While not all parts are more expensive at the official agents, it pays to shop around. File picture: Ford.

By: Denis Droppa

Johannesburg - It’s the old question: do I service my car at the agents or at an independent workshop? Warranties still dictate the use of genuine parts in new vehicles, but once the warranty and service/maintenance plan have expired, the quandry for owners of older cars and bakkies is about affordability versus peace of mind.

Car manufacturers will tell you ‘stay genuine’ rather than risk inferior parts and workmanship at non-franchised workshops, while the official dealer stamp in the service book also improves the vehicle’s resale value. But taking your vehicle to official dealers is also more expensive, mostly because of their higher labour rates, and there are big savings to be had by using an independent workshop.

Buying aftermarket car parts at stores like Midas and Autozone can also be a more economical alternative to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. Non-genuine doesn’t mean no good, and often you can buy the identical branded item for less at an independent parts dealer.

Why it pays to shop around

It may come as a surprise that OEM parts aren’t always more expensive, so shop around. Our survey of some of SA’s most popular vehicles found that OEM parts prices are sometimes cheaper than at aftermarket retailers, and it varies depending on the manufacturer and the type of part.

However, the mechanic labour costs at OEM dealers tend to be very high at between R700/hour and R1200/hour, while independent workshops usually charge between R350 to R600.

In many cases if you have basic mechanical skills and are handy with simple tools, you can do the work yourself. Google and YouTube have step by step advice for specific vehicles and jobs to help you out. A regular service on most cars would require some filters, spark plugs and, depending on your driving style, brake pads.

Some insurance companies actively support the non-OEM industry. Santam, for example, has a certified aftermarket parts programme to reduce repair costs and passes the savings on to its clients.

The table below is a sample of popular vehicles in South Africa, showing how basic service parts compare between OEM and independent dealers.

Survey conducted by Malcolm Kinsey, author of the annual Kinsey Parts Pricing report.

Be wise - only choose reputable suppliers

“When buying non-branded parts it’s advisable to go to a reputable supplier,” says Malcolm Kinsey, author of the annual Kinsey Parts Pricing Report. “Their prices might not always be the cheapest – but they often sell components as good as the original – Midas and Autozone for example supply GUD or Fram filters, ATE brake pads, NGK spark plugs etc. – good brands, often the same as original components.”

Oil can be bought from supermarkets and spares shops – but ensure that you buy the correct grade/type of oil for your specific vehicle. Your vehicle handbook should supply details.

Les McMaster, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), also believes aftermarket parts are a good option for older vehicles.

“Of course there are inferior parts out there but by sticking with brands you know and those recommended by a reputable, accredited workshop that knows your vehicle and uses the right products and parts, you can get the same performance out of aftermarket parts versus OEM and genuine parts, at a lower cost,” says McMaster. MIWA represents the interests of some 2 500 independent workshops in SA.