OEM vs Aftermarket Windshield Replacement – Which is Better?

When you start seeing signs of cracks on your windshield, a replacement is imminent and there are two ways to go when it comes to windshield replacement. You can either go for the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) glass or opt for an aftermarket automotive windshield. There’s a world of difference between the two, and in this article, we will dive deeper into the differences between the OEM vs aftermarket windshield.

Deciding between OEM glass and aftermarket windshields will often come down to your insurance provider’s specifications. But most of the time, the choice is 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 windshield and this is exactly what we’ll be talking about today.

Car manufacturers don’t typically make their own windshields. This work is subcontracted to companies that specialize in auto glass. The auto glass company manufactures 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 installed in new cars as they are built. Since this work is subcontracted, the auto manufacturer continually accepts bids from different glassmakers. 

Sometimes, 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 the original.

Reflection on windshield of Jaguar car

OEM Auto Glass

What is OEM glass? An OEM windshield is an identical version of the original and factory-installed windshield that came with your car when it was brand new. These windshields may not necessarily be manufactured by the company that originally made the windshield and installed it on your car, but they are nearly identical in almost every way.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.

In the United States of America, there are tens of thousands of aftermarket automotive parts sold every day made from both domestically and overseas. Many of them claim to be quality OEM parts but keep in mind that although the dimensions may be the same as the original, it’s pretty obvious that they actually differ a lot in quality

Many vehicle owners don’t really care about the difference. However, there are so-called “knock-off” parts to watch out for. These are products enticingly labeled and packaged to look the same as the original part and claim to be OEM, but the quality is far less than the original, and they are usually made from inferior materials.

As you shop for OEM car windshields, you will also come across Original Equipment Equivalent or OEE Windshields. These are actually similar to OEM windshields except for the branding presentation. OEE automotive windshields use the manufacturer’s logo and refer to their products as OEM parts. This is a cheaper alternative to OEM replacement since they have almost the same quality and standards as the OEM glass. They are made from the same factories that supply the glass to the car manufacturing lines, except that they don’t carry the more expensive premium price tag.

Ultimately, if you want a factory replacement for your windshield, OEM glass is the way to go. Why? Because you are assured of exact fitment and glass curvature. More importantly, there is an added assurance on quality, which meets the minimum standard set by the car manufacturer since they’re made by the same parts manufacturer that supplies the carmaker. Considering the critical role of the windshield in cars, the features of OEM windshields translate to safety and protection.  

However, there’s a trade-off if you opt for OEM windshields. You’ll have to be willing to pay more on the windshield replacement cost. In general OEM windshields are 40% to 60% more expensive than many aftermarket windshields. And because of the higher cost, many insurance companies won’t cover the cost of OEM parts. There are insurance policies that include OEM replacement of windshields but they only apply to newer model vehicles, not more than a year or two older than the current model.

Pros of OEM Glass

  • Outstanding quality that meets the car manufacturer’s standards
  • Exact fit and curvature, restoring the original vision clarity
  • The windshield is made by the same manufacturer that supplies the carmaker.

Cons of OEM Windshields

  • Expensive cost
  • Some insurance companies will not cover OEM windshield replacement.

Aftermarket Windshield

Aftermarket glass is manufactured by auto glass companies that don’t necessarily have contracts with specific automakers. 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 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.

There were issues and complaints from some consumers about aftermarket windshields showing leaks or producing annoying noise. These issues are usually the result of having glass windshields that don’t fit the vehicle 100%, which is actually a common case with aftermarket products.  

Some people who chose to go for an aftermarket glass have also noticed that it’s more wavy or different tint color from the original windshield. While the differences are usually minimal, some more meticulous car owners are not quite happy with what they got from their investments. Apparently, these are isolated cases prevalent among poor-quality windshields. 

If you can find better ones, aftermarket automotive parts can actually offer the chance for upgrades on your vehicle. There are also superior glasses that are more durable than the original windshield, further strengthening the safety net on your vehicle in the event of accidents and collisions. Some products provide better resistance against cracks and chips. But then again, there is always a trade-off, and superior glasses will also require a bigger investment, sometimes higher than the price of OEM windshields.

One of the advantages of aftermarket windshields is they are easily accessible and you can find them practically anywhere around your area and within your locality. There are local shops that offer windshield replacements at affordable prices, allowing you to replace a damaged or broken windshield without breaking the bank.

