Dealer vs. independent shop?



  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Would you say your service is better than that of a dealer?
    Well, I am biased, so I would say yes.
    My customers can call any time of day or week, they know that I'll tell them if it is something they can do themselves and when their vehicle goes out, they know that I have told them if there is something that should be replaced soon or if they can squeak by for a while without replacing it.
    They also know that they can go to my site and discuss it with other mechanics to get their input, if they think I may not be on target with what they want. In fact, I encourage them to.

    It has been our opinion that an informed (with correct info) consumer is a better one to deal with.

    We probably spend as much time explaining what is wrong and why, as we do on the repair.

    Our shop is a little one bay (well, three if we remove the performance stuff and equipment) shop at home. It isn't fancy, but has the tools and equipment to do most any job. We do work from cars and boats to log trucks and heavy equipment. We don't advertise, as it would be too much for us.
    I work regular hours for a fleet, in charge of their equipment and my son works in the evenings for another repair shop. During the day, he handles everything, in the evenings, I take up the slack.

    So we are not a "normal" shop by any aspect, but it works for us and our customers.
    Oh yeah, we have TV and our computer in the shop too. LOL!

    Also love_my_truck,
    I didn't want you to take my post wrong.
    Understand that I spend counltess hours repairing other shop's mess ups, DIYer mistakes and things like that. I also want folks to understand the fact that when they say that a shop is charging more for a part then they can buy it, the shop really isn't "making" money on it, they are covering the costs associated with it. Things like the parts runner, disposal of old parts (especially if there is hazardous waste involved) and cleanup.

    I do shop around for prices and will often find the best price I can for name brand parts. Since I buy wholesale, it is usually pretty good, but my customers still pay a percentage more, because I have to pay shipping, handling and disposal and all that.

    Most times I can come to around +10% of what they would have to pay.
    Let's be realistic, I am doing this to make money. I want to do it as reasonable as I can, but I have to make money to stay in business.

  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    there is a BIG difference in parts. a lot of stuff that is dock sweepings from some island above water once a month circulates out there, and probably under a different brand name every 9 months. there is a reason that occurs, and it probably has something to do with the fact that nobody will buy DeathCo parts twice. a good independent mechanic not only knows what has failed him, but what has failed the other indies he talks with regularly in the area, and isn't going there again. that's part of the experience and integrity you get from a good tech of any sort... and once you find 'em, treasure 'em. eventually they retire, and probably before you stop driving.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Good post swschrad,
    I have bought numerous starters and alternators that have failed very early. Some were bought from brand name parts stores and some were bought from OEM.
    I now purchase from a rebuilder that does quality work. And yes, I pay extra for it, but have yet to have one come back, because of failure.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Oh, tell me more about needing a scan tool to add ATF. I LOVE stories like this. Please!

    Sounds like the "Ferrari Game" is now being played by other manufacturers---that is, unless you go to the dealer, no one has the tools to fix your car.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I can't recall off hand which model it was, but I seem to recall that it was a European model.
    I'll have to see if I can get one of our guys to refresh my memory.

    I do remember that it was a sealed transmission and there was no dipstick.
    Give me a little time and I'm sure one of the guys will jog my memory.
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    have sealed transmissions and no dipsticks - GM indicates that you don't change the fluid....doesn't sound right to me.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    VW & BMW were the culprits.
    Seesm that they have some kind of sensor for the fluid level. You have to reset the fluid level with the scanner when you add or change the fluid.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Oh, I might have known it would be GERMAN--LOL!
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    as long as it terminated on the dash in a plain old analog gauge
  • SylviaSylvia Member Posts: 1,636
    A newspaper reporter wants to hear from folks who were surprised by how expensive a recent automotive repair cost.

    Please respond to [email protected] no later than Thursday, July 15, 2004 with your daytime phone number and a few words about your experience.

