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What Not to Buy When Shopping at an Auto Parts Store

I worked many years as a professional mechanic as well as a service manager.


What NOT to Buy in the Auto Parts Store

Your car breaks down and you can’t afford to take it to the shop and pay $90 an hour for something you can fix yourself. So naturally you think of going to the nearest Auto Parts store for parts, supplies and tools that you may need. You just made your first mistake.

If you need the parts right away, then yes by all means go to the parts store. But shop around on the phone and the internet. Find a store that will “price match”, then work your way down to the lowest price. Play one store against the other. If your part has to be ordered, don’t pay an ordering fee, and don’t pay for it up front. If they require an up-front payment, go somewhere else. Some parts need to be special ordered and there may be a shipping charge. In that case, you may have to pay when ordering.

If you can afford to wait a couple of days, order your parts online. Even if they are from a parts store, chances are they would still be cheaper. Shop around. Amazon, Walmart and Ebay have good resources for parts. But buyer beware! If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is!

But let it end there. Don’t buy anything but actual auto parts from a parts store. Oil from a parts store is no deal, even when it is “on sale”. Even the employees don’t get much of a break on oil prices. Package deals and combination oil/oil filter offers sound good, but in reality they are not. Stores such as Walmart are most likely your best bet for oil, oil filters, air filters and even batteries and lighting. Even Home Depot has oil cheaper than the parts store, and their tool selection is pretty good as well.

Keep in mind when making a purchase from an auto parts store, you will be upsold like crazy. If you buy brake pads, they will try to sell you brake lubricant. If you buy an ignition part, they will try to sell you dielectric grease. Some unscrupulous parts salesmen will actually scan a packet of grease and drop it in your bag without telling you. They do this to meet a quota and get higher commissions for selling more “companion items” (Yes, parts guys work on commission). You can buy the companion items at Walmart a lot cheaper.

When you are given a choice of several different variations of the same part, like a set of points for example, go with the cheapest one. They are more than likely all made by the exact same manufacturer and will last just as long, even if the warranty is less than the name brand. The ACME points are usually the exact same points as the Blue Point or the Standard ones. Don’t let yourself be upsold to a “better” product. Chances are it’s not better.

Wiper blades! The biggest rip off of it all. The name brand, $75 a pair blades are out on the sales floor. Ask for the $20 a pair blades that are kept hidden behind the counter. They won't tell you about those. Most everything on the sales floor is an accessory that can be purchased elsewhere, wiper blades included.

Remember, Auto Parts stores are for hardline Auto Parts. Buy your oil, filters, batteries, bulbs and accessories at another, cheaper place. You will save money and aggravation in the long run.

(C) 2019 Del Banks

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.