Dealer versus private service center

What is the scoop on having all major maintainence done by the dealer as opposed to finding a private mechanic? Is there a difference in quality of service?

It depends on the dealer or private mechanic. There are good and bad of each. You will probably save money at a private service center, but again, it depends on the service center.

Lorenzo; as per the previous post, there are good and bad in both areas. My experience has been that routine maintenance is done less expensively at independent shops, but any item that is covered by warranty should be handled by the dealer; you will have atough time getting paid for a warranty item done by and independent.

Also, I would not take an older car to a dealer; they work mostly on one and two year old cars, and don’t see any old ones, or learn about the problems that crop up as the car ages! The Chevrolet dealer’s shop down the road from me was totally stumped by a common problem on my 1988 Caprice (heater core leak).

Let me add that in my experience, you may find different repairs are better handled by one or the other. Example; broken leaf spring…dealer wants to sell you the entire “pack” on both sides. Private would make one up to fit. Manual hub cleaning best done by dealer familiar with the problem and right tools to disassemble and done in less time for less money. So generally, you can’t make a blanket statement except when warrentee work is done. I wouldn’t discount the dealer w/o checking for routine oil changes etc. who still have to compete with local chains.

A good rule of thumb is to find an independent mechanic for all routine work such as maintenance, brakes, exhaust, and so forth, but to go to a dealership for major problems that might require specialized knowledge of your particular vehicle. Indeed, your favorite mechanic might even advise you that certain operations are best handled by the dealership.

Speak with your friends and neighbors for their choice of a good independent shop.

If the problem is involved I might go to a dealer as they get technical bulletins keeping them updated and because they are a dealer may have run into this problem before. Keep in mind that a dealer probably gets $100 an hour or more and an independent somewhere around $60 an hour. Many times independents have to go to a dealer to get the parts anyway. One more thing, if an independent guesses wrong he can’t put the piece back in stock and put on something else without someone paying for the wrong item and the dealer won’t take it back. Guess who that someone is?

You never know where the knife will go…or come from. Somebody you know has the experience with auto mechanics in your area. People won’t hesitate to tell you their stories of car adventures. Saturn in Santa Maria Ca. didn’t try to sell me any additional work and did the warranty / recall work very well. Ford in Bedford Pa. rebuilt my transmission in good time.

I agree with most. If the car is under warrenty I would tend to go to the dealer and you will build a relationship if any problems develop. Dealers are getting pretty competitive lately and after all, they are factory trained on that product. At least for a few years you will be pampered by the dealer with loaner cars and so on.

I avoid dealers like the plague. I’ve had excellent luck with private mechanics. I deal with a local shop for general repairs/state inspections, and if I need specialized work I have a mechanic who specializes in Honda and another mechanic who specializes in Subaru.

I trust any of these three more than I ever trusted a dealer. The few times I’ve had to go to a dealer I’ve been extremely disappointed.

Dealers are no better (or worse) than independent mechanics for almost anything you might need done on your car.  They will almost always charge more per hour and often more for parts and supplies.  They also tend to look at repairs a little different than the independent. 

A dealer may well recommend work that strictly may not be needed, but could be connected to the problem or maybe replace a part when a little repair would fix it ALMOST as good a new.  

There is no need to bring your car to the dealer for any service other than service that is going to be paid for by a recall or original warrantee.  During the warranty period be sure to document all maintenance work.

I suggest that most people would be better off finding a good independent (Not working for a chain) mechanic.

Depends on dealer and depends on private shop. Price shop for equivalent services and then decide. Then try them out.

I use the dealer as there service is really good but also I get a $500/year kickback from my Subaru Mastercard credit card good for Subaru service making maintenance free. That being said the Subaru dealer tends to perform a few extra services (changes fluids instead of inspection per manual) and are a pricier. However its free to me and I get a loaner(free) so I am happy.

"They also tend to look at repairs a little different than the independent.

A dealer may well recommend work that strictly may not be needed, but could be connected to the problem or maybe replace a part when a little repair would fix it ALMOST as good a new."

That is the biggest problem with some independents, they do have a tendency to try to perform “good enough” repairs because that’s what they think their customers want. It is sometimes difficult to convince them that you want it fixed correctly (not ALMOST as good a new), and you want them to use the correct OEM parts (not some after-market “stuff”). I do understand they are trying to save a few dollars for their customers.

It took me a while to find a good independent that would actually fix things correctly without an argument, I really don’t need/want these guys to call me every-time they needs to spend a couple $100 extra on a repair or to suggest some cheaper hack, what part of “just fix it” don’t they understand? After a while, my independent now understands what I want; he just does whatever it takes to make it correct and calls me when it’s done. If I didn’t trust him, I wouldn’t have gone to him in the first place so I really don’t need to babysit every little decision.

I do agree that you have to look at both dealers and independents on a case-by-case basis, either can be good or they can be hacks.

I assume by major maintenance that you are refering to the service prescribed in the owner’s manual. In my area, the dealers are very competitive on prices for oil changes with the Quick Lube shops and WalMart. My independent shop actually charges more for an oil change. For transmission servicing (replace fluid and filter)as presribed by the owner’s manual, I go to an independent transmission shop. For tires, wheel alignment and brake work, I take my car to an independent tire dealer who has been in business for at least 25 years. For general work, I have a good, independent shop that does spark plug changes, radiator flushes, etc.