    Jeannine Fallon
    PR Director
  • anitaanita Member Posts: 1
    My brand new 2004 Ford Explorer XLT, just 3 months old, was hit on the drivers back left panel. So I suggested that the Ford facility that I purchased it from do the body work. They seem to have done a decent job with the work but I am not really pleased. They have scratched my window where the work was done in a few places and they painted over some marks that could have been done alot better. But not only that there are some other marks on the truck that was not there when I took the SUV in. It look as though someone might stood to close to the vehicle and now have some circle marks on the truck. The only explanation I kept getting from the facility was that the service manager is on vacation. I am very dissatisfied for this supposedly a professional place. I am thinking about trading this truck in because I dont want to be paying for a vehicle that looks 3 yrs old if they arent going to repair there damage. What do you suggest??
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Ask them to schedule the truck to take it back in and clean it up. The service manager being on vacation is a ludicrous response. Probably some buffing and touch up is all you need. Don't trade it right now, you'll lose a lot of money doing that.
  • wtd44wtd44 Member Posts: 1,211
    I recognize that the title of this thread indicates a choice between the independent shop and the dealership service department. In my case, I most times elect a third choice. I prefer to do all of my common maintenance in my own garage, and in addition, I do a lot of repairs here that most folks would send out to a professional. When I do elect to have someone else help me on a repair, I just have to go to a nondealership shop, if there is any choice at all. It's not about the money nearly as much as it is about faith in the process. I have two shops that I use, one of which is truly independent while the other is part of one particular military base service station. The mechanics at the latter facility work as employees of the base exchange. I know that not all of you have this privilege, but thought you might find it interesting regardless.
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    facilities are great, in that if they screwed up or screwed over, there'd be heck to pay - it's a base unit, like all the others, and they have to answer to the group commander like everyone else.

    Just make sure that the technician is a good one, that'd be my only concern.
  • wtd44wtd44 Member Posts: 1,211
    I communicate directly with the head mechanic at the base service station garage, and he personally works on my vehicles. It is seldom, I must admit. I do most of my own.
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    you have going on there.
  • superbeaglesuperbeagle Member Posts: 30
    What about for body work on a 2004 G35x that I bought in February new that just got nailed by another car. Dealer or independent. Leaning towards dealer right now.
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    it's an Infiniti dealer that you have a relationship with (bought the car, get it serviced there), that's the way to go.

    If there are any lingering affects from the accident, and the service department gives you grief over a warranty repair, having your body repairs done at the same place, with the same service manager can mean a lot.
  • wtd44wtd44 Member Posts: 1,211
    Isn't it awful that we have to play them off against themselves to get what we are already over-paying for?
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    if you've had a major accident, then come in for warranty repairs on the same area affected by the accident, there's already an "if/come/maybe" issue of getting denied coverage - that's just the way it is after an accident. Repairing the accident "in house" makes it where they can't dog another shop's work and takes away their ability to deny a warranty repair.

    Deal with it - seriously - if you wreck a car and get denied a warranty claim after the fact, that's just life, and another detriment to owning a avehicle that has been in an accident.
  • love_my_trucklove_my_truck Member Posts: 17
    The most important thing to remember when getting body work done....Never let your insurance company tell you where to get your car repaired! Some dealer body shops are great, some are not so great. If I had a GX-35, I would go to an independent shop that specialized in high end cars like Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, etc. I am an insurance adjuster, and have seen overall better quality come from these shops. Good luck!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I don't know about the laws in your state, but in California, "steering" an insured to a certain body shop is illegal.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    there are recommendations made, but you can take it anyplace. in fact, the estimators at my dealership are using common ADP software that automatically spots what the insurance company will pay OEM for and what they won't, files for what they can, and if you want OEM collision parts, tells you what your check has to be.
  • wtd44wtd44 Member Posts: 1,211
    I have been using a Cadillac dealership body shop. I do not own a Cadillac. The management at this shop makes the difference. Aside from this one location, I am unlikely to use a dealership shop for body work OR for mechanical repairs that I do not want to do myself.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    A few months ago I took a car in for service and a valuable lesson was learned. I now mandate that the service rep preview the body shape the car is in and sign off that no apparent dents scratches are present. I swear the dealer dented my side panel and light while doing a alignment but I did not see it until I got home. Thus impossible to prove and of course the techs said no way, could never had done it. Well, this is a toy, rarely gets parked anywhere but my garage and wiped down after every run.

    So,, I paid out of my pocket for the repair and now mandate that they sign off the body has no defects before they work on it and I inspect it upon retrieval. trust no one in today's world!

    Actually, have not decided it I will ever return to that dealer after the way they brushed me off.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    Are you SURE it happened at the dealership?

    100% sure?

    Your idea is a good one. Most smart shops will insist they do a walk around of the car before taking it in. They will notate on the work order any body damage. You would be surprised hoe often they will hear..." Oh, where did that scratch come from?"

