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question-tm.jpgWe’ll be the first to admit that we have a pretty strong preference regarding the quality of auto parts stores — at least in our area.  That got us to thinking about how the quality we perceive locally might well vary significantly from state to state and locality to locality.

So we thought we’d ask you: What’s your favorite auto parts store, and why do you like it so much?

Here in North Texas, we’ve had nothing but bad luck with AutoZone.  While the stores are ubiquitous, the parts aren’t.  We had difficultly finding basic parts for a variety of common vehicles at our local stores, and it’s been our experience that most of the people at the shop can offer very little in terms of personal experience (read: ideas beyond what’s in the computer).  Our customer service experiences have been mediocre at Napa, but they’ve almost always had the parts we need — which is what really counts.

Actually, we’ve had the best luck with O’Reilly’s here.  Generally there’s at least one person in the store that was able to point us in the right direction with some of our more difficult questions, and they stock a lot of parts.  Best yet, they can almost always ship between stores on the same day, which is a big help.

So what do you think?  Let us know in comments.


27 Responses to Reader Question: What’s your favorite auto parts store?

  1. Auto Zone let me down a few years ago, when I realized they don’t stock exhaust pipes. It’d be 3 days to special-order the parts I needed for my ’90 Pontiac. I went down the street to Murray’s and they pulled the appropriate part off the ceiling in 20 seconds. I was back on the road that evening.

    The next nail in the coffin came when Murray’s decided to be open 24 hours. I haven’t been in Auto Zone since. Although, last week I ran to Murray’s at 3am and they weren’t open, so maybe they’ve abandoned that policy. I’ll have to check into that.

    They both carry an alarming selection of craptastic tools, which disheartens me somewhat. I have no problem with the $0.99 set of funnels, because a funnel is usually just a funnel. But for stuff like crimpers, knives, and screwdrivers, I really wish they’d carry the good stuff in addition to the crap and let the customer make the choice.

  2. Me says:

    I prefer Advance Auto. I have not had good luck with AutoZone in the past and NAPA is usually more expensive.

  3. Evan N. says:

    In my area we have CheckerSchucksKragen, Pepboys, Autozone, and NAPA. I would say that NAPA has the best selection of the best quality parts. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many of their stores, but I don’t mind driving a bit (10 miles in Los Angeles isn’t far distance wise, but the other stores are literally blocks away). So if I need a water pump, starter, or carburetor kit I go to NAPA; if I need ratchet straps, wax, oil, etc. I go to Kragen. It’s been my experience that yes, AutoZone does suck, and Pep Boys is only good for things like chrome air cleaners, bug deflectors, and electric mini-bikes. I guess each store has its purpose.

  4. Eric says:

    O’Reilly’s is my favorite, they usually have an idea of what’s going on, and they almost always have what I need, and if they don’t they’ll usually have it that day, or send me to one of their other locations that does have it in stock. As far as the cheap tools are concerned, I don’t really care, if i’m out to buy nice tools i’m going to go to go to sears, or some other big box and buy tools. The only time I buy tools at a parts store is if I need a specific tool for one repair, and I don’t see much since in spending a bunch of money on a weird sized socket thats going to get used maybe 2 or 3 times in the life of the car.

  5. Fong says:

    I’m with Evan. Autozone was a lot more useful when they were still Chief Auto Parts and open at 2 AM when I was in the middle of a project and REALLY needed a part. Napa is a solid 25 miles for me so I also frequent Kragen for the small stuff unless I need a starter or alternator.

  6. Michael says:

    I’ll vote for NAPA. I have to admit that I’m partial because I worked at this store for a year before I started glassblowing. The owner still sells me stuff at cost (which was his employee deal). Mind you I worked for him over 15 years ago.

    I also prefer owner operated stores. They tend to take customer service a little more seriously.

  7. nrChris says:

    I have had really bad luck with AutoZone here in New England. Their staff tends to be pretty inexperienced or at least not forthcoming with the help.

    I have had good luck with Napa, but as others have mentioned, their prices seem to be a little steep.

  8. Scott says:

    Advance Auto parts for new / rebuilt parts and maintenance supplies. NAPA for machining of parts, i.e. rotor resurface.

