Ignition coil price ranges significantly, why?

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I came across this car parts question and wondered what your take on it was myself:

“… I’ve acquired an old beater car that needs work. Specifically it needs a new ignition coil. I’m buying my own online because the auto shop’s price was more than I can justify for this vehicle.

The part they want is a Standard (SMP) UF355. If I buy that brand, the absolute lowest price I’ve found is $122 (including shipping cost). That’s lower than the shop’s price.

However, I see dozens of knock-offs that appear to be exactly the same thing for as little as $18 (and free shipping). Some are as high as $40. But between there and $122 — nothing.

I wouldn’t usually hesitate to buy Brand X. But in this case the cost difference between the “real” thing and the knockoffs is so enormous that the needle on my hink-o-meter has zoomed into the red. Either the SMP is grossly overpriced. Or the look-alikes have got to be total junk.

I don’t have the expertise to know which is which, and on this subject the ‘Net is being strangely mum.

So, automotive experts … Why the huge, huge price difference and am I safe trying a knockoff or had I better just bite the bullet and go with the name brand for (yikes) six times more? …”

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8 COMMENTS

  1. This article is several years old so I don’t know if anyone is even reading it anymore. I came across it while searching the exact same question out of curiosity for myself. The only time I would use a name brand part on any vehicle anymore is if it’s a tremendously difficult part to remove and install. To give you an example, I have an 05 Ford Escape and in order to do a basic tune up on it, the entire engine plenum has to be removed as everything is buried underneath it (thanks Ford!), coils, plugs, wires, etc. Average tune-up for this vehicle from any repair shop is around $2,000 because of the number of things that have to be removed and reinstalled. If you do it your self, about $250 in parts is all. Took me about two days to do it. One day to remove everything, put the parts in and a day to put it all back together. Obviously in this situation, use the highest quality parts you can. Usually it’s the original OEM parts (Motorcraft in this case). Although I have encountered Motorcraft parts that had known problems that Ford refused to correct but the aftermarket did correct. So if it’s something goes out that seems to be too soon to go bad, may want to research it before buying the parts as the automakers parts may not always be the best solution anyway. Otherwise, if the parts are easy to replace, or aren’t critical parts that can damage your engine if they break or wear out (timing chains, belts etc) use the cheapest you can get. Made in china, junk yard, etc. These automakers charge so much for cars now that even though I have a decent paying job, I can’t afford their cars and like millions of others forced to drive these older beater cars because of the greed of these automakers, I can’t afford an auto mechanic anymore either. $100 an hour is the average shop price now. So that certainly doesn’t make it anymore reasonable to drive an older car that has to be wrenched on regularly. If the engine or trans goes out, $2k for another beater is cheaper than paying a repair shop 3k or 4k for another engine or trans. Fix it as much as you can and if you run into a problem that absolutely requires the use of a shop because of part sizes, required specialty tools or complexity, time to junk it and move on.

  2. A good share of parts are imported from U know where and add 200 -300% + markup once “Branded”. So you have those guys and more reasonable dudes selling them unbranded on eBay cheap. As a US retailer I have to work both sides as available.

    • If you have a coil that is the same size so that it will fit the mountings of your car and needs to be feed the same voltage input
      then the coil will work if the size of the case of the coil is larger or smaller it will work but you would have to make a new mount I have an old 1932 ford 6 cyl. running with a 1970 dodge coil

  3. I turned up this coil on rockauto.com and did a where-used to try and see if other options came up and none did.

    The manufacturer’s claims are here: http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/moreinfo.php?pk=665841

    Standard motor products usually isn’t anything special as I recall so I find it odd they are so much higher priced. Perhaps they are making this coil in the US/europe while the other one is coming from china or isn’t the correct rotor? Sometimes websites selling parts get things crossed. So make sure the photos match what’s in the car.

    Doing some googling it looks like rock auto had this SMP part in the $40 range until recently. Some times there are odd spikes in prices of certain parts. I don’t know why.

    It’s just hard to say without knowing something about the different brands. For a car that isn’t being kept long term the cheapy is probably ok. What’s autozone and napa selling? That will give an idea of what is cheap and what is better. You can often match up the ‘stock photos’ to see who sells what.

    • Some of the OEs usage of the part you identified are shown below. I have never had a problem with buying the ‘Cheapie’ (i.e No hefty vehicle manufacturer mark-up.) product from the nearest auto-factor. So long as it is a recognised name there should be no difference and no problem.

      Ken.

      MITSUBISHI OE MD155852
      MITSUBISHI MD155852
      Buyers Guide:
      DODGE-COLT (94-92)
      EAGLE-SUMMIT, TALON (96-92)
      MITSUBISHI-ECLIPSE, EXPO LRV, MIRAGE (96-90)
      PLYMOUTH-COLT, LASER (94-92)

  4. This might help, or it might not. I just dropped a shitload of money on a new engine for my Harley. I needed to change the ignition system over from a dual fire coil to a single fire coil. Don’t ask me why, but the stock Harley Evo engine fires twice during its four strokes. Anyhow, back to the point. The guy told me I had a choice, a no name coil for $50, or the same coil with S&S engraved on it for $150.

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