Cheapest Parts Store
Igor-Kardasov/istockphoto

Cheapest Auto Parts Store: AutoZone vs. Advance Auto vs. O'Reilly vs. Napa

Table of Contents:
Auto Parts Price Comparison
Shipping and Pickup
Return Policies
Perks and Loyalty Programs
Price Matching

Where to Buy Cheap Auto Parts

Cheapism.com surveyed four national auto parts retailers — Advance Auto Parts, AutoZone, Napa Auto Parts, and O'Reilly Auto Parts — to see which offers the best value for the money. We compared prices for a list of products a car owner is likely to need. These included items for basic maintenance (oil, antifreeze, wiper blades, and the like) as well as components for major repairs (alternators, clutch sets, fuel pump modules, oxygen sensors, and more). Factors such as loyalty programs, shipping, and return policies were also taken into account.

What we discovered is that there's no clear all-around best choice. Based on price alone, O'Reilly Auto Parts looks like the big winner for those looking to buy everything on our shopping list, with Advance Auto Parts bringing up the rear as the most expensive. A closer look paints a much more complicated picture. We found lots of price variations — some pretty significant, especially for replacement parts. Bottom line: You have to buy from more than one retailer if you want the best price on every item, every time. But if you're in the market for basic items such as windshield wiper blades or a new battery, rather than replacement parts for bigger repairs, Napa Auto Parts nips the competition.

Deal Alert: Receive 15% off orders of $30 or more at AdvanceAutoParts.com with code D92. Offer valid through May 1, 2019.

Auto Parts Price Comparison

Product
AutoZone
Advance
Auto Parts
O'Reilly
Auto Parts
Napa Auto
Parts
Car Battery
(500 CCA)
Duralast Gold
$160
(+ $18 core charge)
AutoCraft Gold
$160
(+ $22 core charge)
Super Start Extreme
$155
(+ $5 core charge)
Napa Legend
$132
(+ $18 core charge)
Brake Pads
(front)
Duralast
$25
Duralast
$44
BrakeBest
$24
Napa Proformer
$24
Brake Rotor
(front)
Duralast
$44
Carquest Platinum
$45
BrakeBest
$44
Napa Premium
$53.25
Code ReaderInnova 3020 OBD II
$60
Actron Pocket Scan CP125C
$66
Performance Tool OBD II
$45
Actron Pocket Scan CP125C
$68.20
Fuel Pump Module (Calif. emissions)Delphi
$439
Carquest
$262
Import Direct
$183
Napa
$352
Alternator (remanufactured, 95 amp)Duralast
$155
(+ $62 core charge)
Carquest
$153
(+ $18 core charge)
Ultima
$154
(+ $52 core charge)
Napa Power Premium Plus
$152.25
(+ $49.50 core charge)
Oil
(synthetic 0W-20, 1 qt.)
Valvoline SynPower
$9.50
Mobil Super
$8
Mobil Super
$8
Mobil Super
$8.80
Jumper Cables
(6 gauge)
Duralast
$30
AutoCraft
$33
Super Start
$33
Balkamp Evercraft
$37.50
Jump StarterDuralast
(700 amp)
$60
Schumacher
(600 amp)
$83
Super Start
(600 amp)
$70
Old World Industries (700 amp)
$80
Cylinder Head GasketFel-Pro
$51.50
Fel-Pro
$52
Fel-Pro
$52
Fel-Pro
$55
Spark Plug
(iridium)
Champion
$8
Champion
$9
Champion
$8.40
Champion
$8
Gas CapDuralast
$10.70
Carquest
$10.40
Stant
$6.30
Balkamp
$10.50
O2 Sensor
(exact fit)
Bosch
$67
Bosch
$67
Bosch
$64
Bosch
$70
Wiper BladeDuralast
$13
Kleenview
$10
RainGuard
$10
Napa/Old World Industries
$8
Clutch SetDuralast
$180
Carquest
$332
PowerTorque
$214
Napa
$229
Headlight Bulb
(low beam)
Sylvania Basic
(65W)
$13
Sylvania Basic
(65W)
$15
Sylvania Basic
(65W)
$13
Napa Proformer
(55W)
$9.90
Air FilterSTP
$14
Carquest Premium
$17
MicroGard
$14
Napa Silver
$13
Cabin Air FilterSTP
$19
Carquest Premium
$19
MicroGard
$22
Napa Pro Select
$15
Antifreeze
(pre-diluted, 1 gal.)
AutoZone
$13
Prestone
$13
O'Reilly
$13
Napa
$13
Oil FilterSTP
$5
Carquest Standard
$5
MicroGard
$5
Napa Pro Select
$4.55
TOTAL$1,376.70$1,383.40$1,137.70$1,343.95

Prices from retail locations in upstate New York; expect some variation in other markets, and between franchise locations.

As our hypothetical vehicle, we selected a 2015 Honda Civic EX sedan, one of the most common cars on the road (prices may vary for other models). Our shopping list contained 20 items an owner may need to maintain such a vehicle driven under average circumstances. When available we included less expensive house brands such as Carquest, sold by Advance Auto Parts, and Duralast, the AutoZone equivalent, when available and tried to compare equivalent brands across stores. We excluded high-end performance parts, something most motorists don't need, and cheap, no-name products.

In most cases, prices were within a few dollars of each other across retailers. Two items on our shopping list had the biggest impact on the total cost: a fuel pump and a replacement clutch. If you need a fuel pump module, the slam-dunk choice is O'Reilly Auto Parts, at just $183. An Import Direct-branded fuel pump module for our 2015 Civic was priced nearly $80 less than the closest competitor and a whopping $256 less than AutoZone, which topped the charts at $439 for the "same" part. Just keep in mind that all fuel pumps may not be created equal. We priced out the cheapest pumps that meet California emission standards (which are stricter than federal). And while AutoZone can't compete on price, it's possible that its model might trump others on performance. For a replacement clutch set, on the other hand, AutoZone was the cheapest of the group. Its Duralast kit was $34 less expensive than the next-cheapest option, a PowerTorque clutch set sold at O'Reilly.

