Once your vehicle rolls off the assembly line, aftermarket car part manufacturers are already reverse engineering your auto body part to find the specs to create an exact replica. Aftermarket car parts, unlike OEM car parts, are not produced until after your car is on the market.
[Learn the difference between OEM and aftermarket car parts .]
In this space, there are numerous manufacturers who all compete to sell you various parts – with a wide range in quality and price. Some aftermarket parts are actually manufactured in the same facility as your OEM car parts but sold under their own company name, while others are manufactured from questionable companies overseas. Thus, to set some type of standard in the aftermarket parts industry, CAPA certification was born.
What are CAPA certified car parts?
The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) came up with a set of standards to ensure high-quality, fairly priced alternatives to OEM car parts.
CAPA Certified car parts are subject to a comprehensive range of tests to ensure every aspect of the aftermarket part, including materials, fitment, appearance, and durability, are directly compared to and can equal, if not surpass, the OEM part.
Where can I get CAPA certified parts?
Your local auto body shop can get CAPA certified parts, but they’re not required to do so, when you come in for an estimate. Online stores may also carry CAPA certified parts.
How do I know if I have a CAPA certified part?
If your aftermarket car part is CAPA certified, it will have a CAPA seal similar to the one below.
Each seal has a perforated tab that body shops can tear off and use to verify the use of a CAPA certified part on your car. The top portion of the seal remains on the car part itself. CAPA seals cannot be transferred from one car part to another car part, and will self-destruct when removed.
Recommended locations for the CAPA certified seals are mentioned on the official CAPA Certification site, although they’re not required to be in that exact location. So, make sure you look for the CAPA Quality Seal in order to ensure you have an actual CAPA certified part.
What are non-CAPA certified car parts?
Non-CAPA certified car parts have either not requested to become CAPA certified, or may have not passed the CAPA certification process. While there are companies who send over their parts and get rejected for CAPA certification due to poor quality concerns, other companies simply choose not to enroll in the CAPA certification process because of the fees imposed upon using the CAPA name and seal.
Aftermarket car parts that are not CAPA certified does not necessarily mean they do not hold the same superior quality and standards as their CAPA certified contenders. And, oftentimes, these other aftermarket parts undergo some other type of certification process they will list on their site.
Who uses non-CAPA certified parts?
Many auto body shops use non-CAPA certified car parts to fix your vehicle. Unless it’s been explicitly stated that they used a CAPA certified or OEM part, body shops usually use non-CAPA certified parts for various reasons: (1) they’re cheaper, (2) they know the quality of the parts since they usually stick to one supplier.
However, this also depends on the state you live in as some states do require body shops to use CAPA certified parts, while other states do not. Your insurance carrier may also have policies in regards to CAPA versus non-CAPA certified parts during your insurance claims.
Are all non-CAPA certified parts the same?
Don’t make the assumption that all non-CAPA certified parts are created equal. While some non-CAPA certified car parts will hold superior standards in terms of quality, fitment, durability and finish – and may have even been used on your car if you’ve gotten it fixed before – some non-certified parts may be a complete disaster.
Poor-quality, non-CAPA certified car parts do exist and many times you can’t tell until you receive the part – then, you’ll find unsightly gaps between the part and the rest of your car after you install the part.
Are CAPA certified parts worth the extra cost?
With such a gamble between CAPA and non-CAPA certified car parts, why not just stick with CAPA certified? It boils down to cost. Similar to why you’d choose a CAPA certified part over an OEM part, non-CAPA certified parts could also be significantly cheaper compared to CAPA certified parts. So, are CAPA certified parts worth the extra cost?
Well, that depends on how much more you’re spending and the part you’re getting. For “cosmetic” car parts – which includes the fender, front bumper cover and rear bumper cover – then, no, it’s not worth the cost. These exterior parts are considered the “skin” of your car, and will need to be replaced even when going 20 mph in a crash.
However, if you’re replacing a bumper (or bumper reinforcement bar), a radiator support, or other impact-significant car part, then it’s worth paying the extra dollar. These structural parts are crash tested and continually inspected to ensure they meet or exceed OEM safety standards before receiving the CAPA certified seal.