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Dealer vs. independent shop?

I've always heard that taking your car back to the dealer to do routine maintenance and repairs is a rip-off---that you're better off going to an independent service shop. Now that I finally have a car that's under 10 years old and that I'm willing to baby, I wanted to see what all you experts thought? Do you always take your cars back to the dealership or would you rather trust your local guy?


  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    That is a loaded question.
    It all depends on the dealer and independant shop.
    The independant shops tend to spend more time on diagnosis than the dealer shops and therefore you may find the problem taken care of without having to go back time and time again.
    But then again, dealer shops usually have access to the newest information and can often deal with updates on the information.

    That being said, if the vehicle isn't under warranty, I prefer the independant shops.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    a good mechanic is a find, no matter where you find them. I have been having good luck with my ford dealer the past two cars. before that, on one new and a half-dozen or so old cars, dealers were iffy and I did much better with specialist mechanics on things like brakes and suspension, and one or two independents on the rest. found one or two stinkers both at dealerships and independently, and never went back.

    I've done a little of my own light wrenching outside the two major sealed assemblies with mixed results there, as well.

    ask around locally, and if you find a good one, stay with 'em.
  • armtdmarmtdm Posts: 2,057
    I go to dealer only on issues that I feel need specific manufacturer expertise, if you can find a independent that you can trust then all routine maintenance, oil changes, coolant, belts, brakes etc are better via them then a dealer however, I like OEM parts and my independent will put them on for me if I purchase them locally or on line he doesn't care, especially brakes on foreign makes.

    Dealers are an assembly line when it comes to repairs, in and out ASAP and sell as much additional service as you can whether it needs it or not.
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    Around Atlanta decent quality independents are only $10-$15 per billable [] hour less than dealers.
    The good ones specialize in 1 or 2 makes only as the REQUIRED expertise level gets higher each year.

    The problem is oem parts as the discount [from dealers] is a function of volume. We get 20-25-30% off list and resell at list [so parts costs to customer are equal].
    Low volume independents must use aftermarket copies/knockoffs to compete [generate enough profit to stay in business].
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    Anymore it is real hard for even the best independant to keep up with the changing technology.

    As a result, they may spend a lot of time guessing when a dealer is more familiar with specific problems.

    It's not easy being an independant today.
  • ae1awae1aw Posts: 6
    I use a good local indy shop. They always break down my repair using either cheap aftermarket, or going with oem / more & most expensive part.
    that gives me choice, although I usually always pick the most expensive part. learned the hardway about el cheapo parts.
  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    My experiences with our cars over the last 10 years have involved both dealers and independents in San Diego servicing Mercedes and Lexus/Toyota. Hands down, the cost of routine service and unscheduled repairs on our cars, when I have had the work quoted at both dealer and independent has been a savings of 40-50% at the independent. This includes routine interval service, brakes, shocks/struts, radiator, electrical gremlins, etc. The only reason I'll go to the dealer is warrantee work. Of course, at the independent I don't get a luxury loaner car or a car wash, or fresh baked cookies in the wait room, or snobby service reps. I can talk to the actual mechanic that worked on my car, go for test drives with him, meet and chat with the owner of the shop, etc.

    I have been using the same independents for quite a few years. Ones who specialize in the specific manufacturer of cars we own. And on a couple very rare occations they have sent me to the dealer for some specific work they did not feel they were qualified to do.
  • hest88hest88 Posts: 31
    We've had an independent place we've been going to for years, but I wanted to see if we should go to a dealer now that we have a newish car. Nice to hear that we can stick with our old guys!
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    is that he'll tell you up front how much of some job he can do on a car where the manufacturer won't release the service data to outside mechanics... and how much the dealer will have to do, and estimate both pieces of a deep-delving job.
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    Currently, Nissan/Infiniti has chosen to make all FSM, TSB, and many trouble shooting tips, even ecu software downloads/mods available on the web [$19.95 per day for access...PDF copyable format] shops don't have to buy hard copy massive FSM for $250 each year each model.

    The factory is trying to show Congress that it is not against independents, unfortunately you need a $5,000 diagnostic computer [Consult II] to avail yourself of the software capability. And a $20,000 Assist system for trouble - shooting.
    You have to do $500,000 in Nissan annual work to afford it........why people specialize!

    The major impediment to independents is CURRENT training and access to factory tech hotlines.
    Plus the disadvantage of little discount on parts having to buy them from local dealer.
  • My wife and I concluded back in 1995 that the Honda Accord was one of the most reliable and dependable vehicles on the road. With this in mind, we bought one. Less than a month after the B2B warranty ran out the window regulator in the driver's door failed.

    Note: My wife never puts the window down. She always uses AC/Heat/Fan.

    A little over a year after that the window regulator for the same window failed again. BTW, these were $350-400 repairs each. About two years after that the ABS light came one and went off after a +$600 repair. We were told its a rare thing and if we could live without the ABS we could continue to drive the car. Since it was a 'rare' thing, we repaired and moved on.