    Having managed a large shop, I can't tell you how much damage got blamed on us.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    I canunderstand the rip offs that are trying to blame the dealer for damage. Other then shwo them the damage I did not push it as I could not prove 100% that they did it. I drove straight home from the dealer and noticed it when wiping the dust off. It is feasible, though unlikely, that the damage occured prior to drop off but I feel that either I or the tech would have seen it when doing a wheel alignment and said something. I guess 90% confident they did it but again, perception is reality and the dealer blew me off. So, I have found alternative sources of repair so I can blow them off as well.

    To the customer perception is rality. IMO Mitsubishi deserves to go out of business and they are certainly heading in that direction.
  • andy72andy72 Member Posts: 3

    I recently purchased a new Subaru WRX and am quite happy with it. There are no specialized indepedant Subaru shops in my area. There however are good indepedants. Are WRX's anything more difficult to work on that requires Subaru specific experience ie only dealer in my case or can a competent independant go for it?
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    why would you consider having an independent do anything other than maintenance while it's under warranty?

    I'm an independent shop fan, but other than normal maintenance, they can't do much for you until the warranty expires - they certainly can't submit a warranty claim to Subaru.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Most new cars require some special tools and knowledge that an independent might not have yet. It usually takes an independent a while to "catch up", and he's often a couple years behind.

    Interestingly, some dealers are very generous to independents and share knowledge and some are not. My friend's Porsche shop and the dealer are quite cosy and they cooperate to mutual benefit but some dealers don't see it this way.

    Best possible world is when both your independent and his friends at the dealership are working together to solve your problem.
  • love_my_trucklove_my_truck Member Posts: 17
    I would like some advice. I am going to replace the shocks on my 2002 Froniter Crew cab 2wd. I have had several suggestions for KYB shocks. I just want to smooth out the ride, since most of my time is on the highway. The factory BFG tires are also due to be replaced and I was considering going with the Michelin SUV tires for a smooth ride.

    I know this is not the topic here, but I have come to respect the opinions of some of the folks posting here.
  • wtd44wtd44 Member Posts: 1,211
    A couple years back I had my favorite independent shop put KYB struts in my 1998 Pathfinder. Prior to that I had installed new Cooper Discoverer HT tires. The combo was excellent. The ride was smooth and supple.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Personally I am suspect of KYB longterm durability. I've actually busted a couple of them in half....maybe my bad luck, I'll admit. I think for the best of all worlds you might try Bilsteins, but they are expensive. Kinda depends on how long you are keeping this vehicle and what your expectations are regarding longevity.

    Problem with shocks is that the degradation is so gradual that most people don't really notice it. They'd need new shocks to see what they've been missing.
  • paulcudlippaulcudlip Member Posts: 33
    I had a Nissan Maxima that I faithfully took to the local Nissan dealership while the car was under warranty. After the warranty expired, I was crazy enough to take it to a local independent that was suppose to have an outstanding reputation. I had my front brake pads replaced and noticed a remarkable deference.
    They did not perform half as well as Nissan pads. It was my fault that I didn't ask for OEM pads. I found out everything that the independent shop purchased was delivered by the local NAPA outlet. Their products are not in the same league as Nissan's. Later, I found out for only $10.00 more, I could have had Nissan brakes installed at the dealership. Also found out that they used bulk oil for my oil change instead of bottles with the proper SAE that Nissan utilized. Never again will I use an independent for mechanical repairs.
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    but I'm positive, without even knowing where you are, that your Nissan dealer DOES NOT pour oil from bottles - they use bulk as well.

    To clear up your misconception, however, just because oil is dispensed in bulk has no bearing on whether it meets SAE requirements -

    Sorry for your bad experience, but I think it was more bad communication than anything - that, and no understanding of the products used.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Also found out that they used bulk oil for my oil change instead of bottles with the proper SAE that Nissan utilized.
    Excuse me, but I use bulk oil and make sure that it all meets the manufacturer's specifications.

    Just for your information, bulk oil is the same oil as comes from your precious bottle, without the added expense of the bottle.
    The bulk oil I purchase is Chevron. Each of the oil weights I use meet specific OEM specifications.

    And just to let you know, ALL of the dealers in my area buy their oil in bulk from the SAME oil company.

