If you prefer bringing your car to the dealership for all servicing and have no desire to save a lot of money by doing some of the work yourself this post won’t be helpful. However, if you saw the light and understand how even the amateur DIY skills can save time and money while building your confidence, come right in!
I’m not going to rehash what’s been said before and get right into how I go about buying parts needed for any number of the DIY auto maintenance. I’ve been using this approach for many years, refining it in the process and hopefully you will find it useful. The general idea is to get quality parts at a price that’s at least 50-75% lower than what a dealer would charge you.
Note that this only works if you do the work yourself. Most dealers and auto repair places will not let you buy the part and have them install it. They will justify it by saying that they can’t guarantee the parts purchased elsewhere. It’s a somewhat valid argument but the truth is that they make a LOT of money on buying parts from wholesalers and re-selling them to you at a nice markup. Yet another reason to DIY!
You generally have these options available to you for auto parts purchase:
- Local Auto Dealers – most expensive, high quality parts, somewhat easy returns. You can buy what you need at the parts counter and install yourself, but you’ll pay for convenience and the name. While I usually try to avoid these places, they are great as a backup since most are open on Saturdays and can be driven to in the middle of the DIY project gone wrong (snapped bolt, wrong/missing parts, etc). I try to do non-routine maintenance on Saturdays for that exact reassurance reason.
Online Auto Dealers – expensive, high quality parts, no easy returns. Online dealers are great if you want to get the OEM part at a slightly better price than your local dealer and don’t mind the shipping time. Yes, you will probably pay shipping but most of the time the total is still cheaper than buying locally. It’s an interesting phenomenon since these “online” dealers are usually real brick-and-mortar dealers, just in a different state. Somehow your local BMW dealer will sell the same part at 30% more than the one in Ohio.
Online Auto Parts Stores – good prices, high quality parts, OK returns. There are many stores on the internet that will sell you auto parts, but there are a few standouts that have consistently exceeded my expectations. One of my favorites is www.autohausaz.com. They have a great selection of OEM parts for most brands but they are especially great for such European brands as Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, MINI etc. With most orders qualifying for free shipping they are usually my first stop to get an idea on what I should expect to pay for a quality part.
My next stop if shopping for Euro parts is www.rmeuropean.com which generally has the same great prices and service. Sometimes I will split my order between these two companies if it’s large enough to qualify for free shipping on both sites since the same part can have a significant price variation. There are, of course, many other online stores but these two are always at the top of my list.
Local Auto Parts Stores – decent prices, decent parts, easy returns. Autozone, Advance Auto, O’Reily’s etc are all over the country and you’re probably within 5 miles of one. These will carry a decent quality non-OEM part for your car which will be just fine most of the time. For example, I could have paid $500 for an alternator at the BMW dealer or $150 (with a coupon) for a re-manufactured one at Advance Auto with a lifetime warranty… I bought the cheaper one and had no issues.
Local Auto Parts Stores – with an online twist. This is one of my favorite options because of the coupons that are almost always available. Advance Auto is especially aggressive with $10 off $30, or $40-$50 off $100, or 35% off total all very common at any given time. I sometimes split the order into separate ones to save the most $$. So if I’m purchasing $130 worth of stuff, I will split it into $100 and $30 and use a different coupon on each. There are always “fillers” to get to the minimum purchase specified by the coupon – things like brake fluid cleaner, tire shine, wheel cleaner all work great. To get discount codes simply Google “Advance Auto coupons”. Also, chances are there is a coupon being displayed in this post right now as you are reading it. Google likes to insert auto ads since it’s relevant to what I’m writing about.
Another reason I love buying from local auto parts stores online is because of the cashback that you get through Ebates. For example, shopping through Ebates gets me 5.5% off at Advance Auto on top of other coupons like that 35% off. I use Ebates for other online shopping as well and it works great to save extra on most internet purchases. If you don’t have an account, I highly recommend that you sign up!
Amazon – good prices, generally quality parts, OK returns. Amazon has a huge Auto section carrying parts for most makes and models. I like to use them for smaller orders which qualify for free shipping on Amazon at only $
2535. For example, I most recently bought a set of spark plugs for my motorcycle along with a couple of filters and it was cheaper than at the dealer with no need to go anywhere. Buyer beware though because there are many vendors selling parts under Amazon’s banner and not all of them are as reliable as you’d expect.
Ebay – great prices, hit or miss quality parts, no easy returns. A nice feature of Ebay is the ability to quickly find THE lowest price of any part by searching for Buy It Now – Sort by Price Including Shipping – Lowest First. Yes, most of the parts on there are Made in China but sometimes it’s good enough and you just want to pay the least. This is a balancing act and if you don’t know how to tell what’s “enough” for the particular DIY task in hand I would suggest staying away from Ebay.
Walmart – good prices, decent parts, easy returns. I don’t usually buy “auto parts” at Walmart but I’m putting it on the list because they have THE best prices on something that I get regularly – engine oil. I’ve always used Mobil 1 0w-40 which retails for $8-$10 per quart in most places. At Walmart I can buy it at around $5 per quart which is the best deal I can find. If you see me at Walmart chances are I’m buying engine oil and/or kitty litter 🙂
So that’s my list. I’ve used all these places to purchase auto parts but two of my favorites by far are 3 and 5. If you are used to seeing parts prices itemized on your auto repair bill you are in for a big surprise. Grab a bill from your last dealer performed service involving new parts and look it up online to see the markup you paid. Combine that with free DIY labor and it ads up really quick!
*Read some tips on getting the best deal on auto parts while stashing money for financial independence in this post.