If you’ve landed on Ford’s sixth-generation Bronco as your new ride, then you, my friend, are a special breed of enthusiast.
You’ve traded a bit of practicality for ultimate capability and iconic styling that blends the past with the present almost perfectly. Your weekend plans include meeting up with your friends at the trailhead, so you can spend the day mudding, rock crawling, or whatever you want your Bronco to do. The sixth-generation Bronco is not just any SUV, it’s an SUV that’s designed to take you on or over the toughest terrain in the world and beg for more.
There’s no doubt that Ford's design team sweated over the details when they engineered the Bronco, and even in stock form, it’s plenty capable. Ford offers a ton of unique trims and factory upgrades from Ford Performance, along with some of the biggest names in the world of off-road accessories. Since Bronco owners love to customize, many owners aren’t exactly settled with what’s available from the factory.
Thanks to enthusiast-driven companies like Archetype Racing, sixth-gen Bronco owners can equip their Blue Oval SUV with a huge variety of upgraded components that provide capability and custom style that factory components can sometimes lack.
So, in the world of OEM vs aftermarket Bronco components - what’s the best choice for the Bronco?
Let’s dive in.
Advantages of Aftermarket Accessories
One of the biggest advantages of utilizing aftermarket parts is the sheer variety of options available.
Ford spends the vast majority of their development and engineering efforts to make sure that the core components of the Bronco can survive being beaten up on the trail. Sure, they do offer some accessories, but these components are built to appeal to a wide audience. Plus, Ford needs to make sure that the take rate and profit margin are high enough to make it worth their while. Bottom line: there has to be a business case in order to offer the accessory at all.
Unlike factory accessories that are meant to appeal to a wider audience, aftermarket companies like Archetype Racing can offer a huge variety of Bronco accessories that allow owners to completely personalize their build to suit their unique style and needs. Take the SLAP / BPM (Structurally Located Accessory Point / Bulletproof Mount) from Archetype for example. Using OEM ‘accessory ready’ panel, the SLAP / BPM instantly upgrades the functionality and style of a Bronco build in a way that nothing factory can quite match.
Affordability is another big reason to stick with aftermarket vs. OEM accessories. Bronco aficionados can get similar, and sometimes better, quality accessories for much less than what Ford offers from the factory. Remember, Ford is a vehicle manufacturer, not an accessories manufacturer, so they have to spend considerable resources to get any accessories out on the market, especially since they are usually backed up by a factory warranty. All this means that you will always pay more if you turn to Ford for your sixth-generation Bronco accessory needs.
Check out “genuine Ford parts” and you’ll notice something quite interesting. Most of their best upgrades, like their 2” lift kit, are designed or built by aftermarket manufacturers! Although the components are branded as Ford Performance, they are developed and manufactured by companies like Bilstein, which happens to be one of the best suspension companies in the world. If Ford relies on the experts, why not go to the experts directly?
Disadvantages of Aftermarket Accessories
Despite the incredible innovation and sheer variety of accessories out there on the aftermarket for the new Bronco, there are some disadvantages to going with aftermarket parts.
The most glaring issue with aftermarket products is that they can be unreliable. This point deserves a big old caveat because not all aftermarket parts are created equal. You can’t just trust anything out there on the market, and you should always stick with established companies that have a solid reputation for quality. That old adage “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true when it comes to purchasing accessories or upgrades for your Ford Bronco.
Poor research and development of cheaply made parts can also lead to some accessories not fitting properly on your Bronco, especially across different trim levels. Plus, some of the accessories out there may void the factory warranty, which is definitely not a good thing when purchasing a vehicle as expensive as the Ford Bronco. Again, this is not a universal truth, but something you need to watch out for if you want to avoid a major hassle.
Since factory upgrades are often ordered right from the factory, new Bronco owners can roll these components right into the financing of their new Bronco. This can be seen as an advantage or disadvantage, depending on where your opinion falls, but regardless, you can wrap up those factory upgrades into a tidy monthly payment if you’d like.
Advantages of Factory Upgrades
If you’re going to purchase an upgrade for your Bronco with genuine Ford parts, there are some definite advantages, especially for engineered components.
