Vehicle glass and windscreen replacements aren’t all alike, even if to the man on the Clapham omnibus they all seem the same. Where replacement glass is made, how it’s made, and to what standards and for which make and model of vehicle are all relevant towards ensuring that you’re getting the right piece of glass for your vehicle.
According to the Road Vehicles Regulations 1986, essentially all vehicles in the UK that require windscreens since 1 April 1985 must be equipped with “Specified safety glass (1980),” or in plain English, modern safety glass. The legislation makes no mention of the origin of the glass, namely original equipment manufacturer (OEM), aftermarket, or any other type of vehicle glass.
In brief, the choice between OEM and aftermarket glass isn’t so much bound to motor traffic laws in the UK but rather the choice is up to the automotive glazier and their suppliers, and ultimately to you, the paying customer in need of new vehicle glass.
What’s the difference between these types of vehicle glass and which is better?
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) vehicle glass
Motorists looking for an exact windscreen designed for their specific make and model of vehicle should look no further than OEM glass. As the name implies, the glass is manufactured for the original equipment (your vehicle) using the same components, manufacturing processes, and importantly, to the same standards as your previous piece of glass.
The way it works is that automobile manufacturers will take an order for, say, 45,000 new vehicles on the assembly line. This means that they will need to procure 45,000 windscreens, normally from an approved supplier, to complete the order. Instead, the manufacturer typically orders an extra, say, 10,000 windscreens since it is more affordable to use the same production run and to procure more for the purposes of selling as OEM replacement parts.
The signature of an OEM windscreen is the manufacturer’s logo emblazoned on the windscreen. Since the part is identical in every way to your vehicle’s previous windscreen, mouldings, fittings, and quality will be the exact same and thus installation is not a problem for an experienced automotive glazier.
Dealer vehicle glass
Essentially the same as OEM glass in most respects, dealer glass meets all of the quality and safety standards of OEM glass but is instead supplied directly from manufacturers to dealerships across the UK for resale. The key difference is that dealer glass has the dealer’s logo emblazoned (e.g. Nissan for a Nissan dealership) rather than the logo issued on strictly same-OEM glass by the manufacturers themselves.
Aftermarket vehicle glass
The second big category of automotive glass is aftermarket glass, which can loosely be defined as any vehicle glass not manufactured by the original equipment manufacturer. Normally, aftermarket glass in the UK is supplied by other companies than the original manufacturer to meet the need for (normally) more affordable replacement glass.
Note, however, that even glass manufactured by the original equipment manufacturer themselves can be considered aftermarket glass! This happens when the production batch, and perhaps the components, mouldings, and fittings differ, even marginally, from the OEM product.
It’s also worth noting that aftermarket glass is easily distinguished by its lack of an emblazoned logo as is typical with OEM and dealer glass.
Aftermarket glass is, for many motorists, a more affordable alternative to OEM glass, which can easily cost £200-£500 or more, depending on make and model as well as availability.
Original Equipment Equivalent (OEE) aftermarket glass
It should be mentioned that in the automotive glazing industry, OEM vs aftermarket is an ongoing debate in terms of cost, quality, and safety. Moreover, many dealerships and automotive glaziers now work with a new category called original equipment equivalent (OEE), which implies that the glass is “just as good” as OEM yet isn’t actually OEM.
This opens up a debate as to what exactly satisfies the definition of “equivalent.” Aftermarket glass, for example, is often made to the same robust standards as OEM. Is aftermarket now OEE all of a sudden if it’s made by the same manufacturer?
In terms of manufacture, OEE glass is made by the same automobile manufacturer (or, specifically, their approved supplier) but using a different part number, which implies that either the adhesives, mouldings, or the technique of manufacture may differ, even if only a little bit.
How to choose between OEM and aftermarket vehicle glass
As a motorist, your main concerns when requesting windscreen replacement are likely to be safety, cost, and quality. When deciding between OEM and aftermarket, there is a ‘trilemma’ to consider:
- Safety: OEM glass is an exact replacement and thus by definition satisfies all of the safety standards of your original glass. Aftermarket glass sold in the UK must also meet all appropriate standards, but motorists may not trust that this is ‘good enough.’
- Cost: aftermarket glass is almost always significantly less expensive than OEM glass, which can cost a few hundred pounds more.
- Quality: OEM glass is manufactured to the exact same quality as your previous windscreen, and since it’s designed for your exact vehicle, automatically meets the same quality standards as when your car was brand new. Aftermarket glass must meet all relevant British Standards, but there is no guarantee that the quality will be equivalent to OEM glass.
Cases whereby OEM glass is required
All other things being held constant, the choice between OEM and aftermarket should be more clear, considering the trilemma of cost, safety, and quality above. There are times, however, when OEM is absolutely required. Consider the following examples:
- Vehicle make and model: increasingly, manufacturers are requiring OEM glass replacement due to the highly complex and technological nature of windscreens. Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, and Honda are now strongly recommending OEM glass.
- ADAS systems: modern vehicles equipped with ADAS systems often require OEM glass since the sensors within the glass are highly sensitive to proper calibration.
- Insurance provider: your motor insurance may require that you only replace your windscreen with OEM-approved glass, whilst others will charge a higher excess for choosing aftermarket glass.
Find automotive glaziers you can trust
One of the best ways to ensure that your replacement glass is fitted professionally to industry standards, meets all relevant quality and safety standards, and is performed at competitive and affordable rates is to find a professional auto glazier in the UK by using myWindscreen.