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Replacing Truck Headlights: The Difference Between OEM, OE, and Aftermarket

truck lights

With approximately 400,000 commercial trucking companies at work in the United States, it's important for truckers to know where to go when they need replacement parts. When operating a semi truck, it’s inevitable that you’ll need replacement parts sometime in the future. One of the most common parts drivers need to be replaced are headlights. While truck lights can last anywhere from 500 to 1, 000 hours (or even 30,000 hours with LEDs), this time can quickly add up if you frequently drive at night. LED headlights will last you longer than other types of truck lights, but it’s important to consider your needs and the source from whom you'll make these purchases in the future.

And when it comes time to buy replacement truck lights, which option is best? You'll likely need to choose between three different categories, which we've outlined below.

OEM, OE, or Aftermarket?

By 2020, the global industry for aftermarket parts is expected to reach $722.8 billion. While it’s obvious that many drivers are turning towards this option when it comes to purchasing replacement parts, what’s the difference between these three types of replacement parts?

  • Original Equipment Manufacturer: Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are created, as you might guess, by the original manufacturer of your truck. OEMs are a safe bet, as what you buy will be the same as what originally came with your rig. The biggest benefit of OEM parts is that they’re tailored specifically for your vehicle. Customers are also guaranteed of the quality. However, the downside is that these parts tend to be more expensive overall. Think of it as paying for the brand name. They also may not be easily available due to only being stocked by specific dealers. At the end of the day, if you don’t want to shop around and enjoyed the type of truck light you already had, OEMs will suit you just fine.
  • Original Equipment: Original equipment (OE) parts are often confused with OEMs. However, there is a bit of a difference. The design of the part may come from the original manufacturer, but the manufacturing of the components is conducted by an outside company. The original company then assembles the parts for sale. This type of subcontracting allows for parts to be sold at a lower price, while still bearing the quality of OEM parts.
  • Aftermarket Parts If you’re looking at headlights for trucks and want to see what alternative brands can do for you, aftermarket parts are the way to go. These parts aren’t from your rig's original manufacturer; instead, they come from a company that specializes in providing replacement parts for a wide array of vehicles. The part could be an exact replica of what came with your vehicle, but it may differ in material, quality, and reliability. To make sure you get the best deal, always check reviews (if you’re ordering online) or ask at your local shop what brands they would recommend. The benefit aftermarket semi truck lights are that they’re usually less expensive and will be readily available from many different shops and dealers. Overall, aftermarket parts are usually a safe bet, especially given the booming state of the industry.

When it comes to choosing between OEM, OE, and aftermarket truck parts, the decision is yours to make. There is no right or wrong answer here. OEM will give you proven quality and be tailored specifically for your rig, though they will come with a higher price tag. OE is a safe middle ground if you don’t want to experiment with brands too much, while aftermarket parts can be great provided you research a brand or ask your local shop for suggestions. Keep in mind that the most reliable truck lights may not be the ones that come with the highest price.

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