In the performance parts industry, people tend to use the words parts and accessories interchangeably, while others see a difference. So what’s the difference, for example, between truck parts and truck accessories if many of them serve the same basic function? It depends on who you ask.
Because the words parts and accessories each encompass a large number of products that overlap and can therefore be categorized as either, people tend to the use the words interchangeably without any regard to the difference. In reality, when dealing with the performance parts industry, the word only overlaps in certain instances, and even then opinions will vary as to which factors apply. Truck parts and truck accessories each have their own list of included products, which ‘meet in the middle’ depending on their intended use, as well as their categorization as an OEM or aftermarket product.
A truck parts advisor for example, may tell you that a truck part has a more generic definition, and includes everything from repair, maintenance, and restoration, to interior and exterior enhancement. Such products may include oil filters, air filters, shocks, spoilers, or headlamps, as they in effect, are part of the truck. So long as they are the original part of the truck, or even a replacement or repair product, it can be described as a part whereas an aftermarket part created to enhance the vehicle after the initial purchase tends to fall into the accessory category.
In the meantime, the same parts advisor may tell you that the word accessory is synonymous with the word part when referring to a product in general, but the specific make and use of the product will determine which category it falls into.
Car covers, sun shields, make-specific paraphernalia and such products that serve mainly to enhance a car or truck (such as lift kits) would most likely be considered solely accessories. A sport utility rack could potentially fall into either.
Even oil filters, brake pads or rotors, or air filters could fall into either category. The standard, OEM version will typically be considered a truck part whereas a performance-based aftermarket version thereof will more likely be considered a Truck accessory (such as K&N oil filters, which take advantage of advanced filtration technology you won’t find in its standard OEM counterpart). A lift kit, which isn’t something that’s included with the truck but rather used as an enhancement will typically be classified as an accessory, though some will still call it a truck part.
The items that tend to be categorized specifically as accessories are aftermarket products made to enhance (whether it be performance or aesthetic). For example aftermarket air filters, high quality seat covers, and floor mats for trucks are typically considered truck accessories if they are not the original OEM part. The issue becomes even more clouded once you get into OEM-made accessories vs. aftermarket accessories or even aftermarket parts, but that’s a completely different article.
In the end, the difference between the two will always vary from person to person, even among truck enthusiasts and professionals within the repair or performance parts industry.