Does your car need a new part? If so, you have a few options.
You can take your vehicle to your local independent garage, or to the nearest garage/dealership that has been authorised to work on your make and model of car.
A third option is buying the required part online and fitting it yourself. With this route, you can either buy genuine Original Equipment (OE) parts, or you can buy parts made by third parties - which are often cheaper than OE parts.
Note: You should always check your vehicle handbook for any fault remedy before carrying out any work on your vehicle. If you are unsure of what is required to fix any problems, please consult a professional.
Independent car parts: your local garage
There are several reasons why you might choose to have your new parts fitted by your local independent garage or independent car dealer - rather than an authorised car dealer.
You may already have built a relationship with them, so you trust they will do the work well and for a reasonable price.
If you want them to fit Original Equipment parts, you should make this clear from the outset. Local independent garages are often cheaper than authorised dealers/garages, in part because they use non-original parts.
While non-original car parts have been viewed as inferior in the past, build quality has improved in the last decade or so.
Independent garages may also charge less for labour than an authorised garage.
Additionally, you may wish to support local businesses instead of large corporations.
Authorised dealer/garage: Is dealership service better?
Many car owners ask the question: is it better to service your car at the dealer?
As well as the part in question coming directly from your car's manufacturer, the part will be fitted using standardised techniques approved by the carmaker - which adds to peace of mind for some customers. (However, that’s not to say a local garage can’t fit a part to the same standard.)
But authorised dealers have one key drawback: cost.
Because networks of authorised dealers have more overheads - such as marketing and prime inner city locations - they tend to charge more than independent garages. And of course, they use genuine Original Equipment parts, which adds to the price.
Order the part and fit it yourself
If you have the required mechanical knowledge and experience, you may decide to buy the part and fit it yourself.
There are many online outlets that sell both Original Equipment parts and third party copies.
Carmakers have come to embrace the fact that some motorists buy parts online. For example, Ford now has an Official Ford Ebay Store.
Some suppliers also allow you to collect the part in question - which is ideal if you want to fit it in a hurry.
Second hand car parts
It's also possible to buy pre-owned car parts online, further reducing the cost. However, the part will obviously have been used before - and it may be difficult to judge how long it will last.
Most sellers of used car parts will offer some kind of limited guarantee - usually a month.
By contrast, buying a genuine Original Equipment part and having it fitted by an authorised dealer may come with a two year warranty (often with no mileage limit).
Buying a used car for parts
Some car owners even buy old versions of their current car from which to salvage replacement parts. However, this is not a common solution because of the storage space the used car takes up, and the mechanical knowledge, skill and time required to harvest parts.
What about scrap yards?
Scrap yards (or junkyards) buy vehicles that have been written off/totalled in a collision, or which are no longer roadworthy due to certain faults or age.
However, many parts in such vehicles are still usable. These may be sold off to private customers - often at very low prices.
Everything from air bag systems to wing mirrors to alternators are salvaged from scrap vehicles and made available to buy.
There is sometimes a modest entrance fee for scrap yards.
You may also be able to search for scrap parts on the scrapyard's website (if they have one) - which is much quicker and easier than traipsing around a scrap yard!
The downside of buying parts from a junkyard is that you could be buying a part that has been damaged, is of poor quality, or that may not last very long.
Whether you buy your replacement car parts through an authorised dealer/garage, at your local independent garage, online, or at a scrap yard normally comes down to cost and reliability.
If you have genuine parts fitted by an authorised garage, they're likely to be more reliable but cost you more. But if you're on a budget, you might turn to your local garage and have non-original equipment parts fitted, or even visit your scrapyard!