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By Brian Turner
Let’s face it, everyone’s looking for a deal. Whether it’s auto parts or service or anything else, few of us will pass up a chance to save some money, especially if we can get exactly what we’re after for less.
When it comes to looking south across the border for some bargains, many DIY home-based auto-philes won’t hesitate to consider importing auto parts to make their maintenance and repair tasks cost a little less. But are there really deals to be had? Let’s do a little comparison shopping.
We picked a popular ride, a 2012 Honda Civic equipped with a 1.8L engine, and looked at a few common items. To get an apples-to-apples comparison, we selected NAPA Auto Parts, and used both its U.S. and Canadian websites for pricing.
There’s money to be saved
A remanufactured, NAPA-branded 95-amp alternator is listed on the Canadian site at $495 (with core exchange) before taxes. The same unit on the American site runs US$165. Convert that to Canadian dollars at a rate of 1.295 and you’re looking at $213.81 before taxes, shipping, and duty.
A set of quality front brake pads lists for $139.51 up here, and US$55.99 south of the 49th parallel, which converts to $72.55 in our dollars. Finally, a front suspension strut with spring and mount is $395 here, and US$228 down south – that’s $295.44 in our currency.
Shipping and handling
The average savings for these three examples is 44 per cent when sourced from the U.S., for the same product and the same quality. But how do you get those pieces delivered here? Not all online auto-parts retailers offer international shipping.
You can use a U.S. address/shipping service which receives your parts at its American location, notifies you upon their arrival, arranges for shipping, and processes the duty payments — for a fee, of course. If you’re only buying one or two parts at a time, this may not be as financially attractive as compared to larger-quantity purchases.
What could go wrong?
What are the risks and downsides? Getting something lost in the shipping chain is always a possibility, but that hasn’t stopped millions of Canadians from completing billions of online transactions. Delays may be a headache, and anyone who has ordered anything requiring shipping knows about the delays and uncertainty of courier service during our current pandemic. It’s pretty much unavoidable, but if you’re saving major dollars, a little wait won’t be hard to take.
Warranty service is going to be an issue. When you buy something from your neighbourhood parts shop and it fails or doesn’t fit, you simply put it back in the package and take it back for a refund or replacement, and it’s quick and simple. When dealing with a supplier in another country, neither adjective applies. If you’re buying something expensive, first check with the supplier on warranty and return shipping terms. A bargain’s only a bargain if you get the right part, and a company that stands behind it.