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Generic or OEM Alternator

I own a 1996 Mercury Sable with a 24 valve Duratec engine with 140,00 miles. The alternator went out so I took it too my regular shop of 8 years. The owner was on vacation so the person in charge said it would cost about $650. He said it is 3 hours labor because the alternator is behind the engine and a lot of work is required. I said okay to fix it. The price seemed high, so I called up the local Ford dealer and they quoted me a price of $450. I asked the Ford dealer why so much and he said because of the alternator being behind the engine. I felt confident we were talking about the same comparison. When I called back the shop doing my car, I asked why the difference in price? I was told the dealer was probably quoting a price using a cheaper alternator from Advance Auto Parts or O’Reilly, not a Motorcraft alternator like they install. They don’t use those off name alternators because they are not any good . I asked, is there any cheaper alternator, because my car is 15 years old and I don’t plan on driving it another 15 years. The answer was NO.

My question. Are generic alternators that bad? Is it worth paying almost 50 percent more? I don’t plan on keeping the car more than a few more years since I am already spending about $1000 a year for the past 3 years.


First call the Ford dealer and verify the part they intend to use. All the Ford dealers I know use OEM parts. That is one of their selling points.

I think, for whatever reason, the independent, in this case, is higher, in his quote. I bet the Ford dealer is using the same Motorcraft part. You need to ask the dealer and confirm, not rely on the assumption of the other shop. While you are at it, ask about labor and parts warranty, too.

I have had good success over the years with the “unknown” brand alternators. I tend to buy lifetime warranted ones, not the one year guarantee rebuilds. That said, many shops prefer to install OEM only parts. My current mechanic tends to use Carquest only parts, and I defer to his judgement.

I always install rebuilt parts store alternators (Advance, Auto Zone, whatever) on my cars . Never had a problem with one.

I’m pretty sure the Ford dealer was quoting you a brand new Motorcraft alternator. Dealers don’t usually use aftermarket parts.

Something smells fishy.

I’ve had pretty good luck with aftermarket remanufactured parts. There’s been a few hiccups now and then but they’re not common.

Dealers seldom use aftermarket parts (or at least the ones I’ve worked for) and when they do it’s only in certain situations, etc. (seal or gaskets, etc.)
The car manufacturers frown on a dealer using aftermarket parts of unknown origin because if an AM alternator is installed and it leaves the car owner stranded out in the boondocks at midnight the car owner will not only be blaming the dealer but also (in this case) Ford Motor Co.

With a 1996 car I would put the least expensive parts/labor possible. How long more do you expect the car to last?

A bit off topic but I think the real problem was/is that the “replacement manager” at the independant garage simply overcharged for both parts and labor. You could ask that they show you more closely how they came to their price.