OEM, Dealership or Aftermarket: Which Glass Should I Purchase?
When an individual needs a brand new windshield installed on their automobile, they will typically have three choices: Original Equipment Manufactured glass (OEM), dealer glass and aftermarket glass.
The price between these three options can be significant and it is understandable that the the average person who is not in our business would have no clue what the difference is between them.
You will get varying answers depending on which supplier you talk to. Keep in mind that the supplier of each kind of glass will understandably promote his product because he wants to make a sell.
Car makers have specific specifications on how they each make their glass (ie. visibility, tolerances, thickness, size, plastic used). While they all make look the same, Ford has different specs than Chevrolot or Volkswagen.
Window products that are labeled “OEM” should be virtually identical to what each dealer uses when they assemble the car or truck at the plant. Keep in mind that “identical” can mean different things to different manufacturers and while their product might close really close, it is not necessarily the exact same.
It is also worth noting that car makers are usually not the ones who make their own windshield glass. There are certain parts they outsource to other companies and this one of them. Many times the company who makes official dealer glass are also the same companies who make OEM glass and subsequently sell them to wholesale suppliers around the country. What this means is that depending on who the glass is purchased from, you might be getting “dealer” glass without even knowing it.
The place where the glass is purchased from will have a lot to do with the quality of the OEM glass.
Let’s say for example you need to new front windshield for your 2009 Nissan Pathfinder. Honda may have contracted out AP Tech to make all of their glass for that model in 2009 when it was assembled. If you go to a dealership for your replacement, the glass they will give you will come from AP Tech, assuming they still have that contact with Nissan. However, if you or your installer went to an established local glass shop, they would supply with an OEM product from a distributor ( PPG or Pilkington most likely) who makes the exact same front windshield, with the exact same dimensions or specs. Technically, it does not qualify as “dealer glass,” but it is just as good. In most cases it should be accepted even if you have a leased car.
Note that dealerships want you to get your parts from them and will try to tell you that anything other than what they sell is inferior, thereby voiding your warranty. When this happens you need to double check that what they are saying is, in fact, true. A second option is always the best option if this situation were to occur.
If you chose this options then you are buying your replacement glass from an actual dealership. They are going to supply with you with the exact same glass as what was on your car when it was brand new. Even if the car makers has contracted a different company to manufacturer to produce all their window glass since you purchased your vehicle, it will carry the exact same specifications as before. It will have their name and stamp of approval on it.
People with higher end models usually prefer dealership glass because it will usually carry the brand’s logo. The other who options will not not matter who good it is. If you have a Honda Accord you probably will not care about such things but if you have a new BMW you might.
Getting your replacement from the dealership is the safest option but also the most expensive. You will have to pay an inflated mark-up to get “the real thing.” Some consumers do not mind paying what can something be an exorbitant amount to get glass from the dealership while others have a problem paying extra money for “just a name.”
Aftermarket auto glass is made by manufactures who who neither have a contract with any car maker nor do not have the legal right to make their products with the exact same specs as OEM distributors. Copyright laws and licensing rights prevent them from doing so.
Safelite and Gerber are two of the largest national companies who make aftermarket glass in the United States. Other companies like Auto Temp, Carlite, Crinamex, Guardian, Mopar, Pikington, Pittsburgh Glass Works and Sekurit have different divisions within the same company that make glass to dealerships, OEM and aftermarket.
Many people, especially ones with slightly older models, choose aftermarket glass because it is the least expensive option of the three. A person can save a couple hundred dollars by opting for this option.
There can be some drawbacks to aftermarket products. They might differ in thickness or not contain other features that the naked eye cannot see. In some cases it can even cause problems with your car warranty. If you are driving a leased vehicle then there is a good chance the dealer will not accept a vehicle that has been replaced with aftermarket glass due to the perceived loss of resale value.
Aftermarket glass comes with no guarantees and it can be very hard to tell how well it was made because there are no set standards that had to be followed. You might also see slight differences in how the glass looks on your car once it is installed.
This type of glass can also be a pain from an installer’s point of view because the part might not fit like it supposed to. Personally, I cannot tell you how many times I have been on a job and had to take a windshield back because it did not fit into place like the supplier promised me. Nevertheless, a person on a tight budget might have to go with this option because it is what he can afford at the time.
So, Which One Should I Chose?
I will usually recommend one of the three options depending on what the customers budget, car type and preference is. Trying to install aftermarket products on some cars is somethings more trouble than what it is worth. Other times I will have to insist on a replacement from the dealership if their warranty is on the line. If the car is ten years old then an aftermarket glass might be the most reasonable choice. It depends on the circumstance.
I make a living on the installation so the type of glass a customer chooses makes little difference to me. When I purchase the glass from a dealer or an approved OEM supplier, I know that the windshield is going to fit perfectly on the car. An aftermarket product might take some extra adjustment. The best option will always end up being dependent on the customer’s personal circumstances and tastes.