    Here is another prime example of how folks don't seperate facts from fiction.
  • wtd44wtd44 Member Posts: 1,211
    What hit me as very unusual was that you stated you would have paid only $10.00 more at the Nissan place. With dealerships not being noted for low pricing, I would have to assume that your independent garage was quite expensive. If you want high quality work at a lower price than the dealership, I must suspect that you can find it if you keep looking.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,726
    that kinda surprised me earlier this year was when my friend called around to get a price for replacing brakes on his Tribute. I recommended a good indie shop I go to sometimes as his first call. He also called one other indie, the corner gas station, and the local dealer. Guess who was lowest? The dealer!

    Well, I couldn't believe that, so I investigated a little further. Turned out the gas station had misunderstood the request (sometimes the cashier answers the phone when the "guy in the back" is busy). BOTH the indies that were experienced with Escapes and Tribs (and would use OEM parts) included the price of turning the rotors, which they strongly recommended, and which raised the price to some $60 over the dealer quote. That dealer quote, OTOH, was just a "bottom line" quote for nothing but replacing two brake pads. Apples to oranges.

    How did it turn out? Well, once the gas station got things straightened out, they beat the dealer by $10 (using non-OEM pads) and they got the business. I drive this car quite a bit, and the brakes don't feel anywhere near as good as they did before the brake job, but oh well! They haven't failed either, and my friend was very satisfied at having gotten a "bargain".

    For myself, I do minor stuff myself including a lot of the maintenance and the occasional repair. But time is not as plentiful as it used to be, and quite often now I go to the shop. Just to be twisted, I actually switch off between the dealer and a decent local independent, with no particular rhyme or reason! The dealer has free loaner cars, which saves me a lot of hassle, but the independent is cheaper for many things. They both seem to do good work - it is rare I have to return to either and what I can check for myself is always right. For real expensive repairs, I try to get an opinion from both as long as the car is driveable. And I don't use independents that don't use OEM parts, even though I know there are some decent aftermarket parts out there, and that they are usually cheaper. Call me superstitious.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • love_my_trucklove_my_truck Member Posts: 17
    "And I don't use independents that don't use OEM parts, even though I know there are some decent aftermarket parts out there, and that they are usually cheaper. Call me superstitious."

    Oh my. The words "cheap" and "repair" should not be used in the same sentence. I can go to the Nissan dealer and pay 30 or 40 dollars for OEM brake pads, or I can go to the local parts house and get a brand I trust like Raybestos or Wagner. Just my opinion. Good for your friend saving 10 dollars on a repair to the system that actually stops the car!
  • jsylvesterjsylvester Member Posts: 572
    I have a direct comparasion. My a/c on my 2000 Intrepid went out. I took it to my independent shop, who diagnosed the evaporator - 8 to 9 hours labor plus the part. He suggested I contact Chrysler, as they made still be offering a "goodwill" warranty on the repair, as the car is almost 4 years old, and had 55,000 miles.

    I called Chrysler - they conferred, and told me to take it to my dealer for confirmation of the repair, and call them back.

    Anyways, for the exact same repair, my independent was estimating around $1,000, and the Chrysler dealership around $1,300. So for that repair, it would have been $300 cheaper at the independent, and the one tech was a dealer tech for a number of years before going independent about 18 months ago.

    (The repair cost me a $200 deductible, as Chrysler picked up the other $1,100 as a "goodwill" warranty repair.)
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    You should make sure that when the need arises that you give the independant mechanic a chance at the work. He didn't have to direct you to the dealer to save you $1,000.
    He was honest enough to lose the sale and save you money. THAT should amount to something.
  • jsylvesterjsylvester Member Posts: 572
    This year so far, he's put a new engine in our Toyota, then a new oxygen sensor, and finally a new mass airflow sensor. The car is running great now. I use him for anything that I cannot do, and he has our business in the future as well.

    It is not only stuff like this, but he will do little things (like tighten belts, inspections, etc.) and not charge for them. He is an honest guy.

    One issue with dealers is you never know which guy is honest, and which is not. Just like any other business arrangement, an honest man is never forgotten.
  • samnoesamnoe Member Posts: 731
    The time came to replace my transmission fluid - according to my scheduled maintenance guide.

    I consulted my local independent shop, and gave me a price: $70.00, included everything, parts, labor and tax. I then called my dealer asking their price: "Well; for a complete change and flushing the old one will be just $149.95 + tax..."

    You do the math.