    Well, 18 months after that ABS it failed again. This time the Honda dealership's service department told us it compromised the conventional braking system, too. That repair was $1400. We had no choice in the matter.

    Recently, the wife drove home one night abd the next morning no spark was reaching the plugs, and no sign (smell) of fuel) to the engine. Towed the car into the dealership for repair. At this point the 'nickel & dime' name came into mind.

    During this repair the service writer stated his confidence it was the main relay. Cha-ching: $197. Guess what? That wasn't the problem. Electronics component in the ignition system. Cha-ching, $176.

    During this latest repair I had the opportunity to talk to the service manager about feeling like we were being nickel & dimed to death with this 1995 Accord. I told him about the two ABS repairs and how we were forced on the second repair.

    At this point the service manager stated that no component in the Honda ABS could compromise the conventional braking system. I said that isn't what we were told. Hence, I was lied to. Well, the day came to pick the Accord up from the latest repair and the service manager didn't want to talk to me. Thanks, Bobby (Service manager)! And thanks Lanier Honda for making me no longer trust you or Honda.

    Tomorrow, I am forced to buy a new car although our original plans were for February-March. My wife stated earlier this week she felt her Accord could not be trusted. I like to think this was brought on more by the dealership she originally trusted, and too much.

    In the future, I'll try my luck with the independent shops and roll some dice there.
  • brake repairs seem to be an easy target to make $$$. I bet it was a $5 bulb gone bad. when I was 20, a brake chain gave me this whole song and dance about my brakes being so bad that I would have an accident. I admit, I fail for that $99.99 friction reline bullcrap. I denied the quoted $500 repair, the guy left my car jacked up and wouldn't put the tires back on until my dad tipped the guy 5 bucks. I'm glad I didn't succumb to the pressure, I changed the front brake pads myself. everything was fine after that. only 20 bucks. that was five years ago, still have the car today. I found out later the place was a big fraud conning customers on the consumer investigations on the news. lol
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    I think independents are going to be harder and harder put to keep up with servicing cars *just* out of warranty.

    Electronics are making new cars so complicated that even the dealers cannot repair them, so I don't see how an independent is going to fair any better with a 2004 car in say 2007.

    Unless factories come up with better diagnostic methods and better quality control for electronics, AND share that information with independents, I foresee a day when cars 4-5 years old are junked rather than repaired.


  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    Lets make that 6-7 years as Lexus and Infinti have warranties thatlong and the 7 year factory backed 100k is a deal.
    Who will eat the remaining 15% depreciation remaining after 7 years.......just adds $1,000 per year [in 1-7] less junk value for parts say $1,000

    Works in Japan with the 60k major mandated rebuild forcing 85% of car to be junked.
    Members will look fondly at the pre ODB2 [1996] lux cars.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    And spell doom for a lot of hard working shops.

    Even with labor rates in excess of 100.00 per hour which sounds insane, it's real tough to stay in business after paying expenses.

    The times have, indeed, changed.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    Ah, but you are presuming that automakers will continue offering long warranties---which they will be hard put to do if their cars continue to exhibit diabolical electronics.


  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Posts: 398
    What do you mean by diabolical electronics? Do you think the electronics problems are really wide spread?

    I don't think most of the cars out there will ever have an electronics problem that is difficult to diagnose and fix. Of course there will be the odd car that will be practically impossible to figure out, but that is a small risk you take, I think.

    As to the future - currently all car electronics are very primitive, cumbersome and coupled. This is because electronics are fairly new in this application. They really resemble the old "mainframes" of the computer world, where when things break you are in trouble. Eventually, car electronics will become more "PC"-like. That is cheaper, and componentized. So the hard disk breaks – replace it. The sound card breaks – no bid deal – replace it. You lost all programs and data – download and reinstall everything in one go. Easy to isolate and diagnose a problem, and easy and cheap to replace a component.
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    As a MSEE [electronic engineering,I look forward to the challenges.

    About 90% of the old style technicans will need to return to school for 2-3 years [who will pay?] or there will be at least one EE per dealership which will charge $125-$150 per hour for his services........and there may be a month waiting list.

    Extended service contracts will be $3-5,000.
  • csandstecsandste Posts: 1,866
    1. They're seldom a good buy, even today.
    2. Most electronic stuff is pretty reliable.
    3. Cars are more reliable now than at any time that I can remember. I have 52K on a lowly Hyundai Elantra and only a neutral safety switch and several light bulbs have failed. That wouldn't have happened twenty years ago.
  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    If you are talking extended warranties, I would disagree that they aren't a good purchase.
    If you have a vehicle that is used, that you purchase, the chances of needing an extended warranty are pretty good.
    Taking into consideration that a transmission problem can range from $1,000-$5,000 an extended warranty can pay for itself that one time.
    While on a new vehicle, it may not pay off, but the right extended warranty can easily save you from chosing to scrap the vehicle and getting it fixed.
This discussion has been closed.