Ersatz. My 11th Grade English teacher would be so happy that I was finally able to use one of those SAT words. Ersatz means “… made as a substitute, typically, an inferior one.” You are probably asking yourself why an insurance blog is offering vocabulary advice. Actually, I wanted to use this as a way to start the conversation about how cars get repaired after an accident. There are three types of parts that get used. They include original equipment from the manufacturer, OEM, parts that are used and are of like kind and quality, LKQ, and parts manufactured by someone other than the original manufacturer, “after market.”
When cars are damaged, the insurance companies, in conjunction with your repair shop, are permitted to use the best, least expensive parts available. Typically, for the first two or three years, insurance carriers will use OEM parts, but there is no guarantee. (Some carriers do offer you the option to buy an OEM protection that will always provide new parts. This can be expensive so if that is what you want, be prepared to pay.) LKQ parts are those manufactured to the carmaker, but are “used” which means that they would have come off another car that was “totaled” and the parts are being salvaged and reused. (Imagine a car gets struck in the rear and totalled, but the parts on the front of the car can be reused.) For the most part, people are understanding that original parts or parts from the original manufacturer are being used to repair their car. When does the trouble start? You guessed it, when ersatz parts enter the picture.
Aftermarket parts are like the generic drugs of the pharmaceutical world. These are made to cost less but accomplish the same job. When aftermarket parts were first introduced, they were truly inferior, truly ersatz. Even now, shops have difficulty making some parts fit. So, what are we to do? As cars get older, they obviously depreciate in value. Once cars are three years old, they have incurred significant depreciation. When a car gets damaged, if the cost of repairs exceeds about 70% of the car’s value, it is considered a “total.” Using these aftermarket parts can make it possible to keep the cost of repairs under that 70% and make sure that you do not find yourself car shopping when you least expect it.