Windshield Replacement: OEM vs Aftermarket

Know the difference

When you need to replace your car’s windshield, you may face making a decision between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) windshield or an aftermarket windshield. Often the decision may come down to your insurance provider’s specifications, but at other times the choice may be left up to you. In order to make an informed decision, you’ll need to know the difference between the two types of windshields. OEM vs Aftermarket: what should you choose?

Car manufacturers don’t typically make their own windshields. This work is subcontracted to companies that specialize in auto glass. The auto glass company creates windshields and windows according to the car maker’s strict specifications. Then the glass is shipped to the central facility where the cars are actually assembled, and they are installed in new cars as they are built. Since this work is subcontracted, the auto manufacturer continually accepts bids from different glass makers. Often they will switch glass manufacturers when a lower bid is received, resulting in identical vehicles having glass that is technically manufactured by different companies. By the time you need to have your windshield replaced, your car’s manufacturer may have switched glass companies, so you will receive an OEM windshield that might have been made by a different company than your original.

OEM

An OEM windshield will be identical to the original, factory installed windshield that came with your car when it was brand new. These windshields may not necessarily manufactured by the company who made the windshield originally installed on your car, but they are nearly identical in almost every way. This glass is manufactured according to your car maker’s very specific regulations, and should match your original in size, shape, and color. The thickness and durability should be identical as well. It’s important to note that these windshields are also certified by the Department of Transportation, so you can be assured of their safety.

Aftermarket

Aftermarket glass is manufactured by auto glass companies who don’t necessarily contract with specific auto makers. Since these companies are not manufacturing OEM windshields under contract for the auto manufacturer, they don’t have to abide by specific manufacturer guidelines. In fact, due to copyright laws, auto glass companies are actually prohibited from producing windshields that are identical to the factory-installed versions. Obviously, the size and shape will have to be identical, because otherwise the glass would not fit into your vehicle. However, the thickness and durability may be different, and the color of the tint may vary slightly as well.

Some consumers complain that their aftermarket windshields leak or produce excess noise. Others may notice a wavy quality to the glass, or the different color to the tint may be displeasing. While the differences are usually small, very discriminating car owners may be displeased with their aftermarket glass. Others, however, report little to no difference between their car’s original windshield and their new aftermarket version.

Like most things, the decision may come down to money. Insurance companies may only cover aftermarket glass, because it is less expensive. This leaves the car owner to decide whether they want to pay extra for an OEM windshield. Many aftermarket windshields work out very well for the consumer, but those not willing to take a risk on slightly lower quality will often choose to invest in an OEM windshield.

One final note on OEM windshields vs aftermarket: If the vehicle is leased, the leasing contract may specifically state that the windshield can only be replaced with an OEM windshield. Any time the windshield in a leased vehicle is to be replaced, the driver should check their leasing agreement very carefully for this specification. Otherwise, extra charges may be assessed when the vehicle is returned at the end of the leasing period.