How to get the Best Quality for Lowest Price for Automotive A/C Compressors

Even for someone in the industry, navigating the brands and options for a/c compressors can be exhausting.  As I write this, our company has 10 variations for each compressor.  So, here, I will decipher and briefly breakdown the differences within each category compressor.

Whether you are a professional installer or reseaching for your own needs, if you can fully understand the options listed here, you will be able to quickly determine which is the best quality for your specific price range.

The truth is, there is a lot more to a compressor than the words new, reman, or used.  First, I will explain the differences within the different conditions:

  • New
  • Remanufactured
  • Used

Then, I will give you a quick overview of how to properly leverage this information to navigate the world of automotive a/c compressors.

New Compressors

New is not just new. There are 3 main different categories within the new category: OEM New, OES New, and Aftermarket New.

OEM New

The OEM is the Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEMs are the companies who build millions of units annually that large vehicle manufacturers, such as Ford or Toyota, install in vehicles during factory production.

As you can imagine, quality is key! Thus, OEM New are the highest quality new compressor you can purchase.  Two examples include Denso and Valeo.  Both of these companies build compressors for large vehicle manufacturers that are installed during factory production.

OEMs build around the world, including USA, Japan, Europe, Asia, and South America. An OEM on one vehicle is not necessarily the OEM on another vehicle, which brings me to the next highest quality player, the OES.

TCW Compressor 42310.5T1NEW New

OES New

The OES is an Original Equipment Supplier. This is where an OEM compressor company sells a part for a vehicle where they did not build the compressor installed during factory production.

For example:  Denso builds all of the compressors installed in Toyota vehicles during factory production.  However, Valeo is a company who builds compressors for Nissan (and other manufacturers), and they have a compressor available for a Toyota.  In this specific situation, Denso is the OEM and Valeo is an OES option.

The quality?  At best, they purchased the part from the OEM to put insider their box.  Or, the OES could use their own design if the fitment, function, and quality are good.  You can rest at ease when an OES uses a replacement.  OES companies have a proven ability to build a OEM quality unit.

In contrast, is the purely aftermarket new option.

TCW Compressor 35200.6T1NEW New

Aftermarket New

Aftermarket new is where quality gets tricky. Aftermarket new compressors are copies of the OEM units. The focus here is on price and vehicle fitment.  Unless the OEM or OES, aftermarket new companies do not provide any OEM units to large vehicle manufacturers.

Can you get a high-quality compressor? Yes, sometimes. Unfortunately, the quality can be very inconsistent even within a brand.  Without being too hard on aftermarket new compressors, these are by far the most popular.  People like the word new, and the price is usually much lower than an OEM or OES option.

However, there is a lot of value outside of the new options.  I will quickly breakdown remanufactured compressors!

Remanufactured Compressors

TCW Platinum Compressor 31990.4T1OEM New

Just like new, we have 3 general categories for remanufactured compressors: Remanufactured by an OEM, Remanufactured OEM, and Remanufactured Aftermarket

Remanufactured by an OEM

For example, Denso will sometimes have a remanufactured compressor. This is the highest quality reman you can purchase.  The quality will like be much better than an aftermarket new compressor.

Some large manufacturers use this option at the dealer level to offer a cheaper option than OEM New.  Unfortunately, pricing is usually much higher than the remanufactured OEM option.   

Remanufactured OEM

This is when a aftermarket company remanufactures an OEM compressor. Unfortunately, there will be some inconsistency within this market. To get the best remanufactured OEM unit, make sure the company has adequate testing involved in their process.

The quality is comparable to an aftermarket new compressor, or maybe slightly better depending on who built the unit. However, usually the failure reasons are different between an aftermarket new and a reman.

The advantage a reman OEM has over an aftermarket new is the compressor is mostly made of OEM parts. The best remanufactured OEMs compressors are pulled from wrecked vehicles and built by a company with a high-quality process and testing.

While I would prefer to say there are no additional remanufactured options, some people will rebuild and aftermarket compressor.

Remanufactured Aftermarket

Never purchase one of these units. They are the worse quality compressor. I do not know if you would find a rebuilder who touts this as a thing. Instead, you would like not see the mention of the original compressor they used within their process.  The reason this is a bad option is simple, remanufacturing a product that may already be subpar has a very high chance it will not work properly or last very long.

Now that we have explained the differences within the most popular categories, new and remanufactured, let’s discuss the blakc sheep: used compressors.

TCW Compressor 10079.1T3 Remanufactured

Used Compressors

Simply divided, there are two categories of used compressors: OEM Used & Tested & Junk Yard/Pick & Pull

OEM Used & Tested

An OEM Used & Tested compressor is an OEM/OES unit that is tested to ensure it works properly. The quality depends on the testing conducted. The quality has the potential be just slightly below the OEM/OES New units since they are 100% OEM.

The big question mark is typically, how much life is left? The newer the vehicle the better. These units are extracted from wrecked vehicles, and often cases can have another 8 years or more left. Used car dealerships like this option because they get an OEM quality unit without the price point of the OEM new unit.

Big take away here? Make sure it comes with a test report, warranty, and that it is an OEM unit.

Junk Yard/Pick & Pull/Other Used

The results here can be all over the place. You do not know if it is going to work, there is usually no warranty, the price is usually high, and you do not know if you are pulling off a new aftermarket or OEM.

As you can see, there are numerous variations of different conditions.  The words new or reman or used does not always refer to the same type of unit. Quality can vary from each classification, and even within a classification the quality can vary.

Follow this guide to help you choose the best quality for your budget.

Value RatingClassificationProsConsPrice
5 StarsOEM NewHighest Quality, OEMPrice$$$$
5 StarsOES New2nd Highest QualityPrice$$$$
4 StarsReman by OEMQuality, OEM PartsPrice$$$
4 StarsOEM Used & TestedPrice-Quality Combination, OEM PartsUnknown life expectancy, Dirty$
3-3.5 StarsOEM RemanufacturedPrice, OEM PartsUnknown life expectancy, Consistency amoung brands$$
3-3.5 StarsAftermarket NewPriceLife expectancy$$
1.5 StarsJunk Yard/Pick & PullPriceQuality, life expectancy, no warranty$
.5 StarsRemanufactured AftermarketNoneQuality, Life expectancy