Dealer vs. independent shop?



  • sellaturcicasellaturcica Member Posts: 145
    I never lived in a place that had private inspection stations before Connecticut started private emissions testing a few years ago. When this started, I decided to only take the car to tire stores and other places that would have no stake in me flunking inspection- the conflict of interst in a general repair place to flunk you and then offer to repair what's wrong is just extremely fishy to me. If something like the above happened to me, I would thank them very much and take it to another independant to check out.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    That's a good point. Repair shops tend to solve problems in terms of their own specialties....if your car runs bad and you go to a muffler chain store, it's always an exhaust problem it seems...and if it doesn't start and you go to a big parts store, it's always the battery and yes we have lots of them.

    I like to go to emissions stations that sell NOTHING but emissions testing.
  • ecrudaecruda Member Posts: 1
    I need help with the problem of my dodge neon. The problem is that when I drive for a couple of miles and the engines gets hot, it dies and stop. I've already spent a considerable amount of money paying a mechanic but until now the problem is not fix yet. I almost got an accident because when I was driving in the freeway, the engine suddenly stops running.

    I tried turning the engine on for 10-20 minutes without driving it but when the engine is already hot, it dies.

    Please help.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think a good mechanic would drive the car with his diagnostic equipment with him, and when it died, he'd get to work testing fuel pump pressure, spark, etc. Sounds like he's guessing with your checkbook. Has he read any codes from the car's computer?
  • djm2djm2 Member Posts: 712
    I always have the dealer perform all the maintenance and service on my vehicles. The reasons for this action are as follows: 1.) I always purchase an extended FACTORY warranty on all my vehicles. 2.) I do an extensive amount of traveling with my vehicles. 3.) I want all my service records in one place, should I need warranty service either at home, or "on the road". 4.) If I have a problem "on the road," the local Honda dealer at my location can access my service records, and deal with the repair under the terms of the extended FACTORY warranty. 5.) The dealer performing the repair, can contact my selling dealer if there are any questions as to maintenance. ;) :shades: :):D Best regards. ---- Dwayne
  • dboedboe Member Posts: 69
    In the past when cars were simpler and required fewer sophisticated instruments for service or troubleshooting I did a lot of my own work.
    When I didn't, I usually trusted the work to an indpendent mechanic. I've known several over the years that are excellent in every respect. It is definitely worth the effort to find one in case the need ever arises.
    And I usually picked a mechanic who specialized in my particular vehicle, unless it was just for standard oil changes.
    I avoid the Jiffy Lubes, etc. like the plague. Too many horror stories, and I have a major aversion to risk.
    For warranty work, of course you have to go to the same make dealership.
    But for cousin models, like Acura/Honda, Lexus/Toyota, Infiniti/Nissan, etc. I have found the lower priced models often have dealerships that charge less for service and will take care of the higher priced models, except for warranty work.
    It is definitely worth checking out.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Member Posts: 1,986
    "For warranty work, of course you have to go to the same make dealership.
    But for cousin models, like Acura/Honda, Lexus/Toyota, Infiniti/Nissan, etc. I have found the lower priced models often have dealerships that charge less for service and will take care of the higher priced models, except for warranty work.
    It is definitely worth checking out..."

    Big "ditto" on that from here.
  • pmakki1pmakki1 Member Posts: 2
    go to the dealer to get it done right. Cost a little more, they have the experience and the parts available. Some independent shops do not have vehicle specific training and troubleshoot problems at your expense. You are actually paying them to train on your car, change this, if this does not work, change that. They are guessing!
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I'd have to disagree with that.
    Most the dealers I have to deal with replace parts far more than the independant shops I deal with.

    While most the dealers replace parts, most the independants troubleshoot. I'll admit that this isn't meaning that for every dealer or independant, but my experience is that most the dealers I deal with replace parts and do little diagnostics.

    On some things, the dealer may be the correct choice, but a large percentage of these can be handled at any independant, just as well.
  • ny540i6ny540i6 Member Posts: 518
    For me this is a big "that depends". If I want any high performance work done, then a dealer would be my last choice; They are best suited to work within original specs, to get things to original condition.... and I agree that in many cases it is simply a process of replacing parts, based on a non-intuitive look at vehicle history. I use an independent for most of my work... they are more willing to discuss my options with me - so for instance, designing a service schedule for my car that suits me. This is not to say that there are no uses for a visit to a dealer, however i do see it as a valid choice.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Member 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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Member 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 Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    That is becaue you are a master at what you do.

    I know your reputation and you are definatly an exception.
  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Member Posts: 4,883
    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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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!
  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Member Posts: 4,883

    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+
  • ponderpointponderpoint Member Posts: 277
    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 Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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.
  • bristow1bristow1 Member Posts: 2
    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 Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Member 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.
  • dmedjmeddmedjmed Member Posts: 2
    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 Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    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.
  • ponderpointponderpoint Member Posts: 277
    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.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    "We're starting to wonder if this Saab dealership's maintenance dept. is in cahoots with the sales department"

    Unlikely. Once a person has owned a Saab, they usually won't buy another one!
  • jch92592jch92592 Member Posts: 2
    If using local, independent shops to do work, generally how many shops should I call to get a good feeling as to appropriate charge for doing work like brake pad and rotor replacement?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    You can walk in and ask any shop for a written estimate. If they can't be bothered, you can't be bothered.