First off, every component offered by the factory is going to be specially designed and engineered to work with the specific vehicle, which removes the hassle of finding compatible parts. Take the Ford Performance & Bilstein 2” lift kit which mirrors the badass setup on the Sasquatch trim of the sixth-gen Bronco. Each component of this kit has been carefully engineered to provide durability and performance across the board. Since Ford backs it up with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, it better be good, otherwise, Ford would be eating a ton of warranty claims.
If you roll with a factory upgrade, you can be assured that the components will not void your factory warranty. Ford does this to protect itself from warranty claims because poorly engineered upgrades can cause damage to everything from driveline components to the chassis, engine and much more. This isn’t to say that an aftermarket product will always void the factory warranty, but you just need to keep this in mind when you’re shopping for components.
Go with a factory upgrade and you are basically guaranteed a quality setup that will not void your new vehicle warranty and be good for the long run with little worry.
Disadvantages of Factory Upgrades
As good as going with a factory upgrade may sound, the main caveat with OEM parts is that pricing is quite a bit higher. Plus, many of the “factory” upgrades like the Ford Performance suspension and the front bumper Winch Kit are from companies that are already players in the aftermarket such as Bilstein and Warn. The point is, if Ford leans on the aftermarket to provide its “factory” upgrades, then why not just go right to the aftermarket yourself and save the money? It just makes sense.
From traditional off-road gear like lift kits and forged wheels with knobby tires to things you didn’t know you needed like the B.A.L.L.S. (Billet Aluminum Longitudinally Locking Sphere) kit from Archetype, you can get it all and then some on the aftermarket. Compared to what Ford offers, the sheer volume of great products out there is overwhelmingly awesome. You bought the Bronco to make it your own, so why work with a limited catalog? Your Bronco and your spirit of adventure will thank you.
Since vehicle development time can run several years, by the time “factory” upgrades are offered to the public, they may already be outdated. Aftermarket accessory companies are quite a bit more nimble and can develop the latest products and perform testing without much bureaucratic fuss. Since competition in the aftermarket is fierce, you can bet that there will always be a steady stream of new and innovative products to capture your attention.
Build quality and materials can be another disadvantage of factory accessories. For example, Archetype utilizes high-quality billet aluminum to make their accessories, which would be completely impractical for a company the size of Ford to produce from a monetary and productivity standpoint. Archetype has expertise working with billet aluminum and the ability to quickly design and produce the best accessories for the Bronco with relative ease. Ford could never dream of doing this without charging way more than people would pay.
One more disadvantage of OEM parts is that they are usually buried within the option packages of the Bronco, much like the Sasquatch Package. If you want a specific type of off-road kit or interior accessory, you may have to roll up to a different trim and get other components you don’t necessarily need or want. Plus, you’ll be paying good money for these additional parts and components to boot. Going to the aftermarket lets you pick and choose only the upgrades you’re interested in and nothing more.
So, where does all this leave us in the debate between OEM and aftermarket parts?
Factory upgrades from Ford are well-engineered and backed up with some sort of warranty to guarantee their quality over a period of several years. Since they are right from the factory, they will not void the factory warranty and they can usually be financed right into your monthly payment. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with factory upgrades, but as a new Bronco owner, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t invest time into what the aftermarket has to offer.
The biggest advantage of going with the aftermarket is choice. Lots and lots of choices! Frankly, there are so many incredible companies out there that make Broncos upgrades and accessories that it can be hard to choose where to spend your hard-earned money. Going to the aftermarket is also substantially cheaper than going with anything from the factory, but you’re not really giving up any quality to the factory setups. Remember, Ford already turns to the aftermarket for many of their upgraded components, so why not just go direct for your build?
Sure, you’ll have to put in a bit of work to find reputable companies in the space, but with a bit of research, it’s not hard to figure out who’s legit and who’s not. Many quality aftermarket manufacturers also offer their own warranty on their products, and they can provide specific guidance on whether or not the accessory or upgrade will void your warranty.
Bottom line: if you put a little bit of work in, you can reap some serious rewards from outfitting your new Bronco from aftermarket suppliers like Archetype Racing.