How to Cross Reference Auto Parts

How to Cross Reference Auto Parts

According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, passenger vehicles’ average age is nearly 12 years. These cars require frequent maintenance, repairs, and replacement parts. If a car owner has trouble acquiring a part meant specifically for their vehicle, they want to know if parts from other vehicles can fit into theirs. Therefore, knowing how to cross- reference auto parts is crucial in any online auto parts business.

Before the rise of online retailers, car owners had to visit a junkyard, swap meets, or the dealers to check the compatibility of other auto parts. However, today, a comprehensive online catalog, a search engine, and accurate fitment data are all you need to help your customers find what they’re looking for. 

Here is what you should know about auto parts cross-referencing

Benefits of Cross Referencing

You may think that integrating a cross-reference search in your online catalog can come later and isn’t that important to get your business off the ground – but we would advise you to think again. There are numerous benefits of having a parts interchange database, not only for your store but also for your customers.

  • Business Benefits

There is hardly an online aftermarket platform now that doesn’t contain a cross-referencing tool of some kind. If customers can’t find the information they want on your website, they will certainly go to a competitor. Inaccurate or incomplete fitment data is one of the primary reasons for loss of sales. 

Furthermore, your tool might not be useful just for individual customers. Other businesses, such as OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), engineers, and distributors, might use this tool to find a supplier with a shorter lead time or lower cost or change vendors when a part they’re working with no longer exists. 

There are more than one way and more than one customer type you could satisfy with your online auto parts cross reference tool.

  • Customer Benefits

Customer benefits are slightly more obvious. Using your website, they can find alternatives for parts that are no longer in production or less expensive parts for their vehicles. They can also find these alternatives quickly, from basically anywhere in the world. If you set up your user experience intuitively, finding a compatible part should only be a matter of a few clicks for your potential customer. 

Part Number

Your online catalog search tool must have a wide range of information a customer can enter to find the right part. This data can be: 

  • Vehicle make
  • Model
  • Year
  • Trim/Submodel
  • Engine
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Part Number, etc.

For finding a replacement part, the part number section is crucial. Your tool should allow visitors to enter not only the entire part number if they have it, but also a partial part number. Advanced catalogs allow consumers to type in as few as two digits to obtain results. Of course, the more complete the part number, the more accurate results they will get.  

Filtering the Results

Your website should also have a filter feature. If a potential customer has only a partial number, they could get over a hundred different results they need to sift through. Filtering these results will help them narrow down the search. 

One of the most common filtering methods is through the use of dropdown boxes. Filters should be able to sort data according to the manufacturer, product type, and more. There’s no point in scrolling through side mirrors that fit the partial number if a customer knows they’re looking for a taillight. 

Another neat feature is to offer your customers a download button if they want to save their results or print them out to take them to a car expert. 

Fitment Data

As you might have realized, the two most significant aspects of an online catalog are its fitment data and the user experience it provides for its visitors. 

There are three aspects of high-quality fitment data you need to consider. 

  • Accuracy

Bad data leads to dissatisfied customers, costly returns, bad reviews, and a drastic decrease in brand reputation. Simply put, you cannot afford a catalog that contains fitment information that will cause your customers to receive the wrong part. 

Just imagine them dismantling half of their car, ready to finally replace what they’ve been searching for, only to realize they have the wrong component. At the very least, you have lost them as a customer forever. If they’re keen on ensuring no one else makes their mistake, their negative feedback could greatly affect your business.

Fitment data that is accurate is the foundation of a good online automotive parts store.

  • Completeness

As mentioned above, if your fitment data is incomplete, you will lose sales. Your online inventory should include as much information about compatible parts as possible. You need to research this thoroughly and ensure that each component has a list of compatible vehicles. 

Incomplete fitment data means that you are underselling your products and losing customers to your competitors. Don’t let that happen. 

  • Format

Finally, different online marketplaces require data in different formats. For example, Amazon works with data formatted according to the ACES industry standard developed by the Auto Care Association. In contrast, eBay Motors requires its sellers to take a step further and convert their ACES XML data into MVL files. This procedure isn’t too complicated, but it is a format unique to eBay that isn’t commonly used pretty much anywhere else on the internet. 

So before you start compiling your comprehensive collection of vehicle data, make sure you understand the different formats and which ones you need for your chosen marketplace.

User Experience

User experience or UX is an application design term – it defines how easy it is for a customer to find what they’re looking for, achieve a goal, or solve a problem using a website, mobile app, or any other type of software. 

To acquire and retain customers, the user experience of your website and cross-reference tool should be excellent. Once a visitor clicks on your landing page, there should be no confusion – you need to clearly outline the steps they should take to find the right part for them: the fewer the steps, the better. 

If you’re not too tech-savvy and you wish to build your own website, it would be a good idea to consult with a UX designer or a similar type of web developer. They will help you create the best website for your business to benefit both you and your consumers. 


The automotive industry is abundant with cars that share identical parts. These can be large parts such as entire engines and small parts such as lights, door handles, side mirrors, and similar. For an online auto aftermarket store, cross-referencing tools are a vital segment. Customers often want to know what other vehicles they can find the parts they need.

Your search tool needs to make it simple for your visitors to avoid negative feedback and secure repeat purchases and high customer satisfaction. They could use an option to enter a partial or complete part number and filter their results. It is crucial to a good user experience. 

Furthermore, your fitment data should be accurate, complete, and in the right format for your marketplace. Managing your inventory database requires a lot of time and effort. If you’d like some advice or more information on how to set up your online catalog, contact Illumaware. We will be more than happy to help you achieve your business goals.