    In this way you not only can compare prices, but also check and see that both shops or three shops are bidding on the exact same job. Is it new rotors or turning old ones? What quality of pads are they using?.
  • oldtimer5oldtimer5 Member Posts: 1
    I own a 2003 Saturn Vue Awd and recently had my check engine light come while driving home. I took the automobile to Saturn of The Mountain Empire to have it checked, 2911 North Roan Street, Johnson City, TN 37601. They called me in a few days and said,” It has a bad transmission and it will cost just over six thousand dollars to have it repaired”. I located another repair facility they said they could repair the transmission for no more than a thousand dollars so I went to pick my car up. I was then informed that I owed the dealership $2200 for labor determining that I needed transmission repair. They ever claimed they took the engine out took it apart and then replace it trying to find the problem. In talking to many people no one has ever heard of anything like this. I could understand a reasonable charge for their time but not this. They must have the most incompetent bunch of mechanics and service department personnel in the US if they actually did this service.
    I am a single female senior citizen on social security and know very little about automobile mechanics. I feel that my lack of knowledge in the area allowed them to take easy advantage of me which they readily did. I contacted the Saturn company and they got the amount reduced to $1567.66. They would not release my car until this amount was paid, which I had to do. My automobile is currently being repaired in another shop for $950 but I know I have been robbed by Saturn of The Mountain Empire.
    My Saturn was a nice automobile, but I will never own another one. Has anyone else had a similar experience with a Saturn dealership?
  • kiawahkiawah Member Posts: 3,666
    What approvals did you give the dealership ahead of time, relative to what they would diagnose? I've never been to a dealership, which didn't give a written estimate....even in sistuations where they had to do diagnostics.
  • autodrautodr Member Posts: 27
    In my area (SC), if you didn't authorize it, you don't owe it.

    I can't just go into your pocket book and help myself. I have to provide an estimate, and you have to authorize it before I can spend your money. Here, in my dealer, you are told up front that there is a diagnostic fee, and what that fee is. Typically, it is $95.00 that is quoted for a blanked generic fee. You sign the bottom of the repair order that states the diag fee as "$95" and provide us with permission to drive the vehicle as needed to diagnose it. That pays for up to one hour of diagnostic time. Most problems will be diagnosed in that one hour. So then you get a call back with a repair estimate that includes the original diagnostic fee as well. If you decline the repairs, you only owe the original diag fee of $95.

    In some cases, the problem will require more time to diagnose. Some times teardown is required of a large mechanical part (like engine or trans), or the interior of the vehicle may require disassembly (taking seats, carpet, panels out). In a case like that, you'll get a call stating that we need more $$$ for the added diag time, and an estimate for the added time will be provided based the technician's view of the amount of teardown time he will need. If you decline it, you owe only the original diag fee because that time is used up.

    Now, the funny part is when it comes to authorization when done over a phone. There is no one to sign a dollar figure. So, both parties need to be honest. Most of the time, that works fine. Every now and then, a shop or a customer (this does go both directions).... will say one thing and do something else.

    Sometimes a customer lies. They authorize work and rip the shop off this way... it happens. I worked for one independent that recorded all phone authorizations with phone recording and informing the customer they were being recorded.

    I've also heard of a bunch of stories like yours about shops who just either went ahead and fixed a car without authorization, or ran up a huge diag fee without auth. So I have no doubt it happens, I've just never seen it. I have seen what appeared to be miscommunication situations, usually the fault of the shop because they are not clear enough in explaining charges during the conversation.

    It might be that they are saying you ok'd it when you didn't. But, can they prove it in court? That's what matters. If it is not in writing, the courts don't recognize it. The only thing is, it sounds like you've already paid for it. So, by paying for it, that is a type .... or could be turned into... a type of authorization.
  • teel2thousandteel2thousand Member Posts: 1
    I am picking up my 03 Vue this afternoon I have spent approx $3000.00 on it since Nov 07 In Jan 08 the check engine light came on and they replaced the oil pan, injectors breaks rotors and thermostat On Tues 2-19-08 the engine blew due to the mechanic not putting on the filter and cap I cannot believe the nerve of the service manager calling me up to tell me he was going to charge me to fix it I THREW A FIT and contacted Saturn I am not paying for the repair I have started putting out all this money since they have hired a new Service Manager NEVER HAS ANY OF MY SATURNS GIVEN ME ANY PROBLEMS UTIL NOW 2-8-08 I am picking the car My VUE has 140,000 miles on it and up to this point I LOVED it We just purchased the AURA XR This will be our 5th Saturn
  • ericdravenericdraven Member Posts: 1
    i have o5 mini , i need those plastic pos fasteners that hold the fender flares to the hood , anybody know where to find them online or walk in in nc ???
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