Dealerships vs. Independent Repair Shops

dealerships vs independent repair shops

Say the factory warranty on your trusty car, truck, or SUV just expired. You’ve been having it serviced at the local dealership under warranty for years without a problem. But, your neighbor swears by his mechanic, a local independent repair shop, and says you’ll save a fortune on car repairs. What do you do?

The truth is, there’s no correct answer. Independent mechanics aren’t right for everyone, nor are dealership service departments. What’s right for you depends on what you value more.

Dealerships vs. Independent Repair Shops:

Dealership Service Departments

The technicians at the dealer level are specialists; they are manufacturer-trained and typically work only on your make of vehicle. The facilities are immaculate, the loaner cars are fairly new, and there’s always staff waiting on your phone call or visit.

Most dealers have an ongoing training program for the service staff, so dealership mechanics are subjected to ongoing factory training courses to make sure they have the latest tips, tricks, and skills straight from the manufacturer.

However, all of these things come at a cost – quite literally. The parts and labor costs in a dealership service department are significantly higher than what you’ll find at an independent repair shop. Additionally, because they have so many people on staff, it’s hard to really build a personal relationship with your mechanic.

Independent Repair Shops

Independent Repair Shops are often started by dealership mechanics who weren’t happy with the dealership culture or environment. Once on their own, they can continue to stay current with the latest repair advancements by taking classes and getting ASE Certified. Although A.S.E. training is less “make” specific than the manufacturer’s training, the technicians at these facilities can be just as expert in their knowledge, depending on their experience. 

Also, since you typically meet directly with your mechanic at an independent repair shop, it’s easy to build a personal relationship so your mechanic gets to know your driving habits, interests, etc. and can tailor their recommendations accordingly.

At a dealership, you are often times just a number on a printout to the technician. Particularly at larger dealerships, you’ll have no idea who is working on your car, what his experience is or if the same mechanic will ever work on your car again.

Parts and Service

Dealershios only use OE (Original Equipment) new parts and factory-approved procedures. have access to the same parts, but can often recommend a cheaper new part from an aftermarket brand, or a rebuilt part that performs the same function if budget is a primary concern. They may also have alternative repair procedures that allow them to perform the same job with less labor (and cost) involved.

A consumer reports survey found that, in general, independents outscored dealership for overall satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness of the staff, and work being completed when promised.

Dealerships vs. Independent Repair Shops: Summary

If you value factory training, parts, and service with a corporate “feel”, the dealership service department may be the way to go. However, if you enjoy building a personal relationship and having more options when it comes to fixing your car, truck, or SUV, you may want to go with an independent shop!

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