Like most things, the decision may come down to money. Insurance companies may only cover aftermarket glass because it is generally less expensive. Car owners, of course, are free 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.

Pros of Aftermarket Windshields

  • Generally more affordable than OEM windshields
  • You have options for high-quality and more durable glass better than the original
  • Easily accessible than OEM glass.

Cons of Aftermarket Glass

  • Potential for fit issues
  • Some aftermarket windshields have different curvature and tint compared to the original.

The Big Debate – OEM vs Aftermarket Windshield

The big debate is still on with regards to choosing between OEM vs aftermarket windshields. This argument has been raging for years and is still being widely discussed today. In fact, there are significant changes in how car owners look at both options. Aftermarket glasses were enjoying favorable responses in the past but with technology evolving, things are definitely not the same.

Today, the landscape has tremendously changed with OEM windshields being more in demand by modern automakers due to the integration of highly advanced technology connected to the windshield in premium models. Of course, this integrated technology is beyond the coverage of aftermarket parts. For the standard or basic models, however, the playing field is even, with both choices having their own unique pros and cons.

When dealing with these two choices, there are common arguments surrounding the issue, and we shall dive deeper into the most common debates between aftermarket and OEM windshields.

POV of someone driving toward a mountain range

Is an OEM Windshield Safer than an Aftermarket Windshield?

When it comes to automotive parts replacement, safety should always come first, especially for critical parts like the windshield. While OEM windshields can restore the default factory safety measures of the car against the harsh outside environment and flying debris, aftermarket windshields can also do the same, but sometimes either better or worse, depending on the quality of the materials.

However, if you opt for the OEM alternative, there is already an assurance that the safety level you’ll get is the same as when you first bought the vehicle, and they meet the manufacturer’s safety standard. On the other hand, safety can’t be guaranteed for aftermarket glasses because it depends on the different manufacturers’ standards. The safety standard of some aftermarket manufacturers could be at par or better than the standards of the automaker, but some of them are below the standard. So diligent research is necessary if you prefer to go for the aftermarket option.

The windshield market is not a popular industry for direct consumers because it is more of a B2B market rather than B2C. It’s hard to tell which automotive glass brand to choose and the offers are, usually, in the local scene and not international. Therefore, this option requires intensive online and offline research. You need to ask people about their experiences with aftermarket windshields in your area in order to have a better idea of what quality to expect, which 100% translates to safety. 

In the United States, a trusted aftermarket windshield brand is Safelite. The company offers aftermarket replacement products with the exception of Safelite OEM glass. The Safelite glass quality is generally satisfactory, though. When it comes to OEM glass vs Safelite, you have better assurance of almost par Safelite windshield quality with the original glass, but not necessarily at 100%. Nonetheless, they offer a lifetime warranty for added assurance. So, does Safelite use OEM glass? In a sense, they buy their glass from the world’s most sophisticated manufacturers – the same guys who supply the big car manufacturers. Safelite only deals in OEE parts. If you are a bit confused and don’t know how to pick between Safelite auto glass and OEM, at the end of the day it may come down to your budget. 

Should I Get an OEM or Aftermarket Windscreen?

At the end of the day, the choice between OEM vs aftermarket windshield totally depends on you but if you’re still lost in your choices, there are some variables that can help you make the right decision.

First and foremost is the budget. How much you are willing to spend on a windshield replacement will greatly affect your buying decision. If cost is not an issue and you can afford the price of an OEM replacement, then by all means go for the OEM choice to save yourself the hassles of buying. If you’re a very busy person and you can hardly find time to research the different aftermarket windscreen brands, you’re also better off with the OEM alternative. But if you’re short on budget and you are hoping for minimal expenses, the aftermarket windscreen could be the ideal choice for you.

Another deciding factor is insurance, or who’s paying for the replacement. If it’s you, then you have more flexibility in your choices. You also have the freedom to go for either aftermarket or OEM windshields. But if the damage is covered by your comprehensive insurance, then usually most insurance companies would prefer to replace the damaged glass with aftermarket windshields, unless you paid for a premium plan that covers OEM replacement.

Likewise, the availability of aftermarket parts in your area is another variable that can notably affect your shopping decisions. There are some places with limited availability of superior-quality windshield glasses. There could be many of them offering windshield replacement services but their quality is questionable with regards to meeting the automaker’s safety standards. 

