Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Dealer vs. independent shop?



  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    One advantage a dealer has is extreme experience in working on ONE make of car. Few problems come up that they haven't seen before. they can always ask the guys in the next stalls too. If a 1997 Accord had a miss at 55-60 MPH as an example, chances are the guy on the job has seen this before and can fix it quickly without guessing.

    An independant has to work on many different makes and models so his experience isn't that focused.
  • ny540i6ny540i6 Posts: 518
    One advantage a dealer has is extreme experience in working on ONE make of car. Few problems come up that they haven't seen before. they can always ask the guys in the next stalls too. If a 1997 Accord had a miss at 55-60 MPH as an example, chances are the guy on the job has seen this before and can fix it quickly without guessing.

    An independant has to work on many different makes and models so his experience isn't that focused

    Not always true.... the Indy that I use focusses on a single marque. All of the guys worked at dealers previously, and all of their various certifications are prominently displayed. The big advantage is in the lower overhead, and that these guys genuinely like cars.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    Yes, I know there are places like that and they can be quite good at what they do.

    The only drawback with these guys is the fact that theri experience ended the day they left the dealer. Maybe the last madel they worked on was a 1998 or a 2003 and they aren't abrest of the changes and quirks of the newer models.

    After 19 years in the tool business I have been in and seen every kind of shop you can imagine. The very best down to places that keep their tools in a cardboard box and use cinder blocks for jack stands.
  • jeffyscottjeffyscott Posts: 3,855
    Most people (including myself) tend to use the dealer during the warranty period, so the independent is not going to see the newer cars much for a few years.

    I had ususally ended up being not real happy with most independents I tried, until I started using a place 3 blocks from where I work that specializes in Japanese imports for an old Sentra we had. Independents that limit themselves like that are very rare. I decided to try the place because it was convenient, the car was an old pile of junk, and because the shop did limit themselves instead of claiming to be experts in every make and model. I plan to take my Mazda6 there after the warranty is over.

    There is also a VW specialist about 6 blocks from where I work. My kid just bought a '96 Jetta and is trying that place out. My wife has a Jetta under warranty that still goes to the dealer. I'll probably use the convenient VW specialist and his $60 per hour labor rate over the dealer (and $95 per hour labor, plus inflated parts prices) after warranty is up.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,422
    I agree. You can't be a great indy shop unless you specialize and really narrow your focus...narrower than "we fix German cars" I mean. A VW-Audi or Porsche-Audi specialty will work, but a VW-Audi-Porsche-Mercedes-BMW specialty will not. One or more of those makes will suffer, which means you the owner will suffer.


  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    Some people will only use the dealer when the car is under warranty. The slightest rattle, squeak or vibration will send them scurrying into the dealer.

    But, when the warranty ends, none of these "problems" are a problem any longer.

    Independants always have an "out". If the really get stumped or it's areally miserable job they know will be more trouble than it's worth, they can always throw up their hands and tell their customers..."That is a dealer only type job".

    A dealer can't do that. They HAVE to fix the car!
  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    A dealer can't do that. They HAVE to fix the car!
    I kind of gotta disagree with that.
    I've seen a lot of vehicles that have been to the dealer over and over with no fix. The people finally had enough of it and it ended up in my lap. I HAD to fix it, because the dealer couldn't.

    There are a lot of the fleet vehicles I deal with that I send to the dealer, because of warranty, only to end up having to fix it myself or send it to an indy shop in town.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    That is becaue you are a master at what you do.

    I know your reputation and you are definatly an exception.
  • Problem is the cost of tools and diagnostic equipment.. aside from normal hand tools and shop equipment, you need at least $20k in Diagnostic equipment and special tools to properly work on BMWs these days.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    And this stuff can quickly become outdated as the models change. The other day, I ran across my old Fox Valley Dwell-Tach Volt Ohmeter. What a dinosaur!

    People wonder why labor rates are so high!
  • Yep!

    A MODiC 3 (Factory Scanner) from BMW was $14,000 7 years ago.. 4 years ago you needed to upgrade to the GT1 for $17,500 now the new G3 setup is coming out for $30k+
  • We bought a Saab 900se brand new and had dealer maintenance throughout it's warranty. After the warranty our habit is to let the car stay in the livery just as long as it doesn't strand us anywhere - one stranding and it's turned in to whoever wants it.

    We were delighted to see it go through 100k miles with just minor problems and then it finally happened. It was dying at lights... Whenever you hit a point where the car had to idle - a stop sign or a light, the engine would sputter and quit. We figured this was a good time to give it one last dealership visit (a selling point to a buyer) and remedy this stalling problem.... They couldn't fix it... This was a dealership with a seasoned Saab mechanic too. Parts were flying and diagnostics were hooked up... At one point they thought they would have to rip out a circuit board!

    They finally gave up, refunded most of our money and said it was good for salvage if we wanted to try that route.

    We told a friend the story and he HOWLED obscenities towards that dealership saying things like "those idiots couldn't fix a flat tire that still had air in it!". He urged us to take it to a local rural mechanic he knew.