    I will not use that dealer again for out-of-pocket repairs - just for warranty. They could never "verify" my problems and playing around with me like I am a dummy.

    I can write a book - well, actually more than one - of all the rip-offs I got at my dealer.

    I once brought my car in for a "Free" oil change (wow!) and some other minor stuff, to be picked-up that afternoon. Lunch time my dealer called me that I need new brakes immediately! (after just 23K miles?) So he needs my approval. OK, if he tells me it's so important, emergency - I wouldn't risk it. "OK, go ahead and do it!" I told him. (well, I guess I AM a dummy, right?)

    When I got the bill in the afternoon I was shocked. and I am still shocked. Just for 2 new front brakes they charged me $195.00!!

    Should I use this dealer once again? Let me tell you - I'm not that big a dummy! ;-o.......
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    Problem is that the bulk oil containers may never be cleaned and if a dealer switches from one brand of bulk to another the tanks again are never flushed out. All kinds of crap on the tanks, rust etc. so yes, the oil going in may be the same but because of contamination the oil coming out may not be the same as bottled oil. Some dealers switch brands for the cheapest price and never flush the tanks or may never ever clena them either.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I agree with you on that subject, which is why I buy only drums.

    The oil distributer here flushes the bulk tanks at the dealer with a filtering system every year. Then refills the tanks.

    I can see where it could be a problem. Rarely do I ever see any dealer use bottled oil. I usually see independants use bottled oil.

    Lunch time my dealer called me that I need new brakes immediately! (after just 23K miles?) So he needs my approval. OK, if he tells me it's so important, emergency - I wouldn't risk it. "OK, go ahead and do it!" I told him. (well, I guess I AM a dummy, right?)
    No, not a dummy. You just didn't know.
    Always, always ask to see the problem. If you can't see the problem, then get a second opinion.
    Brakes are important and they use that to their advantage. No one wants to run around on bad brakes. Ask them how far down the brakes are. 40%, 30%, 20%, what?
    When they give you a percentage, ask them how bad the rotors are. Then tell them that you need to see them. Take the time to go in and look.
    If you can't go in and ok the work, tell them to save the old parts for your inspection.
    After all, the old parts are still your property.
    The only time that they can even balk at letting you view the parts is if the old part is to go in for a core. Even then, they should retain the old parts for your inspection.

    Even if you have no idea what you are looking at, quite often, it is obvious that the part failed or is worn out.

    One thing to remember, any parts removed from your vehicle are still your parts. If you want to take them home, that is your right. Again, the exception would be any part that is to be turned in for a core.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,726
    it is likely that the $70 quote was for a drain and refill from the pan along with, possibly, a replacement of the filter.

    The $149, OTOH, was likely for a "power flush" of the transmission, which is supposed to get out all the old fluid, unlike a drain and refill.

    HOWEVER, I remain unconvinced as to whether the power flush is ever really needed. I think it is a high-profit item for the dealers, and I never saw them offered before about the mid-90s. All my friends' older cars seemed to do just fine with a regular fluid change, so I have always recommended against taking a "power flush" when it was offered. They have liked the recommendation because it saved them $80!

    Dealers also seem to recommend this service much more frequently than the book calls for.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    Definitely a high profit job, everyone is pushing them now, local garages as well, tranny flushes, engein flushes. The only worthwhile flush IMO is the coolant, all others may have scary results and even a coolant flush by an incompentent tech can ruin an engine with air pockets etc.
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    with a transmission flush, at least there's the option of removing and replacing the filter, taking out contaminants - with an engine flush, unless you drop the oil pan and clean the oil pump screen, you've done more harm than good.

    I'm surprised there haven't been a gillion lawsuits aimed at private shops and dealerships that push these, because IMO, it significantly lowers the engine's life expectancy.

    The engines that can take this operation with no harm don't need it in the first place, and the engine's that could use a good flushing will likely die an early death - I see no credible use for the service (other than profit) unless the pan is pulled.
  • wtd44wtd44 Member Posts: 1,211
    The way to flush an engine is to remove it from the frame, put it on a bench and disassemble it. Start with putty knives at that point, if needed. Proceed to a solvent bath for the parts... Reassemble when all is renewed and adjusted. Sounds somewhat like an overhaul, doesn't it?
  • driftracerdriftracer Member Posts: 2,692
    I just cringe when those young service advisors start hawking engine flushes...
This discussion has been closed.