So, it all boils down to your confidence level. How confident are you to go for aftermarket windshield offerings in your locality? If there are good offers with better quality and more durable glasses than OEM parts, that would mean you’ll have the great opportunity to upgrade and fortify your vehicle for added safety. Sometimes, however, you might be left with no choice but to go for OEM parts for safety or other car-related reasons.

Are Aftermarket Windshields as Good as OEM?

Yes, aftermarket windshields can be as good as OEM. There are expert glass fabricators and manufacturers that produce windshields with the same quality as the OEM windscreen that came with your vehicle. In fact, there is a possibility that some glass manufacturers in your area are OEM suppliers of certain vehicle brands. They could be a factory auto glass supplier of your car brand but they are marketing their products under their own brand name with their own logo. In this case, their products are called OEE or original equipment equivalents.

However, there are also times that an aftermarket auto glass is not as good as OEM windshields, especially if you’re getting them from manufacturers that use inferior materials for their products. So, with regards to the argument, if they’re as good as the OEM, it all depends on where you source the automobile windshield glass from.

POV of someone driving through autumn woods with a hat on the dashboard

Car Manufacturer Requirements

The car manufacturer’s requirements are something that should definitely be taken into consideration. If you fail to check this part of the buying process, you could end up having a new windshield that leaks, makes noise, and causes some of the car’s features to malfunction

For traditional cars and some base modern cars today, the windshield is simply a barrier that protects the driver and the passengers from wind force and flying road debris. However, some premium models and luxury cars have advanced features connected to the windshield to improve the driving experience and safety features

Replacement of such windshields with ordinary aftermarket glasses will condemn or disconnect certain features, inevitably compromising the safety of the passengers. So, how do you know if your car has features connected to the windshield? — It’s all in the car manufacturer’s requirements. 

Automaker-Specific Requirements

While there are general standards that all automotive manufacturers have to follow, each carmaker also has its own set of requirements. It is important, therefore, to ensure you’re looking at the appropriate standard, specific to your car brand. Considering that there are too many auto brands worldwide, we’ll take a look at only a few popular requirements, in order for you to have a better understanding of their importance.

Nissan with Non-Reusable Rear View Mirrors

The popular Japanese car brand, Nissan, is among some of the most highly-respected companies that infused advanced technology into its windshields. This means that an OEM glass replacement is strictly recommended. According to Nissan Motor Company, their automotive glasses have critical safety roles. The windshield provides ocular clarity and structural rigidity to the vehicle and is also integrated with breakthrough technology that dampens noise, provides UV protection, and other safety measures

Nissan North America strongly advises against the use of aftermarket or recycled glasses. That’s why their limited warranty only supports genuine Nissan or OEM replacement parts. Thus, the use of aftermarket windshields could potentially devoid Nissan’s limited warranty.

Moreover, some models such as Quest, Sentra, JUKE, and the LEAF are installed with non-reusable rearview mirrors. This means that if you decide to replace your windshield, the rearview mirror might also need replacing. In the end, be prepared to spend a lot of money for a windshield replacement if you have a Nissan and especially one of the above-mentioned models.

Subaru and the EyeSight Feature

Another Japanese carmaker, Subaru, also joined the list of companies that support OEM replacement, especially among Subaru vehicle lines equipped with EyeSight technology. EyeSight is a breakthrough Subaru driving feature that helps get drivers out of harm’s way by providing assistance through alerts when it detects impending danger on the road

The EyeSight technology has the ability to apply brakes in certain circumstances to avoid a collision. Due to this feature, road accidents involving Subaru vehicles equipped with EyeSight have demonstrated a decrease in rear-end collisions by as much as 85% and pedestrian injuries by 35%

The use of aftermarket windshields on EyeSight-equipped Subaru vehicles may affect the performance of these safety features. There is a possibility that the inferior or non-compatible glass materials of aftermarket windshields can block the camera’s visibility. Likewise, the incompatible distortion could result in inaccurate EyeSight operation due to incorrect measurements and estimates of incoming objects. This all means that your safety will be compromised instead of fortified.

Mercedes Benz and the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS)

The luxury vehicle brand, Mercedes Benz, has been at the forefront of OEM replacement of all parts, including windshields. The position of the carmaker remains strong with regards to the use of OEM windshields as aftermarket glasses could not account for the complicated electrical components in the car’s features. This may potentially interfere with the electrical connections and cause the electronic systems to malfunction.

