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Emotions drive parts purchasing decisions

I have learned over the last 15 years that who I decide to buy parts from simply boils down to an emotional decision. That has not always been the case.

I buy all kinds of auto parts. About half come from aftermarket companies and the other half from local dealerships. When I first started in business for myself in 1994 I looked for the lowest price, best quality, and quickest service. Other things I considered were warranty, the ordering process, and payment terms. How I make the decision now is not that cut and dried.


Price is like a funny piece of art in the middle of your coffee table. Guests look at it and ask because it’s there, then the conversation goes elsewhere.

I order most all my parts online now. It is very easy to look up the part and see who has availability and price. This Internet stuff was a great idea.

The accuracy of selecting the correct part is as good as the computerized catalog you have to pick from and my ability to use a mouse. The errors are nearly nonexistent nowadays.

But even with today’s economic challenges, price cannot be a deciding factor. I think many people talk about price just because they don’t know what else to talk about. For example, a new potential customer will call me and ask how much it costs to get something done to their car, when in reality they want to find out something else. They are not satisfied with what they presently have and would like to be treated better—more respect, honesty, and so forth.

I have learned to ask questions and talk about our qualifications. After a while, the potential customer will finally tell me the real reason they called.


When I was young, working at Performance Automotive Machine and Supply in WaKeeney, Kan., the owner, Kenny Hacker, had a fully operational machine shop. I remember the detail and care that went into each order and how everything was cleaned and resurfaced and tested.

The diagrams and parts catalogs were fascinating to me. We would make pieces that were not available. I just knew the units would work flawlessly. Kenny would explain why the existing one failed. Sometimes another problem, like a poor ground or excessive load found on the vehicle or implement, had caused the failure. This was the standard of quality I learned initially—that feeling of security knowing the care that went into the work.

Things are so different nowadays. I learned the hard way that some of the cheaper “brand new” parts are not all they appear to be on the outside. Now I stick with the name brand units which work better for me. I have developed a gut feeling about some parts over the years.


When it comes to parts, the term lifetime warranty means nothing to me. In fact, I have found lifetime warranty parts to be of lesser quality than one year warranty parts. I do not understand this completely, but the brake industry gives me a good example.

A lifetime brake pad sold at any local chain brake store is usually the lowest cost and quality material. The fine print usually says the brake pad itself is covered for life, but the rotors, caliper and hardware are not. We get lots of new customers with squeaky brakes and found the low quality brake pads contain a high metal content. There is such high metal, you can see small shavings embedded in the pad material. These are big enough to pick out with a screw driver.

The high metal content creates a lot of heat and noise. Heat warps rotors and cooks calipers. Do the math.

“You get what you pay for” is so true. It costs money to research and test and source quality materials. One time I purchased an unusually low priced power steering pump for a Lexus. The part was a third the cost of what I thought it should be. It sure looked good in the box. I replaced the part two more times until finally spending the extra for the original equipment (OE) pump.

I have a dealership parts man named Bill who uses the phrase, “If you have a problem with anything, we’ll take care of you.” Bill came to my shop over his lunch hour once in the 1990s with his old-style fiche parts display machine to help find a special heater hose for a problem car we had. I have never stopped buying parts from this guy because he always goes to any length to take care of me.

So even when the parts manufacturers bombard me with seemingly great discounts on their wares, I keep calling Bill. It’s an emotional thing.