  9. Chris says:

    We’ve got 3 O’Reilley’, 3 Autozones, 3 Advance Autos, and 2 Napa all on or near a 6 mile stretch or road. I usually just go between the autozone and advance that are right near where I work mainly because they have the best prices. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to an autoparts store to find out what’s wrong with my car (I’m 27 and have been working on cars for 20 years). I don’t go to o’reiley’s unless I need the part number for a really obscure part (they’re pretty good at that) but i’ve taken to calling them o’Really’s because every time they tell you the price you respond with “Oh, really?!!?!?!?”. Napa is almost always guaranteed to have a higher price for their parts but their workers are usually more knowledgeable.

    Plus autozone also offers free OBD/OBD II scanning. I usually just go in and get scanned once a month just for the preemptiveness of it.

  10. AutoZone is really quite good here. Advance is equally as good. If one doesn’t have the part, the other will. I also visit O’reillys from time to time, but only for the small stuff: wax, cleaner, brake pads.

  11. Bruce says:

    O’Reilley’s is my first choice … if they don’t have it they’ll tell you where to get it … Advance is #2 just ’cause it’s further down the road … both have helpful friendly people working in thier stores and competitive pricing … Auto Zone is #3 but the main reason for that is that they are always so crowded I havn’t had a bad experience at any of the three … NAPA is 4th … due to it being a longer drive to get there, shorter business hours and higher prices

  12. Old Donn says:

    Any of these stores will suffice for “supermarket” parts, (oil, filters, wax etc). Get into hard parts and it’s usually a crap shoot, especially at Autozone. I’ve found these places usually have one guy that knows anything. If you’re there when he is, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of hired help that knows what the computer says and little else. We’ve all had experience with what the computer says will fit, and what works in the real world. Besides NAPA, if there’s an independent store nearby that’s been established for a long time, that’s where you’ll find the best quality parts and people who know their stuff. It might cost a little more, but how much does it cost to do the same job twice if you’ve got an inferior part or one that doesn’t fit?

  13. Rick says:

    I don’t really have any of the above near me. There’s a small local chain of autoparts stores called Bridge Auto Parts with 4 stores, with one of them being relatively convenient. I usually go there if I need basic stuff like wipers or a dry-gas, or a quart of oil or something.. Almost never buy parts from them. Most of my parts purchasing happens online. For my Bimmer I like http://www.autohausaz.com and for my wife’s Trailblazer I like http://www.rockauto.com

    The only experience I have with Autozone was a while back I needed a new battery for the bimmer and drove the 16 miles to it to pick up a Duralast which I had heard good things about. I told them the model number battery I needed, since I had already looked it up online. But they insisted on looking it up. So he gets all of my deets – looks it up on the computer and gives me the wrong battery anyway. I get to the car and figure I may as well swap it right there in the parking lot. I started to and realized it wasn’t the model I had asked for. And the terminals didn’t line up where they should. Luckily I didn’t wait until i had gotten home. Went back in and got the right one.. idiots… If he had just given me the one I asked for, it would have been right.

  14. SlowJoeCrow says:

    Napa for the normal stuff, the independent VW parts specialist with the sandrail frame in the window for the obscure German stuff. Of course most of the work I do is on motorcycles so mail order is good for the more exotic stuff, and use the other bike or the car until UPS shows up.

  15. luthier58 says:

    Autozone, O’Reilly, and Advance are all within a mile of the house, NAPA about 5 miles away. Despite the fact that this is Autozone’s home (Memphis), and you can’t throw a rock without hitting one, no one I know has anything good to say about them. The last time I went literally NO ONE in the store could figure out how to check my starter (I finally gave up and told them, and haven’t been back since). I use O’Reilly for almost everything, there’s almost always someone there who actually knows what they’re talking about, plus they’ll bend over backwards to find the part you need, and the warranties are bulletproof. Advance is between the two, it really depends on who’s working, but they’re always better than Autozone. NAPA seems most knowledgeable, but kinda steep (and further away). OTOH, for really obscure stuff, NAPA has a parts warehouse in the ‘burbs; those guys know everything, and they have it in stock (for a 30-minute drive).

  16. eschoendorff says:

    NAPA, hands down! Autozone sucks donkey balls, NAPA is more expensive, but also more consistent. Murray’s and Advance are just okay…

  17. DaveD says:

    I usually hit either Autozone or Advance since they are close. If one doesn’t have something sometimes the other will. And when I did exhaust for my accord, neither had the parts in stock, but both could order it. I just went with who could get it first.

