O’Reilly, NAPA, Advance, and AutoZone — four names known nationwide as leaders in auto parts sales. Most folks have a favorite, based either on service, price, location, or overall part selection. But say you’re in need of more than just a few spark plugs or a fresh jug of wiper fluid. Something salty, perhaps, or sweet, but lacking the toxicity of antifreeze. This is where a good roster of snack foods and a full beverage cooler come into play. Sure, it may sound silly to make your car-parts choices based on who offers the best selection of candy bars. But have you tried changing brake pads when your blood sugar is low? It’s not something I’d recommend.
In an effort to avoid such catastrophes, I visited each of my local auto parts stores in order to answer this question: Which one has the best snacks? On the surface, you might guess that Advance, O’Reilly, NAPA, and AutoZone would feature similar snack offerings. But you’d be very, very wrong.
One quick note before we get started. There’s a certain larger name missing from the list of contenders: Pep Boys. While I’m sure cars like them, I can’t say the same for hungry people, as they don’t have a franchise in my area. So, for now, we’ll stick with the above-mentioned four.
Full disclosure: NAPA and I have never been friends. Back in high school, when I was first learning how to wrench on my car, every trip to my local NAPA ended in dejection. The elderly clerks figured I was either “out to steal something,” or wasting their time. But hey, that was a couple decades ago, and my neighborhood NAPA had long since shifted to a new building. Why not let bygones be bygones?
For what it’s worth, the staff was attentive and friendly, and the selection of parts seemed to be on-point. But the snacks? Not so much.
Yeah, that’s right – Peanut M&M’s, Skittles, and Mike and Ikes, in a grubby-hand dispenser. No drinks, no candy bars, just an old quarter-twist machine. It can’t be this way at every NAPA, can it? Unfortunately, in my neck of the woods, this lands them dead last on the list.
As the (relatively) new kid in my town, I had high hopes for O’Reilly. I’d shopped there for various auto products on several occasions, and my recollections were vaguely positive. Sure enough, I was able to choose from a solid roster of cleaning products for an early-winter detailing.
Unfortunately, their snacks were rather lackluster. The food options are strictly coin-op, but unlike NAPA, there’s a distinct lack of M&M’s. I’m on board with Dubble Bubble, but does anyone really eat Nitwitz? Seems rather dubious to me.
However, O’Reilly scores points with a solid drink selection: Coke products, Dr. Pepper, and energy drinks, along with some Powerade and water. If I have to stop elsewhere for a snack, fine. But at least I can quench my thirst at O’Reilly.
“Hi,” said the clerk at Advance. “Can I help you?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I replied. But after a brief explanation (and a strange look that I fully deserved), the man behind the counter was good enough to point me in the direction of the snacks.
Finally, actual candy bars! This particular Advance Auto location sold several of the classics, including Hershey’s, Reese’s, Twix, Kit Kat, and Snickers. Sure, the stock might be a little low in the photo, but I’m giving them a B+ for shelf space and effort.
The drink selection was equally solid. Again, we’re looking at Coke products, this time with the addition of Diet (which was strangely absent from O’Reilly). Water takes up an entire row in this case, but I’d say they nailed the highlights of the home-mechanic palate.
If NAPA represents the hardships of my auto-repair journey, AutoZone is the opposite. When I needed new calipers, sensors, and an entire gas tank and fuel pump for my 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix, this was the shop that delivered. And say what you will — I swear that K&N high-performance air filter made just a tiny bit of difference.
But high school was a long time ago, and there’s no way that their snack selection could live up to my rose-colored rear-view. Right?
Be still, my heart. Payday, Reese’s Sticks, Airheads, and M&M’S, along with two different types of Snickers, all lined the counter display, with stock to spare. And that’s just for starters. On the double-sided rack just a few feet away, this AutoZone had a variety of beef jerky, salty favorites like Funyuns and Doritos, and even pistachios. The selection also included international treats, Takis and Kinder Bueno. Truly, the gourmand’s choice among car-parts emporia.
There you have it: An arbitrary but correct ranking of the foodstuffs in four small-town auto parts stores. Next time I need an alternator and a snack, I’ll be sure to get in the zone — at least until a Pep Boys moves in to challenge the crown.