Car Repairs: Independent Mechanics vs. the casino dealer


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Say the warranty on your trusty minivan or sedan just ran out. You’ve been having it serviced?in the dealership for years without any problems. Your friends say, “Why change?” The dealer uses original manufacturer’s parts, and the mechanics are factory-trained. However your neighbor swears with a local mechanic and promises you will save a lot of money.

Which would you pick? First, know how each operates, point by point.

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Dealership service departments

Dealerships specialize in repairing and looking after your car brand only.

  • Dealerships focus on hundreds of cars each month and have many service bays and factory-trained technicians.
  • Customers meet with service advisors to determine what their car needs and likely never meet the mechanic.
  • Dealerships focus on repairing and maintaining your car brand only.
  • If your vehicle is under warranty, the maker covers the price of most repairs. Following the warranty expires, you can buy an extended warranty or purchase repairs and servicing as needed.

Independent shops

At these smaller garages, customers meet directly using the mechanic focusing on their car.

  • Typically, these are smaller garages.
  • Customers meet directly using the mechanic focusing on their car.
  • Many are started and staffed by former dealership technicians.
  • Many work on a cross-section of car brands.
  • Some independent auto shops honor third-party warranties.

Now let’s talk services.

Independents:?More personalized, often cheaper

Independent mechanics have ranked higher on customer satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness and on-time repairs.

Independent mechanics ranked greater than dealership servicing for customer satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness and on-time repairs, according to a 2014 Consumer Reports survey.

If you decide to go this route, make certain your garage has its industrywide standard Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. To find the right mechanic, ask friends and family for recommendations and search online?reviews. Remember to look around to check prices -?and include an estimate from your dealership, too.

Zach Mason, service manager at Advanced Autowerks in Bay area and a former dealership employee, requires his staff to hone their skills regularly.

“If you aren’t doing 16 hours of training per quarter, you lose out,” Mason says. “If there’s a new VW engine and someone’s teaching a class on that, my guys goes to that. If there’s a brand new programming class for any new electronic module system …?my guys are likely to school on that.”


  • Independents can be as technically proficient as factory-trained dealership mechanics.


  • Independent garages could possibly get original manufacturer parts for repairs and servicing, but they can also offer less expensive, alternative parts, or perhaps rebuilt parts, that perform the same function.


Independent mechanics have no loyalty to the manufacturer, as dealerships must.

  • It could be easier to build a personal relationship with garages, since you speak directly using the mechanics.
  • Independent mechanics answer to you; they have no loyalty to the manufacturer, as dealerships must.
  • Garages begin with scratch to construct relationships with paying customers, without the many years of free plan to foster goodwill.


  • Facilities usually are smaller?and have?less overhead than dealerships. Substandard significantly affordable prices for customers.
  • It takes more try to find the right auto shop, since there can be a couple of dozen corner garages in the same town.


  • Garages may go on multiple brands.
  • They may turn down repairs if they don’t focus on your vehicle brand.

“The process needs to be as near to flawless as possible,” Mason says. “If something is misquoted or times aren’t delivered on …?we don’t obtain that history built-in with the customer. Our promise times absolutely need to be met. Our word needs to be our bond.”

Dealerships: More specialized

Dealerships can offer manufacturer-backed warranties and check for the latest repair and recall bulletins.

Dealership service departments obtain that brand-name power. They can offer manufacturer-backed extended warranties and check for that latest repair and recall bulletins every time you generate your vehicle.?But if you remain using the dealership, be prepared for slightly higher prices. Keep the owner’s manual handy, so you don’t have?any unnecessary work done on your car, and consider registering for the dealership’s e-mail lists. Coupons and deals it sends?will add as much as big savings.

“Sure, your [independent mechanic] may be able to fix your automobile,” says?Neil G. Chirico,?former road test coordinator at “But they’re not specifically trained for your specialty and often waste more money and time trying to figure out your repair the specialist would find easily.”

Chirico is really a believer in parts produced by the original equipment manufacturer. “Nothing works and fits such as the OEM parts,” he?says. “Aftermarket parts don’t have to pass exactly the same tests as, say, Ford dictates because of its parts.”


  • Dealerships pay higher salaries for?manufacturer-trained and highly experienced technicians. But this means you’ll pay higher prices for his or her services.
  • Specifically and regularly trained for the auto brand only.


Dealerships are required to use factory-made equipment and parts in the manufacturer.

  • Dealership service departments are required to use factory-made equipment and parts in the manufacturer. This ensures top quality control, but when a part has run out of stock, shipping times can be longer and costs higher.


  • Dealerships have a constant flow of cars coming for free repairs under warranty, so they do not have to work as hard to attract or keep customers.
  • Dealerships also response to their manufacturers, and repair managers can make a commission using their work. So when they recommend a repair, they obtain a number of the various components and labor.


  • Dealerships may have cushy chairs and flavored water in a sparkling-clean waiting room.
  • They’re more likely to have shuttles or loaner cars available while mechanics focus on your car.


  • The customer-satisfaction gap in contrast to independent garages has a smaller footprint for luxury car brands than for other auto dealerships. Buick, Lincoln, Cadillac, Lexus, Porsche and Acura dealerships all scored nearer to independent shops, according to the Consumer Reports survey.
  • Tesla is the only manufacturer with higher customer satisfaction ratings than independent shops for servicing.

Make the choice

If you’ve got a luxury car, value a nice waiting room and don’t mind paying some extra for specialized training and equipment, you won’t fail in the dealership. If you’re interested in getting a good deal and achieving rapport with your mechanic, consider using a local auto shop.

Remember to look around for prices, and don’t hesitate to barter at either location.

What’s next?

  • Want to take action?

    Calculate your total car costs

  • Want to dive deeper?

    Understand a car’s maintenance schedule

  • Want to understand more about related?

    Learn how to keep car maintenance bills low