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2008 Toyota Camry Solara - Dealers and contractors

My wife’s car is due for a 60,000 mile service (big bucks) plus replacement of the timing belt due to being ten years old. The dealer closest to us does not employ mechanics, they are all independent contractors. I am uncomfortable with that arrangement. The nearest dealer with employee mechanics is over an hour away and will require two trips. What is your opinion of the independent arrangement?

For a Toyota I would look at an independent mechanic rather than a dealership.

I think the independent contractor model for a dealership is awful. I understand why they do it, but doesn’t mean I agree with it. Also doesn’t mean they don’t do good work.

But as @Purebred says, it is 11 years old (by my math, not 10) and any good independent shop could do the work.

Is there any evidence positive or negate regarding this near-by dealership’s shop work? Ask your friends, relatives, co-workers if they have ever used that shop. If you get mostly good reports, that local dealership shop is probably a good choice. If you get reports that such-and-such shop is better, than use that other shop instead. In other words rely on your personal acquaintance for shop recommendations, rather than the business arrangement of the mechanics with the dealership management. /fir a 10 year old Toyota I expect your best bet in terms of bang for the buck recommendations will turn out to be a local independent shop rather than the dealership.


There’s no reason to go to a dealership for this work. Especially if you’re uncomfortable with the arrangements there.

Call around to several mechanics for quotes. Go with the one that works for you.

Dealers around here outsource certain things.
. Glass
. Transmission Work
. Body Work.

I’ve never seen general repairs being farmed out.

I agree with everyone else…go to a good independent. Good independents around here are far far far superior to ANY dealer mechanic. A few I know have 20+ years experience as master mechanics working for dealers.

I don’t think he means the dealer farms the work outside but contracts the work in.

Instead of hiring mechanics as employees, they are independent contractors working in the dealership’s shop. That is how I read it.

My local Shell station is about to celebrate its 75th anniversary in the ownership of the same family.
I sent my friend there a couple of months ago for repairs on his Rav-4, and my Shell station charged less than 1/3 of what the Toyota dealer had quoted for the same repair.

My friend is now a “convert” and will avoid the predatory chain-run Toyota dealership unless the local guy says that he cannot help.


Get at least 3 estimates. If the water pump is behind the timing belt, replace it at the same time. Since the coolant is drained, replace it too. Ask them what the cost for just those services is, then ask for an itemized cost for pulleys and oil seals. At 11 years old, you might just want to get all of that done if you plan to keep the car for several years more.


OK…Still don’t know any dealers that do that around here.

I hire software contractors all the time. Sounds like it’s the same type thing.

Unless you knew a mechanic working that way, I think it would be tough to tell if the shop used contractors or employees. It looks the same. Just the administrative stuff is different. It places the burden of covering taxes, benefits, SS, ect. on the contractor.

I have used contractors as well. A couple worked in house and appeared like regular employees. My goal was always to get them hired as company employees. Others worked offsite on more temporary jobs.

I have a buddy that is carpenter that has worked as an independent contractor his whole career. Spent years working for a single general contracting company. Even driving a van with their logo.

The same as a Software Contractor. Pay is usually better (about 20%), but no benefits. If you have a spouse that works and has good benefits, then contracting can be lucrative…especially if you get paid on a 1099. Getting paid on a W2 through a contract house is OK…but you probably won’t get a 401k which can hurt your long term retirement goals.

I have never heard of a dealer hiring mechanics as independent contractors. That scenario has been brought up a few times at dealers where I worked and the answer was always an emphatic no.

I could see some issues with that. It would seem to me that an indy contractor could refuse to perform a warranty job. The job takes a full 2 hours and only pays .4 hours. I would tell them to pound sand also.

As MikeiinNH mentioned, it also puts the paper burden on the contractor. I can also think of other potential issues involving alleged comebacks and who pays for service schools just to mention a few.


Those are easy. You did the job and it came back, the onus is on you to make it right. No different if you are employed by the dealership or contracted service.

Who pays for schooling? You do. We expect you to be current in your training. The higher contracted rate per hour is supposed to cover this. When I hire contract help, they have to show they are current in their field.

Your first point is most relevant. As a contractor, I get paid full wage for any work. No way I’m doing it at a discount just because you don’t get full compensation…In the engineering world, the company may not recover all of their NRE (actually almost always does not) they don’t pass that off on the workers…

I personally have never heard of that arrangement at any dealer . That’s a new one to me . that being said , what maintenance are you talking ? Being that old it’s probably off warranty and some of those items may not need to be done. The timing belt is a definite yes to getting done .Without knowing the other items we can’t comment on them .

We had an Oldsmobile/Cadillac dealer in my community who had an outside contractor run its service department. When I bought a used Oldsmobile from an independent used car dealer that was still under factory warranty, I was told by the dealer who sold me the car not to take the car to that dealer, but was given the recommendation for two dealers about 20 miles away. Another independent dealer also said that he told his customers to avoid that dealer.
I do know that many dealers may contract out certain repairs. A friend bought a used Chevrolet from a new car dealer that was under warranty. The transmission didn’t shift correctly. My friend took the car back and the dealer sent it to an independent transmission shop. I had need for some transmission work and went to this independent shop. The owner of the shop showed me his appointment book and he had customers from many of the dealers, including new car agencies. I also had a great alignment shop. The proprietor showed me his appointment book and there were many dealers that brought cars to him even though these dealers had alignment racks. When a dealer had a real problem car, this independent shop got the job.

High tech companies here in Silicon Valley looking for scientific & engineering talent hire both employees and independent contractors. Generally they’ll hire the less experienced prospects as employees, and the more experienced, those who have already proven they can deliver robust designs on time and budget, as independent contractors. So if the analogy holds, independent contractors might be better mechanics.

The comeback issue is not as simple as one might think. Guys who turn wreches will know what I’m talking about. Who decides that??? Example…
Customer car runs poorly. Cause is a faulty ignition module. Replaced and car is fine.
A few weeks later same car runs poorly again. This time it’s the fuel pump. The customer refuses to believe it’s not one and the same or somehow related or that this should have been part of the first repair.

Many service managers are spineless. To pacify the irate customer they coerce the mechanic into doing the job for free under threat or they flat out lie to the tech about getting paid for the pump. Payday rolls around and the pump never gets paid.

Something like this is exactly why I got fired from the last dealer I worked for. No way on Earth was it a comeback and all hxxx broke loose when I got gigged. It didn’t matter anyway because I was about 24 hours away from quitting due to driving a 150 miles a day to work and back and not having enough work to stay busy. Then to get screwed over on top of that…

If the dealers ever decide to all go this route you can safely bet that the mechanics are going to get hosed on the door rate.

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I doubt it. Independent contractors in aerospace do it so that they can work in more than one place. They can get a job done faster than less experienced people, and can take on more customers. They get paid by a prime customer and fill in with occasional jobs. This also allows them to live remotely from the prime customer and visit as required, working on analyses, calling into design reviews, and writing documents at home. Wherever that is.

The indy has to pay for all benefits and taxes. Do you really think the dealer will pay enough to cover benefits? Just medical for a family will be about $15,000 a year, if they can find it at all. If the indy makes $50,000 a year, his wages drop to the poverty level once you take out the benefits. IMO, it is just a cost cutting scheme for the dealer.

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