But for general-maintenance items (wiper blades, oil, antifreeze, etc.), prices across stores fell much more in line, with Napa Auto Parts eking out only a small price advantage, thanks to a store-brand car battery (500 CCA) that was more than $20 cheaper than batteries offered by competitors (without the battery, there was a spread of only about $4.50 between Napa, still the all-around lowest, and Advance Auto Parts, the highest for maintenance products). We noticed some seemingly arbitrary differences in price when the same exact product was offered in all or most of the stores. This was true for headlight bulbs, motor oil, cylinder heads, spark plugs, a code reader, and oxygen sensors.

Shipping and Pickup

Price isn't the only important factor in choosing an auto parts store. Convenience plays a big role. All the stores we surveyed let consumers buy online and have items shipped to their home or business (with some exceptions for noncontiguous states and territories or APO/FPO addresses). Napa Auto Parts charges a flat $7.95 for UPS ground service. The other three retailers we surveyed offer free shipping on orders above a certain amount. AutoZone even ships orders overnight (although not all items and ZIP codes qualify for next-day shipping). With the others, free delivery is limited to standard ground shipping. Advance Auto Parts has the lowest minimum, at $25. AutoZone and O'Reilly Auto Parts require a $35 minimum.

All the chains offer free shipping for items ordered online for pickup at a bricks-and-mortar store, so location may wind up being the deciding factor in choosing a retailer. With over 6,000 locations in the United States alone, Napa Auto Parts is most likely to have a store near you. Second is AutoZone, with about 5,630 stores nationwide.

Keep in mind that many retailers do not ship antifreeze or batteries, because they contain hazardous materials. These items must be picked up at a local store.

Return Policies

Mistakes happen, and retailers' return policies range from fairly liberal to pretty restrictive. Napa Auto Parts is the most accommodating, allowing online buyers to return unopened or defective products within 30 days without incurring additional shipping charges. Parts purchased online can also be returned to participating Napa Auto Parts locations.

Other retailers also accept online returns at their stores, but consumers are on the hook for return-shipping costs unless there's a problem with the product or a mistake on the retailer's end. O'Reilly Auto Parts has the most generous return window: There is no time limit for returning new, unopened items. AutoZone imposes a 90-day time limit on returns, and Advance Auto Parts sets a deadline of 45 days. Also, while all retailers reserve the right to reject or charge restocking fees for returns of special orders or custom items, Advance Auto Parts publishes a fairly long list of items that can't be returned at all. From our shopping list, that includes fuel pumps and oxygen (O2) sensors.

Some items that are recyclable or can be rebuilt carry what's known as a "core charge," a deposit to ensure that you return the old part when it's time for a replacement. Two items on our list, alternators and batteries, along with brake shoes and water pumps, are among the items that carry this charge. Core prices can vary widely and sometimes be quite substantial. For example, AutoZone levies a core charge of $62 on a Duralast remanufactured alternator. At the other end of the spectrum, Advance Auto Parts' Carquest alternator has a core price of just $18. Whether the amount is large or small, you'll definitely want to recoup that sum — and, of course, do your part to help the environment.

In most cases, you have to return the used core to a retail store to avoid paying a shipping charge. Napa is the exception, allowing online customers who purchase a replacement to ship the old part free of charge, as long as they use box the replacement component came in and mail it back within 30 days of receiving the new one.

Perks and Loyalty Programs

All the retailers offer customer-loyalty programs, although they aren't all equally rewarding.

  • Advance Speed Perks: $5 credit on next purchase of $20 or more after spending $30; $20 credit on next purchase of $50 or more after spending $100.
  • AutoZone Rewards: $20 reward after 5 purchases of $20 or more.
  • Napa Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent; $5 credit with 100 points.
  • O'Reilly O'Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent; $5 credit with 150 points.

Advance Auto Parts Speed Perks, AutoZone Rewards, and Napa Rewards apply to both in-store and online purchases. O'Reilly's O'Rewards applies only to in-store sales. Each retailer also provides bonuses to rewards program members, like exclusive coupons and invitations to special events, for example. Check their websites for details on reward redemption and exclusions, as well as additional perks.

Price Matching

If you're looking for the most generous price-matching policy, Advance Auto Parts is probably your best bet. The company's guarantee claims Advance "will match the price of any identical or comparable product available the same day at any competitor's store or website." O'Reilly Auto Parts, on the other hand, does not offer price matching with online retailers but says it does for in-store sales. Napa Auto Parts and AutoZone do not have explicit price-matching policies on their websites' support pages, and consumer feedback indicates that experiences in stores can vary.

Discounts

Each of these retailers offers some type of discount, usually around 10 percent, for members of the military. Other groups that enjoy discount programs include Uber drivers at Advance Auto Parts, for example, and AAA members at Napa Auto Parts.

Other Auto Parts Retailers

It can pay to compare prices at other stores, especially for non-vehicle-specific parts and gear. For example, an Actron CP9125C universal code reader (which allows do-it-yourself mechanics to access a car's diagnostic system) costs nearly $70 at Advance Auto Parts or Napa Auto Parts but can be purchased on Amazon for less than $40. Other stores to check:

Live Well For Less

Behind every budget is a bucket list. From travel, food and lifestyle to product reviews and deals, we’re here to show you how to save and what’s worth saving for.

Cheapism in the News
msn
today
nytimes
cnbc
newyorker
cbs