Dealership Service or Local Mechanic?
We’ve all wondered how we can save money on car repairs. We know there may be cheaper alternatives out there, but out of convenience or worrying about the quality of service, we end up spending a fortune at the dealer instead of looking for alternatives. It’s obvious that there is a payoff for taking care of a vehicle, saving you serious cash in fuel, future repairs, and increasing the car’s resale value; but is going to a service shop to save on the front end really going to dramatically impact your in-wallet savings?
You may have heard horror stories about cars coming back from local shops with more things wrong with it than before, or you may have a more temperamental car and think that only licensed dealers have the skillset to repair it. Whichever route you choose, there are going to be pros and cons to both dealerships and local service shops.
There are several reasons that motivate consumer to take their vehicles back to the dealership, aside from the familiarity or perks like loaner vehicles and nice dealership environments. Dealerships benefit from well-trained personnel which give many customers the peace-of-mind that they aren’t getting the shade pulled over their eyes to up-charge them on parts or labor. Other consumers prefer broken components to be replaced with factory replacement parts, whereas local service shops often use off-brand aftermarket parts to keep costs low for both themselves and the consumer. Along with well-trained personnel bringing comfort to many individuals, taking a car to a dealership will often yield a more precise diagnosis as they have the proper equipment and specialize on certain makes and models, unlike many local service places that have a more general understanding of brands rather than specific knowledge.
There are also cons when it comes to dealership routine maintenance. Most notably is the premium charged over local service shops. Since the parts are brand name and not aftermarket, they are often significantly more expensive, especially for luxury brands. Again, because the personnel is more well-trained and specialized, this also means that the hourly rate for labor is also drastically more expensive than that of other shops.
The pros of local service centers are bountiful, just as with a dealership service. For one, they usually have a smaller circle of customers meaning that you benefit from a more personal service. Since the volume is less, this means that you also usually have face time with your mechanic, instead of having to go through a service advisor that hasn’t actually touched the vehicle and is more of a middleman. Often times when you go to a local mechanic, they will bring you to the car and actually show you the damage to specific parts, something that is less common at a dealership. An AutoMD report outlines that a those who went to local service shops spent almost 25% less than consumers who went to the dealership for work, meaning that lower prices is definitely the main motivating factor here.
As with the saying “you get what you pay for,” there are a couple of cons that go with saving money. First of all, local service shops usually do not offer loaner vehicles, so if this is your only car and you can’t go a day without it, this may be a logistical nightmare worth spending the money to go to a dealership. If you’re a stickler for brand name parts, local mechanics usually use off brand to pass along the savings, meaning you should probably go to the dealership if this matters to you. While local shops generally have greater field experience, they may have shallow knowledge about several brands instead of deep knowledge about particular brands. While the service is generally comparable, these are factors to consider when deciding which method to choose.
Overall, while there are some sparse horror stories about both dealership and local mechanic nightmares, they generally take customer service very seriously, especially with modern tools like Yelp and Google that hold them more accountable than previously before for cheating customers. If you’ve got a rare, luxury, or exotic car, it probably makes more sense to take it to a dealership that specializes in that particular make and model, as you’ve already paid a premium to buy the car so you mine as well invest a little more in it to ensure you’re getting the top quality in parts and service, especially as cars become increasingly computerized. If you’ve got a generic, inexpensive economy car that anyone can work on, it probably makes more sense to save a couple dollars and take it to a local place if you’ve got the ability to do so.
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