Car parts are extremely costly if you buy them through the regular channels like NAPA, CarQuest, or one of the many other car part suppliers out there that supply parts on demand to the massive car repair industry. If you go with genuine OEM parts from the dealer you are looking at an even higher cost.
What if I told you that you could get those same car parts for up to 90% off? In this article I’m not only going to show you how to find and buy your own parts online, but how to get them at amazing prices that can often being as little as 10-20% of the cost you would pay for similar parts at the dealer or the shop of comparable quality. You can easily save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a regular basis by doing this.
How I Saved $1000 On A Single Repair
Before I walk you through how to do it yourself, I'd like to start off with a personal example which demonstrates how much money you can really save with this process.
About six months ago, the front catalytic converter (an integral part of the exhaust system) on my wife’s 2003 Subaru Legacy got a hole in it and started making loud engine noise. Turns out “cats”, as they are affectionately called, are very expensive to replace with an original part from Subaru. The car actually has two cats on it (front and rear) that are connected by a metal pipe; Subaru sells them both as a unit. I was quoted about $900 + tax for just the part when I called them to see how much it would cost to fix at the dealer.
Then, I talked to my local mechanic about the problem and he suggested doing what I was already planning on and that is go online to buy a replacement cat. At first I was going to buy just the front cat and get them to weld it into the existing system, which would have cost me $50-$100 for the part and some extra labor time to get it installed.
Ultimately, I decided to buy the entire unit with two cats from JC Whitney that was a direct fit for my car enabling it to essentially just be bolted in place which cut down the labour time significantly. Total cost to me was $290.72 USD including tax and shipping right to my door. If I had picked it up in the USA as I usually do, my cost would have been even less at $219.12.
It arrived in about a week and I had my mechanic install it for just under $100 including tax. That brought my all-in total for the repair to around $400 for a brand new catalytic converter installed with a 5 year warranty. Compare that to the roughly $1300-$1400 it would have cost at the dealer and probably $700-$900 it would have cost had I gone to a typical garage and purchased the part through them.
Start With The Right Mechanic
Most people don’t know that if you find the right mechanic, you can actually buy and bring your own car parts with you when you get repairs done to your car. Doing this isn’t always possible in an emergency repair situation because you need the work done ASAP.
However, for predictable repairs like brake work, exhaust, oil changes, new tires, and anything that should be replaced according to a maintenance schedule, you can easily plan ahead and have the parts ready to go beforehand. Or, if the repair can wait a few days, you can order the parts after being told by your mechanic and still get them in time. Click for more on this ➨
Figure Out What Parts You Need And What They Cost
Having a good mechanic will go a long way into helping you understand basic car parts like brake components, exhaust system components, tires, suspension components, and so on. That’s a good start, but the jargon they use can be confusing so that’s when you should turn to websites like AutoMD and RepairPal to help diagnose a car problem you might be having, what car parts you will need to fix it, and exactly how much those parts cost. After a little bit of practice, understanding these basic parts is really quite simple. Click for more on this ➨
How Much Time Do You Have?
Now that you know what you need, this is where you need to make some tough choices depending on the specific situation you’re in. If you’ve done your planning and saw this repair coming you have a lot more flexibility. If your car is completely inoperable and you need this stuff yesterday then you’ll have to focus in on a quick and convenient solution. I’ll cover both.
Related: Use Synthetic Oil In Your Car
The Cheap Option: Buy Your Parts In The USA
I’ve talked about buying stuff across the border before, and car parts are a prime example of the massive savings you can realize by doing so. However, you need to be prepared to pick your parts up at the border preferably along with some other items you’ve bought for other reasons to be efficient.
Many American sites will also ship to Canada, which will cost you a bit more for shipping and duties and you can expect some minor shipping delays at the border as well, but it is often still way cheaper than buying your car parts in Canada. Click for more on cross border shopping ➨
Pick A Site To Use
In the sea of choices out there, I have selected a couple of places I routinely use for buying car parts out of the USA and they are Auto Parts Warehouse and JC Whitney.
