As the web’s leading motorcycle parts store, we have a massive selection of parts in stock for every inch of your bike – but for almost every part you can think of, there is an OEM and an Aftermarket option (and even a few gray areas in between. How do you know which one you should be getting? We break it down for you in this guide.
Here at BikeBandit.com, we deal with a lot of parts. And when we say a lot, with parts for most of the major OEM brands going back several decades, we mean a lot (several million, in fact.) Because we specialize in making parts easy to find, we’ve got tools like our Parts Finder that make getting the right ones for your bike a breeze. But even after you’ve narrowed down all those parts to exactly what you need, you will still often be faced with that age-old question: should you go with OEM parts, or Aftermarket?
This can be a very confusing question, but in most cases, there are a few key ways to determine exactly what will be perfect for you. In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what they are. In a few other situations, it may be a toss-up between whether OEM or aftermarket are best for your application, but don’t worry – we’ll walk you through exactly what things you need to consider, to make sure your purchase is an investment that you’ll be completely satisfied with for years to come.
Let’s get started!
What are OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts?
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, and OEM indicates that these parts are the original parts that come straight from the company that built your bike. For the most part, OEM parts are the ones that came on your bike when you bought it brand new (though sometimes you can buy upgraded parts made by your motorcycle manufacturer, and these are considered to be OEM too.)
Generally, OEM parts are built in-house, in the same factories where your bike itself was built. Often, however, manufacturers will subcontract other major companies to build parts for their bikes that come as original equipment (things like Brembo brakes, Bosch electronics, all motorcycle tires, and so on.) Even if they are built by someone else, if they come on your bike from the factory, they are still considered to be “original equipment.”
Aftermarket parts are all the parts built by third-party companies – stuff that doesn’t come on your bike from the factory, but are instead built as replacements for those parts. Aftermarket parts usually serve one of two purposes: either they are suitable replacements for OEM parts at a lower price, or they are built to be higher-performance, more stylish, or serve a more specific purpose than the more generic parts that come on it from the factory.
As direct replacements for what came on your bike, OEM parts are pretty much guaranteed to work. The fit and finish with OEM parts is usually flawless, they are extremely reliable, and require no custom fitting or tuning – but they to tend to be expensive, and they won’t “wow” you with performance. If you don’t even notice that an OEM part has been replaced – it’s doing its job perfectly.
Aftermarket parts are either a much better value, or are just a lot more exciting than OEM. All the “cool” stuff is Aftermarket – from performance parts like race exhausts to eye-catching chrome bits to high-powered lighting kits – but many aftermarket parts are simply built to be straight replacements for OEM parts at a much better value. In general, you have far more options with aftermarket parts, but they can be a lot more inconsistent too, and aftermarket parts will often require fitting or tuning to get them to work right. What aftermarket parts gain in performance or value, they usually lose in consistency and reliability.
When Should You Use OEM Parts?
In general, when you need your replacement part to work reliably and fit flawlessly, and you can’t afford to be dealing with the hassle of adjusting, tuning, or replacing parts, you’ll want to go straight to OEM parts. A few categories where we strongly recommend going OEM are:
- All engine internals
- All gaskets, seals, and bearings
- Functional parts like pumps, servos, cables, etc.
- Most body parts
- Most electrical parts
- Fairings (a note about fairings: we always recommend you go OEM unless you have a dedicated track or race bike, as knockoffs or track body work virtually always require trimming, drilling, and stretching to fit, and getting a color match with your OEM bodywork is usually very difficult!)
Another time when you should absolutely go OEM is when you are trying to preserve as much resale value as possible in your bike. If you have a collectors bike, are planning on selling it, or in general just want to retain as much value as possible in your investment, go straight OEM and don’t look back. Even though aftermarket parts are often much higher performance than OEM parts, they generally don’t add anything to resale value (and often, they actually take away from it.)
When Should You Use Aftermarket Parts?
One time you should look specifically for aftermarket parts is when a conspicuous upgrade in either performance or style is desired, especially when the part is relatively easy to service or replace. A few great examples are:
- Chain and sprockets
- Handlebars and levers
- Footpegs and controls
There a number of very well-known, reputable manufacturers that make all those parts and many more, which offer very noticeable benefits over standard, generic OEM stuff. Anything custom or high-performance will be from the aftermarket, and lets face it, customizing your bike with all the parts that will make it look, feel, and perform exactly the way you want it to is one of the best parts about owning a bike!
Another time aftermarket parts are a great choice is to replace basic maintnenance items with comparable parts when you are looking for a great value. For simple things like brake pads, chains and sprockets, fluids and filters, and so on, you can often find much more affordable aftermarket options that work just as good as OEM without the OEM price tag.
Toss-Up Parts: When OEM and Aftermarket Are Both Great
There are also a number of types of parts where OEM and aftermarket parts are both really good options, and it just comes down to what you’re looking for that will sway you toward one or the other.
A perfect example: a new battery. For some riders, all they want from their battery is reliability – if it starts when they turn the key, they are happy. In this case, a straight OEM replacement is ideal. For others, it seems pointless to spend money getting the same performance they already had when they could spend a little more to get something like an ultra-reliable AGM battery or a feather-light lithium battery instead. While OEM is predictable, many riders upgrade their batteries to a higher performing, more advanced adftermarket unit when their OEM battery dies, and they couldn’t be happier. Ultimately, it just depends what they are looking for.
A few other categories where both OEM and Aftermarket parts are very good options, depending on the rider’s desires and budget:
- Suspension parts
- Brake parts
This guide will clear up a lot of the basic questions about whether you should be leaning toward OEM or aftermarket parts for your application. But if you have more questions that need answers, we’re always here to help. Simply email us at [email protected], or give us a call at 1-888-339-3888 and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction!