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by Jon Mikelonis

Save for Napa Auto Parts and a few small mom and pop shops that have managed to hunker down to secure their local clientele, the real auto parts store is gone. Nowadays, both you and I are left with really just three auto parts retail options: national chain stores like AutoZone and Advance Auto, the internet, and Wal-Mart. Yes, I just said Wal-Mart. Love them or hate them, according to an article from DSN Retailing Today, Automotive (a.k.a. Department 10) at Wal-Mart is believed to outpace segment leader AutoZone in total revenue. Also to Wal-Mart's credit, automotive parts and accessories is a category that other mass retailers have scaled back or eliminated altogether.

But you're right, you won't be able to pick up an idler arm or a set of spark plugs at Wal-Mart. However, take a look at the prices of the commodity items you purchase for your Ford project cars, utility vehicles, and daily drivers. The savings you can realize at Wal-Mart on oil, filters, fuses, solvents, cleaners, and other miscellaneous fluids, is worth the extra trip for tune-up items, especially when compared to national chain stores. Value pricing is what Wal-Mart does best and understanding the needs of the average American enables them to put the right products in front of our faces. Add a dose of Wal-Mart's notorious hard-line supplier pressure and their value pricing on automotive supplies soon become available at their famous "Everyday Low Prices". While Wal-Mart's focus in Department 10 is on welterweight do-it-yourselfers, the stuff those guys buy is still a subset of what the more ambitious performance-oriented enthusiast needs to service their toys.

Location, Location, Location
Piggybacking on the traffic a Wal-Mart store generates within a shopping complex serves as a tractor beam for smaller retailers. This is even placing automotive chain stores like CSK Auto right into the same Wal-Mart-centric shopping complexes. While this is normally a good strategy for a retailer, it only works for those retailers offering something that Wal-Mart doesn't. Regardless, the phenomenon benefits the DIY consumer by making a trip to two retailers for automotive tune-up items, all the more convenient. However, you've got the believe that national automotive chain stores are feeling the drain caused by Wal-Mart's Department 10. For example...

They're not just a hodge podge of automotive products, these six items are some of the best selling tune-up items nationwide. So common they're available at almost every national chain store. What isn't common however, is the price. One particular mass retailer is leaving the national automotive chain stores in the dust. Who else but Wal-Mart.

Comparison Shopping
Let's do some comparison shopping using Wal-Mart, Kragen (CSK), AutoZone, Napa Auto Parts, and Pep Boys. The items shown to the right served as the basis of the comparison. All six products should be very familiar to any do-it-yourself automotive enthusiast. Whether you still use FRAM brand filters or not, probably depends on how much money you've got invested into your project car. No need to email in your outrage yet, because even if you've got a $10,000 stroker in your Falcon, many of us still run throwaway paper elements in our low-budget street machines, daily drivers, and utility vehicles. As for the other items shown, we can bet that you still buy them on occasion if not regularly for use as intended or otherwise. All are staples in the do-it-yourselfers garage or shop.

Prestone Anti-Freeze
With the first formulations sold in cans in 1927, sometimes we can forget the longevity of brands like Prestone Antifreeze/Coolant. The stuff isn't cheap which makes any reason to remove your radiator for a performance upgrade a reason to get out the catch-can. No matter what though, you're always going to lose some anti-freeze during radiator removal. For that reason you can bet there's a bottle of antifreeze in almost every enthusiast's work area, including yours. No sense in overpaying for the mean green.

Prestone Antifreeze Coolant
Pep Boys
Kragen (CSK)
Napa Auto







In This Article:
Mom and pop auto parts stores have almost entirely bit the dust which means hospitality and service are no longer a priority to most consumers. Subtract service from the automotive parts equation and you are left with only one attribute to choose your vendor. Price. With that said, the price comparison data in this article shows that Wal-Mart, love them or hate them, may become one-half your local auto parts store.
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With 593 stores in 36 states, Pep Boys is the only national chain serving all four segments of the automotive aftermarket. However, when placed head-to-head against Wal-Mart, the price of their commodity auto parts just doesn't stack up.

If there is one thing NAPA does right, it's blend the feel of a hometown auto parts store with Wall Street buying power. Amazingly, they maintain this hometown feel with over 6,000 stores. At NAPA, I am often surprised by what they have in stock for some of my own 70's vintage Fords. However, just because they got my rotor in stock doesn't mean I'm going to buy Brake Cleaner at NAPA's retail prices.

Kragen, also known as Checkers and Schucks, has 1,307 stores in 22 states across the western United States. Parts counter service is hit-or-miss depending on store management. However, pricing is always a "miss" when compared to Department 10 at Wal-Mart. In my hometown, Kragen is brazen enough to park themselves next to the mass retailer that could be sucking the life blood out of them.

With 3,800 stores and a strong emphasis on commodity parts and accessories, AutoZone is most threatened by Wal-Mart's "killer" pricing. Some speculate that Wal-Mart's Department 10 alone outpaces AutoZone's total revenue.






Fram Standard Air Filters
They're orange, they are cheap, and I bet Fram sells a boatload of them every week. Based on technology that hasn't changed in more the 50 years, the dry-type paper filter from Fram is a regular at every national auto parts store. Economonies-of-scale have driven the price down on paper filters over the years and now with Wal-Mart in the mix you can probably expect to see them drop further. Of the six products we used for our comparison, the FRAM CA351 yielded the greatest price differential with Wal-Mart giving it away for $4.99 and Kragen (CSK) retailing it at $7.99. Why'd we select the CA351? It was the FRAM filter number designated for FordMuscle's Project Redneck.

Fram CA351 Air Filter
Pep Boys
Kragen (CSK)
Napa Auto

Castrol GTX Motor Oil
The World Land Speed record has been broken 21 times by vehicles using Castrol brand motor oil but what I'd really like to see broken is the case price of GTX 20-50W. Even at Wal-Mart you don't get a discount when buying a case of oil versus and quart. Not sure why but after comapring per quart prices pricing on Castrol GTX 20-50W at all four retialers, I discoverd that even Wal-Mart's buying power must not be able to force Castrol to budge too much on wholesaale pricing. However, the savings do add up when you buy in bulk at Wal-MArt over the national chains.

Castrol GTX 20-50W
Pep Boys
Kragen (CSK)
Napa Auto
$2.99 each
$35.88 case
$3.09 each
$37.09 case
$2.88 each
$34.56 case
$2.99 each
$35.88 case

Gunk Engine Brite
Add up all the Gunk Engine Brite you've ever purchased to clean parts and you could have three parts washing bins and a barrel of solvent by now. No matter if your project car is spotless and your work area is fully equipped there always seems to be some use for this grease and grime emulsifier. Touted as the Worlds' best selling degreaser, Gunk Engine Brite is just another staple in the DIY automotive enthusiasts garage. The stuff doesn't take a parts counter person to aid in your purchase, so why pay national chain store prices when it's heavily discounted at Wal-Mart.

GUNK Engine Brite 15 oz
Pep Boys
Kragen (CSK)
Napa Auto

Gumout Carb & Choke Cleaner
It's got to be the most potent solvent on the shelf and is most likely used in ways it was never intended. Gumout's Carb and Choke Cleaner is the "go-to" cleaner when the going gets gummy. Whether an enthusiast needs to wipe down a grimy power steering pump or de-carbonize a fouled spark plug, this product will do the job. For these reasons, Gumout is very popular among automotive enthusiasts whether they are running a carburetor or EFI.

GUMOUT Carb Choke Cleaner
Pep Boys
Kragen (CSK)
Napa Auto
$4.49 (19 oz)
$0.23 per oz
$2.99 (16 oz)
$0.19 per oz
$1.82 (16 oz)
$0.11 per oz
$3.19 (19 oz)
$0.16 per oz
$3.09 (12.5 oz)
$0.24 per oz

Fram Extra Guard Oil Filters
An oil filter doesn't get much simpler than the Fram Extra Guard. Hopefully, you don't use one in your race motor, however, many enthusiasts with old Ford trucks or other high mileage project cars make due with the Fram Extra Guard's 96% Single-Pass Efficiency, cellulose (paper) filter, and very low price. Looking for an extremely low price? Wal-Mart is the winner again, this time for the very common Fram PH8A.

Fram PH8A Oil Filter
Pep Boys
Kragen (CSK)
Napa Auto

According to Gib Carey, a partner at Bain & Co., "Wal-Mart is the essential retailer, in a way no other retailer is." What this simple statement means for the companies like Honeywell (manufactuer of FRAM and Prestone products), Sopus Products (manufactuer of GUMOUT), and Radiator Speciality Company (manufactuer of GUNK Engine Brite) is that doing business with Wal-Mart is mandatory. However, it is Wal-Mart's tough supplier standards and pressure to offer the lowest price that can make the only thing worse than doing business with Wal-Mart, not doing business with Wal-Mart. It is Wal-Mart's supplier relationship philosophy and barriers to entry that are the root of serious debate on the business-to-business side.

One the other hand, automotive parts and supplies consumers like us win with the tough pricing requirements Wal-Mart places on their suppliers. By all means, if you are receiving personalized service from a local independent auto part store, then they deserve your business for commodity products that are priced higher than Wal-Mart. However, if your purchasing decison comes between a canned national chain store and Wal-Mart, why would you pay extra for products from Kragen, Advance Auto, Pep Boys, AutoZone, or CSK?

Posted by wildosvt01, 03/07/07 07:46am:
I cannot believe FM is pushing for WAL-MART! This is a new low............
Posted by carsnguitars, 03/07/07 08:59am:
To me, Wal-Mart does not save me time. I will gladly pay a little extra to avoid the 10 minutes in the parking lot looking for a parking space dance. I have no problem with Wal-Mart or how they operate, but I choose to spend my money, and my valuable time, elsewhere.
Posted by lovemyHO, 03/07/07 05:07pm:
With Wal-Mart right next door to my local Kragen, I routinely give my business to Kragen every time. It’s worth the extra couple of bucks if it means I don’t have to deal with the “Wal-Mart experience”…
Posted by MAVOWAR, 03/07/07 06:03pm:
Walmart must be a Paid advertiser or otherwise FordMuscle should change it's name to "?%#(*&^" Walmart's Service sucks. Period. I go to a family owned operated Parts House. They are big with 20 plus stores in in the greater Cincinnatie area. Then there is KOI. Both great places that have knowledgeable parts People and fair prices.
Posted by Mikelonis, 03/07/07 06:28pm:
FYI. FordMuscle receives nothing from Wal-Mart. This article is an objective report stating facts. All FordMuscle advertisers are identified by the large sidebar banners in the right margin.
Posted by SpongeBob, 03/08/07 02:27pm:
Maybe we should modify a KIA and add a Wal-Mart bumper sticker..that would be cool.
Posted by retyler, 03/08/07 03:17pm:
There are three auto parts stores in my nearest town, one Napa and two locally owned. What gets my butt is nothing on the front store shelves is priced marked. The reason is they have three to four prices that they can charge you and most times when a joe blow walks in off the street he gets charged the highest price. Walmart and the National stores on the other hand have everything priced marked. There are no surprises. I've been shocked on numerous times at the prices some of the stores charge for sundry items, but too embarrassed to not buy because of the long wait I just spent trying to pay for it.
Posted by Chiefe9, 03/12/07 06:31am:
If I need an item immediately, I buy it from Advance, NAPA, etc. because of location and being in a hurry. If I need a part for my Galaxies I go to NAPA because they are most likely to have it, employees are knowledgable. courteous, and their parts stand up. Plus, our local NAPA store supports our car club with a discount! If I'm "restocking" my shelves with wax, anti-freeze, oil, etc. I typically get it from a chain store because of the savings, which I can use at NAPA toward Ford parts. I never use our local Autozone because of extremely poor customer service and long, long waits.
Posted by bd22, 03/12/07 06:41am:
Bravo Ford Muscle for braving the storm you knew would come to give an objective view on pricing of items. I do almost all of my business at a NAPA, and would seldom buy anything for my cars at Walmart......but if I was there and knew I needed some carb cleaner, etc. I might be willing to save a few bucks!
Posted by truthseeker, 03/12/07 10:33am:
I pick up my Mobil 1 Synthetic Oil and my oil filters there. I never have had any problems with Wally World.
Posted by dfree383, 03/13/07 01:50pm:
How About Asking Wal-Mat for some advertising $$$ Not like they are trying to take over the world or anything !!!
Posted by MonsterMach, 03/13/07 01:53pm:
Walmart is the first place I think of for "consumables" i.e. fluids, filters, light bulbs … etc. etc. Helk, Darrell and I were out one Sunday night a couple of weeks ago needing a “tow light harness” (for his 1800 mile Bronco trip) all the parts stores were closed, even the ones we thought were once “24 hours” … Guess what, the new Walmart Super Center just up the street here IS 24 HUORS and also had exactly what we needed … and they sold it cheap I’ll add.
Posted by unreng, 03/13/07 09:56pm:
Interesting article, but why support China World (aka Wally World)? If everything automotive was about cost (e.g. the cheapest parts/vehicles/etc), nobody would own a vehicle. Everyone would bike or walk because that's a hellofalot cheaper than any automobile.
Posted by VictourBII, 03/15/07 08:02pm:
China world. Look where your favorite Auto parts store gets there parts from..
Posted by maverickracer, 03/18/07 07:46pm:
want to beat wally world pricing, just buy from the others when they sell on sale. i read their fliers each sunday and stock up in advance. oil is often on sale for .99 a quart. i recently got 12 qts of quaker state synthetic for .99c each after rebate. yeah, i shop wally world but usually not for that type of stuff.
Posted by kblackav8or, 03/22/07 06:11pm:
Why not help yourself to stuff when half the crap at the local kragan is overpriced or not what you want. I have gotten the wrong parts from the chain places more often then I care to remember. I had a good Napa in Texas but that was the last place I really had good service.
Posted by LXguy, 04/12/07 02:33pm:
I hate Wal-Mart and don't shop there, but Autozone and Advance Auto aren't my idea of good corporate citizens either. At least the inbreeders at Wal-Mart don't answer the phone while you're standing in front of them trying to buy a part.

Would You Walk 100 Feet to Save $9.07?
It's hard to believe, but this picture shows a Kragen storefront with Wal-Mart's Tire & Lube Express just 100 feet away. The Tire & Lube Express is a great way to enter the Wal-Mart retail floor without experiencing the sights and sounds of the main entrance. Anyway, by simply walking 100 feet from Kragen to Wal-Mart, I saved $9.07 on the tune-up items used in this comparison.

(1) Air Filter
(1) Oil Filter
Fram PH8A
(5) Castrol GTX Motor Oil 20-50W
(1) Prestone Anti-Freeze
(1) GUNK Engine Brite
15 oz
(1) GUMOUT Carb Choke Cleaner
16 oz
Wal-Mart Savings






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