For some brands it makes sense to see an expert.

It’s an age-old question, but where should you take your car to have that repair or maintenance done? Should you go back to the dealership (assuming you bought the car at the dealership in the first place), or should you take it a to a local independent auto repair shop? Today, we’re gonna examine the differences and pro’s and con’s for each option. Of course there isn’t a definitive answer either way. Some people prefer the dealership for the expertise that mechanics have working on the particular make and other people find a local mechanic’s car maintenance service to be more reasonably priced. To each his own, of course. But, we can shed some light on the general differences that exist between the two options.

So, what are the differences between dealerships and private auto repair shops? Well, after scouring the internet we have come up with a few generalized difference that people seem to agree on. We’ve broken these down into a few sections to make it easier to compare.

For some brands it makes sense to see an expert.

For some brands it makes sense to see an expert.

  • Expertise – The mechanics at the dealership are highly trained and specialize on the particular make of vehicle that you have. This means that they may have more expert knowledge about the workings of your particular vehicle. However, the mechanics at an independent auto repair shop are likely to have just as much expertise (in fact, many of them probably worked at a dealership before starting their own car repair shop). The main difference being that they are probably working on a wider variety of vehicles. If you are in doubt, you can always ask to know what makes your mechanic is manufacturer certified by. Many independent mechanics are also Automotive Service Excellence (A.S.E.) certified as well, which means they have a wide body of expertise. Verdict: It’s a wash.
  • Personal Relationships – This is one area where the independent auto repair shops have an advantage. When you go to a dealership, you may be getting expertise for your make and model, but you likely won’t get to develop a personal relationship with the mechanic who worked on your car. On the other hand, at a local car repair shop you can meet and get on a first-name basis with your repair man and if you go to him consistently for car maintenance service, he may even get so familiar with your vehicle that he can spot issues before they happen. Verdict: Private mechanics win on this one.
  • Price – For a lot of people this is a big one, especially considering the current economic circumstances. So, it probably won’t surprise you that the independent auto repair shops tend to win on this one as well. Dealerships typically spend more to train and acquire their technicians and they pass the costs on to consumers. They also are more likely to ‘pad’ a repair bill with shop supply fees and other such ridiculous things that cost you more money. Verdict: Private mechanics by a landslide.
So, there you have it. In our completely non-scientific estimation, the little guy wins out over the big behemoth dealership! As always, your experience may vary and it’s always a good idea to get to know the person doing maintenance on your car no matter who they work for.
(photo by MrB-MMX via Flickr)
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