    Really, can you expect them to have knowledgeable staff? I mean, if you really knew your stuff why wouldn’t you just be a mechanic and make more money? I’ve gotten lucky and talked to retired mechanics that work there. Customer service jobs seem to pay so little that you can’t get any one with real knowledge working them. You get someone that can push buttons on computers/registers…..

  18. Old Donn says:

    Yeah, Dave. I actually do expect a certain level of competence from any business. Short order cooks and bank tellers don’t make a lot either, but you expect your food cooked and a correct bank balance. If someone’s not interested in their job enough to go the extra mile and learn a little about what they’re doing, they’re in the wrong line of work. That’s why small independents deliver the goods. If they don’t offer more than the big box auto parts stores, they’re out of business.

  19. Fletcher says:

    Advanced, because they carry Purolator.

  20. TL says:

    When I have a choice I’ll go with Baxter’s (a local chain in Portland, OR). Schucks, Kenechts, and Auto Zone have all screwed up on me at least once. NAPA is normally my last choice due to their prices.

  21. TimG says:

    I find the local auto parts stores to always have the best prices and the most knowledgeable people. As somebody above said, for ‘supermarket’ items like oil and filters I’ll hit up the chains (or the dealership as far as filters, ha).

    But the local guy always treats me better!


  22. ajl says:

    Napa may be higer in price, but they more than make up for it in warranty and service. Price is not everything. If you want cheap stuff and sacrifice quality go to advace, pep boys, autozone, etc… I have heard people complain about the prices at napa, but i have heard them complain more about having to replace the part they bought elsewhere two or three times. My money is on NAPA.

  23. ron says:

    autozone was a great place to work at one time . i gave them 7 honest years of my life. then all in one day because of a small mis understanding/ i was nothing but a bias peace of crap/ of course is not true i at one time for 19 years was married to an mexican american woman. but according to co/workers only 2 in 7 years all in one week misunderstood a conversation was having with a commercial customer i was treated like a bad person by autozones h.r. dept. and had to leave with my pride before they decided what they were goin to do with me. 7 years /never called in never missed work /treated all co/workers and customers the same. one time an mexican employee came to me and said/christmas is in a few days im worried about my family/ i called our district manager told him the story/we decided to pull a loan out of the regester until his check came in 3 days later we did a payment back to the regester. christmas from the heart/ not the first thing i done for a co-worker /white /black greeen yellow /what ever it never mattered to me . let me say this to autozone. it was your loss loosing me i was one hell of an employee. cared about the co. my teamates and of course the customer/in ohio my co/workers were the best. in texas only in one store i was a nobody. i made money and costumers for the all o mighty autozone. sure i made mistakes but dang sure honest.

  24. Anon in NC says:

    Currently I work at an Autozone, they give employees a 20% discount on most parts. I end up shopping for all my parts at NAPA. Its a much better store, with better people. The NAPA here is a locally owned store, and has been in the small town for years and years and years. I can go in there with a go-kart belt and get one, and they even have the books to look up and order tractor parts for the farmers in the area. Autozone’s parts are bottom of the barrel crap. You’ll replace the same part 2 or three times, when you could go to NAPA and get a quality reman or new part and not have to worry about it again. You’ll be hard pressed to find some parts at Autozone, or to be able to look it up. My Autozone doesn’t have books to look in for the unusual parts. Yes, Autozone is cheap, but you get what you pay for. Carquest has decent parts, but the store here is very small, and usually has to order what I need, so I only go there if I’m in a hurry for oil or a battery, and don’t feel like driving the 10 miles to NAPA. Advance Auto has good parts and good service here, but they are about 15 miles from here, so usually I don’t do much business with them. Avoid Autozone.

  25. Teacher says:

    My first choise here(Southern Pines NC) is NAPA. They’re locally owned, friendly, know something and really try to help you. Our Carquest is pretty good too. Advance is ok for name brand parts..Bendix etc. Auto Zone is useless except for dropping off used oil. The nearest Pep Boys? Forget it unless I want a furry steering wheel or $3 cordless drill.

  26. MALAKI says:

    Great to know that you prefer the quality auto parts. It is an important issue.

  27. Jec says:

    Nice to know about autozone. The quality auto parts are always preferred.

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