Mercedes Benz is one of the carmakers that use the Advanced Driver Assistance System or ADAS, which is a feature designed to improve driving safety and used by several automakers. The technology includes many features like park assist, lane-departure warning, cross-traffic alert, heads-up displays, surround view, and collision avoidance.

With ADAS, drivers won’t have to look down on the dashboard as often, so they can focus more on the road. In the past, ADAS was offered as an upgrade for some high-end cars like Mercedes Benz. Today, however, this feature has become a standard for many automakers, even for their base models. 

The ADAS technology connects the windshield to the rearview mirrors, meaning that a windshield replacement will most likely involve a replacement of the rearview mirrors, as well. According to Mercedes Benz USA, or MBUSA, all repairs including replacement of windscreens must be done by a certified technician using genuine Mercedes Benz parts. Why? Because replacement is not only limited to glass installation but also involves recalibration of onboard electronic systems, ADAS, rain sensors, cameras, heating elements, and antennas. More often than not, these electronic requirements are not accounted for by aftermarket glasses.

Honda Cars Head-Up Displays

Many Honda vehicles today are fully equipped with a Head-Up Display, or HUD, that helps drivers constantly keep their eyes on the road by projecting critical information on the windshield to avoid looking down on the dashboard. The projected information includes speed, navigation directions, and incoming calls. Also, the HUD usually comes with Honda Sensing® Technology, which is a safety feature that includes the Honda Sensing Suite, the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), the Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), and Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR).

Considering the complex integration of several technological innovations connected to the windshield, an aftermarket replacement may not be a wise choice for some Honda models. Honda Cars released a statement regarding OEM windshield replacement, according to which aftermarket parts may look almost similar in design, curvature, and fit, but some features like the driver-assist may not work properly during unforeseen circumstances. That’s why they highly recommend OEM replacement parts, including the windshield.

Moreover, features like the Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist System, Collision Mitigation Braking System, and Road Departure Mitigation may either use a camera or a complex combination of a radar and a camera that could potently work abnormally if the windshield is replaced with a non-OEM glass.

Honda Cars further stressed that some of their models may use acoustic front side-door glass for sound isolation on some trim levels, and anything beyond the OE fitment and glass standards could increase the cabin noise while reducing the effects of the acoustic glass. Basically, Honda demands an OE windshield replacement, along with an OE replacement of side glasses on some models like the Honda’s RLX Sport Hybrid and Honda Accord, for instance.

Behind view through the windshield of a convertable

In a Nutshell

One final note on our OEM windshields vs aftermarket debate. 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 very carefully check their leasing agreement. Otherwise, extra charges may be assessed when the vehicle is returned at the end of the leasing period.

In any case, when choosing between an OEM or an aftermarket windshield, there are a couple of important variables that must be carefully considered not only to ensure the right fitment, avoid leaks, and reduce noise but also to ensure that all other enhancements and advanced technologies infused into the vehicle will function properly. Many of these accessories are, after all, put there to prevent accidents

It’s important to strictly adhere to the recommendations of the automakers with regard to the windshield. While most of them would surely advise car owners to use OEM windshields, sometimes you might not need to buy the expensive OEM replacement and go for aftermarket windshields, instead.

When the choice presents an OEM alternative, the best way to ensure you are getting “factory-installed” glass quality is to check the monogram on the glass, which has plenty of stories to tell. The monogram contains vital information you need for your glass replacement. This includes the brand of the vehicle, where the glass was made, the DOT (Department of Transportation) number, the safety test certification, and the distribution of the glass to certain countries. To know more about the details on the marking in the monogram, there’s a separate article on windshield markings.

The data you can extract from the monogram can tell you if the glass conforms to the same standards as the one installed in your car. This will increase your chances of getting a better quality windshield and avoid inferior ones.

However, not all vehicle types offer you the luxury of choosing between OEM or aftermarket glasses, especially most recent car makes and models, including high-end models and luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi. In fact, even popular car makers like Honda, Toyota, and Nissan are getting stricter with regards to OEM replacement, especially with ADAS becoming a standard for modern cars and no longer a luxurious upgrade like it used to be.

In such cases, there’s no need for an aftermarket windshield vs OEM debate because you’re left with no choice but to go for OEM parts. The best thing you can do is to prepare for unexpected financial woes like the cost of OEM windscreens, which can be pretty expensive, especially if there are advanced features connected to the glass. You can either put a savings fund for emergency repairs, get enough insurance coverage that includes OEM replacement, or both.

Windshield Replacement