Auto Parts Warehouse ➨ offers the biggest selection of auto parts I’ve seen ranging in quality from ultra-cheap to uber-expensive. In addition, they have a very easy to use interface where you can select your year, make, and model of vehicle along with the type of parts you want to buy and you will end up with a sortable list of matching parts that are guaranteed to work with your vehicle. I recommend avoiding the cheapest possible parts, because you are already saving a ton of money here anyway, and buy something that will last to avoid future hassles and costly labour charges.
JC Whitney’s site ➨ is a little tougher to use and the selection isn’t as good, but they do offer reasonable shipping charges directly to Canada, they often have good discount coupons available, and you can get good cash back on your purchase if you are in to that. They also do price matching if you prefer to use them but their prices are a little bit higher.
NOTE: Using the above links when making your purchase will help support HowToSaveMoney.ca, which is greatly appreciated.
Choose Where To Ship Your Parts
A couple of years ago, shipping the parts to Canada was pretty impractical for several reasons:
1) Shipping fees from American companies were very expensive instead of being free or cheap like they are to USA destinations.
2) You were very likely to be hit with border fees by the shipping company (FedEx or UPS) for dealing with customs, often amounting to more than the cost of the item you were purchasing.
3) In addition you would be hit with full Canadian taxes and possibly duties with no exemptions like those that you would receive if you picked the part up yourself at the border.
Now, shipping parts to Canada from certain USA sites like Auto Parts Warehouse and JC Whitney is much more viable because they are catering to Canadian customers purposefully these days. They have lowered their shipping fees and arranged pre-negotiated rates with shipping companies for getting their parts across the border at minimal cost. The price you see when checking out, is the price you pay in American dollars without any surprises when the package lands on your doorstep.
Look For A Stellar Coupon (Optional)
Many online retailers have a coupon code section during the checkout process where you can apply a discount coupon to save even more money. Car part sites are no exception. In fact, they almost always have a coupon where you can save at least 10% and sometimes up to 25%.
The simplest way to do this is to head over to RetailMeNot.com and type in the name of the store you are shopping at and look through the list of coupons available. RetailMeNot has become the clear leader in the coupon space so it is always my first stop because of their large user base and always up to date coupons.
However, they are heavily influenced by sponsors so sometimes the best coupons won’t be listed. You can also try a search for the site name plus the word coupon or discount to find some other coupons they may not have listed. I also like to throw in the word forum as well if I can’t find anything good at first because deal forums are the best place to find unbiased deals that typically aren’t influenced by companies or sponsors.
Take Advantage Of Cash Back (Optional)
There are various cash back websites out there that return a percentage of your purchase price to you in cash (paid by cheque or PayPal) for purchases you make at participating stores. Basically the store pays the cash back website for referring you to them and they give a portion of that money back to you. It can go as high as 25% of the purchase price depending on the store. For car parts sites it ranges from 5-10% typically.
If you want to get this cash back for yourself, one of my favourite USA cash back sites is Big Crumbs. You can sign up here and search for Auto Parts Warehouse or JC Whitney on their site to complete your purchase and you can redeem your cash back in 60 to 90 days.
If you shop online in Canada regularly, Great Canadian Rebates is the most popular Canadian cash back site that has tons of Canadian retailers to choose from. You can sign up here for that.
The Fast Option: Buy Your Parts In Canada
Canada has far fewer choices for buying car parts online and the prices are significantly higher than identical parts listed on American sites, but the shipping is often fast and free! You are likely to get your parts in a day or two if you need them that fast and the cost will still be far less than buying from the dealer or from a regular auto parts supplier.
Your Choice Is Clear
Auto Parts Way ➨ is the only big Canadian auto parts site that I know of so there aren’t many decisions to make if you are going to buy in Canada. I’ve actually never ordered from them myself because I always buy out of the USA, but I do know a few people who have used them and I haven’t heard any complaints.
Coupons And Cash Back (Optional)
You can follow a similar process as above for finding coupons for Auto Parts Way but there may be a lesser selection. However, I couldn’t find them listed on any cash back websites so at this time there is really nothing to be done there.
Related: How To Save Money By Using Coupons
If I can do it, you can too!
Give Auto Parts Warehouse a try ➨ for yourself first as their site is by far the easiest to use.