    The car was fixed in minutes... It was a simple evap purge valve that got clogged up. I asked him why the dealership didn't see it and he said the "kids" there are not mechanics - they're technicians, they want to plug junk in and make machines go beep. I laughed and told him that I had remarked to the "kids" at the dealership that it seemed like fuel or air delivery and they just scoffed at me saying it was electronic.

    I would specify the name of the dealership but I don't know if it's against forum rules. Let's just say that I live in South Central PA in the York/Lancaster area and leave it at that.... After events like this, sometimes I think the Amish are doing it right with their lifestyle.....
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,422
    It's not the machines' fault of course. A diagnostic machine is utterly useless to those who don't know how to read it, and a great tool in the hands of the right person.


  • It sure does depend on who you get to look at your car or vehicle. I have been so dissatisfied over the years with various mechanics. I spent a lot of time and effort trying to get something (even minor) fixed. I started looking into auto mechanics as a side hobby and found that there might be money in it after all. Needing to rely on someone and it might as well be me, or at least someone I know of that has the education part of the automotive world.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,422
    It's a decent living if you get into the right shop with the right boss, etc. But it is a young man's work, and there is the danger of monotony unless you branch out later in your career. I think the pinnacle of an automotive mechanics' career would be to build custom, hi-tech vehicles. Check out this shop I visited:

    As for dissatisfaction with the work you get, here again it's a matter of proper training and lack of licensing and apprenticeship.

    A friend of mine was approached by a gentleman in his Masons Lodge I guess it was. Wanted his son to apprentice at my friend's Rolls Royce/Bentley restoration shop.

    So my friend said: "Sure okay. That will cost you $1,500 a month"

    The man was shocked. What, I pay YOU to have my son work for you?

    He replied: "Well you'd easily pay that for a college education wouldn't you?"


  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,610
    Yes, it is a young man's job.

    It is very rare to see someone still working the line after about age 50. It takes a toll on the body.
  • sam89sam89 Posts: 1
    Go to the independent, dealers service departments inflate the price and stay away from Stokes-Trainor Ford they are just thieves and incompetent.
  • Well, let me start from the beginning, my 2005 Dodge Ram overheated and broke on the way to Monterrey, Mexico. we were in the middle of nowhere 22 miles into laredo so we had the truck towed to a mechanic shop and it was our water pump, he fixed it. the truck drove perfectly fine to monterrey and back home to san antonio, texas. during the next two weeks, the truck was fine. On my way to a doc appt sat morning, the truck overheated again and died in the middle of the street so i led it slide into the first parking spot i saw. one of our friends towed it to Ancira Dodge, san antonio, texas but it was closed so he towed me home. Within the next two or three days i called a tow truck and had it towed to Ancira Dodge, San Antonio, Texas. They put it on their diagnostic machine and are charging me 78.00 for that to find out that it was my radiator and it would cost 440.00 because it was not covered under warranty. so that was a big money blow to me but i said fine. Then this serviceman calls to tell me that the radiator blew a gasket and could have blown a head so the estimate was now around 2140.00. They did not call me during the next three days so i called them because i needed my truck fixed. So i tell this man that i am a DJ which we do as a hobby and he sees dollar signs in his eyes. He says, oh that 2140 was just an estimate, if the head is cracked you are looking at thousands more. then he calls to tell me that the heads are fine and they will have the truck ready by Wednesday. Then thursday comes around and he calls and says , we put the truck back together but it is still leaking water from the motor so now it is your short block and you are looking at 6000.00 and that is just an estimate. WOW!. these servicemen get around 10% commission on service jobs. so the short block is not covered under warranty either. :(

    please comment back and let me know if i have a chance fighting this, this is a 2005 dodge ram still new. 41,000 miles. it has a 70,000 mile power train warranty.
  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    these servicemen get around 10% commission on service jobs.
    Don't blame it on the mechanics.
    As for the problem, you are pretty much on your own.

    I've said this before.............................................
    When ever you get an estimate that doesn't seem right, call around and ask other shops for estimates on the problem. A lot will tell you that they would have to look at it, but ask them for an estimate on the same job you were quoted.
    Remember that cheapest isn't always best.

    Now, as far as your vehicle right now,
    If the powertrain warranty is 70k miles and you have less than that and it is with in the age limit of the warranty, then I can't see how they couldn't cover it.
    Call them again and explain that your vehicle should be under the warranty and that you will be discussing the problem with your attorney if they don't want to cover the warranty.

    Be prepared to seek consultation with an attorney.
  • Similar story now from somebody else. The dealership had a "We'll take it from here..." attitude with parts flying all over the place and diagnostics.... Couldn't find a "complex diagnostic situation coming - might be time to trade it in" turned out to be..... and the winner is..... (opening envelope).....

    JUST ANOTHER CLOGGED PURGE VALVE! Discovered by local country mechanic. Seventy bucks.

    We're starting to wonder if this Saab dealership's maintenance dept. is in cahoots with the sales department..... Pretty sad.
This discussion has been closed.