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Ask a mechanic to choose between a dealership or an independent repair shop and his choice will likely correspond to his employment. That’s perfectly understandable. Who among us doesn’t want our particular industry to thrive? Still, asking if one is better than the other is legitimate. Those of us who own cars want to make the best possible choice when repairs are necessary.
Here’s the thing: there is no right or wrong answer. As with nearly every other choice in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to both dealerships and independently owned auto repair shops. You have to determine what your needs and preferences are. You also have to look at your budget and time requirements.
The worst thing you can do is ask half-a-dozen people for their opinions and then make your decision accordingly. Opinions are as varied as mechanics and auto shops. Instead, make your decision based on rational thought and sound research. Below are some things to get you started.
Dealerships provide repairs as a means of supplementing their income. Due to how cars are sold in this country, dealerships don’t necessarily make full margin on new car sales. What they fail to earn on sales they make up for in repairs and maintenance. If there were no money in it, they wouldn’t do it.
Your biggest advantage with the dealership is direct manufacturer support. In other words, manufacturers directly support the dealers who sell their cars. Likewise, dealerships directly support the brands they sell. If you go to a Chevy dealer to have your Chevrolet repaired, you know it will be serviced by experienced mechanics who have been trained specifically to work on Chevrolet vehicles.
Other dealership advantages include:
The big downside to dealership service is cost. Dealerships do everything by the book, even if that means performing extra labor that takes more time and increases the bill. Dealerships charge more for parts.
Taking your car to an independent auto shop has its own advantages, beginning personal service. Independent shops are often staffed by a small number of mechanics and a single service writer. You can really get to know them personally. There’s a lot to be said for this. Personal relationships can result in better service.
Other benefits of local auto shops include:
On the downside, it can be a lot more difficult to schedule an appointment at an independently owned shop. Their smaller size makes it more difficult to move cars in and out quickly, so you can wait days or weeks for critical repair. You might not have that kind of time for something like a blown transmission or an engine burning oil.
Another thing to consider is the fact that you might not get expert support for your particular brand and model. Independently owned repair shops tend to be general rather than specialized, unless specifically indicated otherwise. This could be problematic if your car is a high-end import.
Despite everything you’ve read thus far, the choice between dealership and independently owned garage often comes down to time and money. If you’re short on time and you can afford the higher price, you might prefer taking your car to the dealership. On the other hand, you might choose an independently owned shop if you’ve got the time and want to save some money.