Rational replacement van parts purchasing

Are we rational when it comes to choosing van parts?

We like to think of ourselves as rational beings. We are sensible and make logical choices. Perhaps in many areas of life we are; however, are we when it comes to choosing car parts? Consider this: You own a 5 year old van that needs a replacement part, where do you get it? The first impulse may be to go to the car dealer and get a part. It will be a brand new part. It will not be the cheapest option available. The cheapest option would probably be to get the same part from a van breaker. So chosing the discount priced replacement part would be the obvious choice. We don’t always operate like this.
We tend to add in justifications as to why the premium priced product is the right choice:

  • It is new from the dealer and is a genuine part; however, the part from the van dismantler is a genuine part from the same make of van.
  • It is new so guaranteed. Well, yes it is but for a limited period. The recycled part will be guaranteed too, perhaps not for so long. The thing is, is it worth paying a premium for this? If you are getting a 50% discount by purchasing a used part that is designed to last the life of your vehicle is it worth paying more for a new part that will probably outlast your van’s life? As importantly, the part only has to last the life of the van whilst in your ownership. Are you really going to be keeping the van until it is 11 or 12 years old? What price the premium of a new part now?
  • In the unlikely event that the used part fails sometime after the guarantee expires what price is a replacement? Another used part will probably still bring the total bill to less than a new part.
  • Are we paying a premium price for a new part for peace of mind? Quite probably, but peace of mind is not necessarily a function of logic but of emotion. A new part may be better at being a new part but it is not the certain cost effective choice it may seem.
  • We may argue that going to a dealer will mean instant availabilty of the required part. The assumption often made is that the dealer carries stock, well maybe. With the modern practice of lean supply chains the dealer will be carrying limited stock. Businesses generally cannot have capital tied up in depreciating parts sat on shelves. They will more as like have to order in the new part themselves from a central supplier or factor. It may be a day or two before the part arrives with the dealer. The van breaker will either have the part or not and so will quote on that basis. If they have it they can dispatch the part the same day for a next day delivery. If you make an enquiry to the breaker first to check availability of discounted parts what do you lose apart from perhaps an hour or two?
  • We have an emotional attachment to our vehicles so we want to get the ‘best’ you can for our van. Well, very few of us have vehicles from new. It is more likely to be second hand – in effect every component of that vehicle is ‘used’ when you buy it. What is logical about buying new for your used van?


Rational specification when looking for a replacement part?

We get used to a certain way of doing things. If something needs replacing we get a new part to replace it. Here is the thing: Is it about the definition of ‘new’ that perhaps lets us down. Language can be so imprecise at times. What is needed is a replacement part, this does not have to mean ‘new’ as in unused but ‘new’ as in the next item needed in the timeline of the van. If we step back from the situation and define what is needed, stripped of emotion, we may get a specification like this:

The van requires a replacement part in order to make it function adequately again. The part should be correctly designed for the job required of it, on the balance of probabilities last for the duration of the expected ownership of the van, be available for purchase in a timely fashion, and be the least expensive part that satisfies the foregoing items.

It is merely the time/cost/quality question that we always face in life. The thing is we like the idea and emotion surrounding something that is new. We often make purchases that are irrational economically because they make us somehow feel good about ourselves, or we do it out of fear [fear of failure, fear of the unknown].
We all have limits on our time and money so why don’t we make economically rational decisions? The purchase of a new part is not necessarily a bad decision – it will get us the part we need but at a premium price. The premium is the difference in cost between the used part and the new part. Is the premium really giving better quality for longer? Do we really need ‘longer’, especially if ‘longer’ extends beyond your ownership or the life of the van?
It could just be that we, the consumer, aren’t aware that there is a more cost effective alternative. How can we make a rounded decision when purchasing our replacement van parts if we aren’t aware of the alternatives? Well, we are reading this so now we know there is another route to purchasing replacement parts for our van. We can get cheap/good value parts from scrap yards:

  • You don’t need to spend money on fuel going to the dealer as you can enquire on line.
  • You don’t need to visit a parts dealer as the parts can be delivered to you.
  • The parts are genuine as they come from a recycled vehicle like yours.
  • The parts come at a substantial discount.

If you want to get emotional about purchasing a replacement van part then get happy about buying the best value part you can at the right quality in good time.
What is better than feeling smug about recycling? When you’ve saved a bob or two doing it!