuilder’s site and includes cleaning, refurbishing and possibly testing the completed unit. The products are then packaged and shipped to the parts store to take their place on the shelf right next to the new units.

When your garage requests a rebuilt starter for your 2008 Ford Focus, the parts store makes an assumption that your starter can be rebuilt and ships the part. On the invoice the store charges your repairer a core charge which it will refund when your old alternator is returned for rebuilding. If your starter is damaged in a way that it can’t be rebuilt, it is treated differently. We will consider that later.

Some of the other parts that are commonly replaced with remans are wiper motors, power steering pumps, water pumps, and various brake components. The decision to pick a reman over a new unit should be based on cost, warranty and availability. The other variable is the possible use of a factory or OEM rebuilt part. The car makers have their own rebuilders who redo parts to their specs.

The elephant in the room in this discussion is the part that inexpensive new replacements which are manufactured in Asia or Mexico play in the decision. Many times these new parts will rival the rebuilt ones in price. One way to look at the remanufactured part is that it could be better since it was most likely once on a new car and therefore may be closer to the original in fit and quality than the copied unit from another country.

There are some drawbacks to using rebuilt parts. The first is that you won’t be able to verify the replacement by asking to have the original part returned, since it must be go back for remanufacturing. Another is that if your part cannot be rebuilt you must pay the core charge. If this happens ask that you be given a price for a OEM new unit as a replacement, since the added cost of the core fee may make the factory unit a more economical choice.

Since there is no real way to gauge the quality of the rebuilt versus the inexpensive aftermarket new unit that is imported, you will have to rely on a comparison of the price and the warranty that is offered.

The wild card in this decision is the opinion of your installer. The last thing he wants to do is to replace the part under warranty, if he is recommending the rebuilt part it is a good rule to respect his judgment, since it reflects his trust in the part’s reliability.

Treat the availability of remanufactured parts as an opportunity for you to save some money by simply making a choice.   
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