What Are CAPA Certified Car Parts? Are CAPA Parts Worth the Extra Cost?
January 20, 20224 min read
Aftermarket car part manufacturers reverse engineer auto body parts to create replicas of original parts. These aftermarket car parts, unlike OEM car parts from the manufacturer, are not produced until after your car is on the market. The quality of these parts can vary, but CAPA certified car parts are manufactured to meet high quality standards.
There are numerous aftermarket car part manufacturers who all compete to sell you various parts – with a wide range of quality and prices. Some aftermarket parts are manufactured in the same facility as your OEM car parts but sold under a different brand, while others are manufactured from more questionable sources. CAPA certification sets a standard in the aftermarket parts industry.
What Are CAPA Certified Car Parts?
The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) established standards to ensure high-quality, fairly priced alternatives to OEM car parts.
CAPA certified car parts are subject to a comprehensive range of tests to ensure every aspect of the aftermarket part, including materials, fitment, appearance, and durability, are directly compared to and can equal, if not surpass, the OEM part.
Where Can I Get CAPA Certified Parts?
Your local auto body shop can get CAPA certified parts, but they’re not required to do so. If CAPA certification matters to you, ask the shop about it. Online stores may also carry CAPA certified parts.
How Do I Know if I Have a CAPA Certified Part?
If your aftermarket car part is CAPA certified, it will have a CAPA seal similar to this one:
Each seal has a perforated tab that body shops can tear off and use to verify the CAPA certified part on your car. The top portion of the seal remains on the part itself. CAPA seals cannot be transferred from one car part to another and will self-destruct when removed.
Recommended locations for the CAPA certified seals are mentioned on the official CAPA Certification site, although they’re not required to be in that exact location. Make sure you look for the CAPA Quality Seal to ensure you have an actual CAPA certified part.
What Are Non-CAPA Certified Car Parts?
Non-CAPA certified car parts have either not requested to become CAPA certified, or may have not passed the CAPA certification process. While there are companies who send over their parts and get rejected for CAPA certification due to quality concerns, other companies simply choose not to enroll in the CAPA certification process because of the fees imposed upon using the CAPA name and seal.
Aftermarket car parts that are not CAPA certified don't necessarily have lower quality than CAPA certified parts, they just don't go through the CAPA certification process. Often, these other aftermarket parts undergo an alternative certification process they may list on their site.
Who Uses Non-CAPA Certified Parts?
Many auto body shops use non-CAPA certified car parts to fix your vehicle. Unless it’s explicitly stated that they used a CAPA certified or OEM part, body shops usually use non-CAPA certified parts for two main reasons: (1) they’re cheaper, (2) they know the quality of the parts since they usually stick to one supplier.
However, CAPA certified part use also depends on the state you live in as some states require body shops to use CAPA certified parts. Your insurance carrier may also have policies that require using CAPA certified parts for insurance claim repairs.
Are All Non-CAPA Certified Parts The Same?
Don’t make the assumption that all non-CAPA certified parts are created equal. While some non-CAPA certified car parts will hold superior standards in terms of quality, fitment, durability, and finish -- and may have even been used on your car if you’ve gotten it fixed before -- some non-certified parts may be a complete disaster.
Poor-quality, non-CAPA certified car parts do exist and many times you can’t tell until you receive the part. Then, you’ll find unsightly gaps between the part and the rest of your car after you install it.
Are CAPA Certified parts Worth The Extra Cost?
With such a gamble between CAPA and non-CAPA certified car parts, why not just stick with CAPA certified? It boils down to cost. Similar to why you’d choose a CAPA certified part over an OEM part, non-CAPA certified parts may be significantly cheaper compared to CAPA certified parts.
Whether the extra cost is worth it depends on how much more you’re spending and the part you’re getting. For cosmetic car parts including the fender, front bumper cover, and rear bumper cover CAPA certified car parts aren't worth the cost. These exterior parts are considered the skin of your car, and will need to be replaced even when going 20 mph in a crash.
However, if you’re replacing a bumper (or bumper reinforcement bar), a radiator support, or other impact-significant car part, then it’s worth paying more. These structural parts are crash tested and continually inspected to ensure they meet or exceed OEM safety standards before receiving the CAPA certified seal.