OEM Wheels vs Aftermarket / Replica Wheels

OEM Wheels vs Aftermarket / Replica Wheels

There are many types of wheels out there as well as styles, finishes and materials used. Many people, including myself, wondered what the difference is between OEM wheels and aftermarket/replica wheels. One simple answer is cost. There are many other factors as well to help you decide which to go with but let's be honest, cost is always a big deciding factor when it comes to making a purchase. Below we will dive deeper into the differences to better help you decide which is the best option to achieve the style you’re going for as well as for your wallet.



OEM Wheels:

What does OEM stand for? It stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. These wheels are made to match your vehicles wheel specifications exactly for a safer and smoother ride. They are also called “stock wheels” or “factory wheels” since they are typically the wheels that come on your vehicle when you first purchase it. The way you can tell if a wheel is a true OEM wheel is by looking behind (inside) the wheel. It will be stamped with numbers and letters behind the spoke and only OEM wheels will have this, so if you’re ever unsure that is one sure fire way to know. OEM wheels are forged in cast aluminum that is fortified with additional metals to help strengthen it to combat everyday wear and tear. This wheel comes in alloy as well as steel. Steel wheels are usually the cheaper option and used on trucks or any other heavy-duty vehicle but usually aren't purchased for their looks, for aesthetics people tend to go with an alloy OEM wheel. When it comes to variety in styles this is the only area where it seems OEM wheels lack in.



Aftermarket Wheels:

As the name refers, these wheels did not originally come on the vehicle and are more often than not made overseas or by companies that makes parts for vehicles. Since they are mostly made overseas, they are mass produced so are able to be sold at a lower price. Unless you start customizing the wheel more, than the price can get pretty pricey. These wheels are typically made of aluminum and can be blended with other materials and metals to help strengthen the aluminum. Since aftermarket wheels are mass produced there tends to be less quality control checks during or after the process which can lead to the integrity varying from wheel to wheel. This issue can occasionally cause fitment and compatibility issues that can lead to damage on your vehicle. Since they are aftermarket, there are less safety regulations imposed on them. A positive thing is that they are still well built, reliable and are a good choice when it comes to enhancing performance or a more aesthetic look to your vehicle since there's a much larger range of styles and finishes you can choice from.



Replica (Replacement) Wheels:

There are a lot of makes like Lexus, Toyota, and Honda that offer OEM quality replica wheels, or replacement wheels. When purchasing replica wheels make sure to keep in mind that they are in fact replicas, which means they're not going to be 100% exact copies since that may violate trademark agreements. There will be slight variations from the original like the color of the finish or the grooves on the design may be a little deeper on the replica compared to the OEM wheel its replicating. OEM Replicas do pass or exceed all required safety testing and pass quality control that's mandated as well as they are sent through a heat treatment for increased strength. Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to these wheels is that since they aren't exact matches, the center cap from the original wheel may not be compatible with its replica. With all of that said, they are a quality and cost effective alternative if you like the OEM wheel look, but the cost is a little too steep.


Quick Pro/Con summary:


Pro - Made specifically for your vehicle

Pro - Maximized specifications

Pro - Approved on all required DOT tests and verifications

Pro - Maintains resale value

Con - Higher price, 80% more than replicas

Con - Not much flexibility on sizes and finishes



Pro - Lower priced (unless you do a lot of customization)

Pro - Wide variety on designs and finishes

Pro - Good to excellent quality

Con - May or may not have all required testing and certifications

Con - Cannot be replaced in an insurance claim

Con - May lower resale value


Replica (replacement):

Pro - Lower priced

Pro - A little more flexibility on designs and finishes compared to OEM wheels

Pro - Good to excellent quality

Pro - Meet and pass safety testing and quality control

Con - Cannot be replaced in an insurance claim

Con - May lower resale value

Con - Center caps may not be interchangeable with the wheel it replicates


- Heather Jarkow