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New car maintenance

Just recently bought a new Honda Fit Sport. Was told I should ONLY use the dealer for maintenance and repair because only they have the high tech equipment and diagnostic ability to care for my car. But I called one of the garages that was listed on CarTalk Recommendations page for my area and they said they have all the same capability. I was thinking of using the dealer for only the first year and then later change to my local garage. What is really best?

You can use any garage you want for routine maintenance. You will not void the warranty. Dealers are often more expensive than other shops, and saving money might be what determines whether one shop is best. I doubt that any dealer is better than a good indy shop for maintenance.

BTW, I’ve never used the dealer for my Honda. I took it in to find out what they thought of a rubbing noise when I first start moving forward. This was a few weeks after buying the car (new). They had no idea what it was, but still told me it wasn’t a problem. I asked if it was the ABS self-check, like Toyotas have. The Dealer rep said, no, of course not. But that’s exactly what it is. So dealer reps aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.

Use the dealer if something really breaks, then you are getting the warranty service you paid for. For routine maintenance you can use a good quality independant mechanic. Make sure the shop provides complete documentation of what was done, mileage, VIN number, etc. just in case you need to prove the car was maintained properly.

There are some aspects of some cars that are so unique I’d trust a dealer more since they are supposed to have up to date training. Examples include hybrids, clean diesels, and exotic AWD systems. I don’t see anything about a Honda Fit that a good mechanic couldn’t handle.

As long as you keep the receipts and follow the owner’s manual for maintenance, you can take your Honda to any service center. Which is better? On one of our vehicles, a 2003 Toyota 4Runner which we purchased new, the serpentine belt chirped about the third day we had the car. I took it back to the dealer and a new serpentine belt was installed. It was fine for a couple of days and the problem started all over. The dealer installed a second serpentine belt. Not only did the problem reappear, but the belt was installed incorrectly and it pulled out the crankcase oil seal. The dealer then assured me he would put his best technician on the car. The oil seal was replaced and a new drivebelt installed. Three days later, the chirping began again. The next time we talked to the salesperson who sold us the 4Runner. He went to the owner. We were given a loaner car to drive and the problem was diagnosed as a bad belt tensioner. This solved the problem, but I lost confidence in this dealer. For the first service point, I took the 4Runner to another Toyota dealer. The owner’s manual recommends 5W-30 oil, but says that one may use 10W-30 if 5W-30 isn’t available for one oil change, but to put in 5W-30 at the next oil change. Well, the second dealer put in 10W-30, even though I asked him to put in 5W-30. That was the last time the 4Runner has ever been at a Toyota dealer. All servicing has been done by our independent shop.

On the other hand, I have a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander. The dealer service department has been very competent and charges less for an oil change than my independent shop. I took the Uplander to the dealer through the warranty period.

Which is best? It depends on the dealer and the independent garage. My independent shop isn’t the cheapest in town, but the work has always been top notch and I have never had to take a car back. I don’t mind paying for work that is done properly.

Thanks everyone. All comments were helpful.

I would suggest pricing routine service at an independent mechanic and at the dealership. My Toyota dealership charges $50 for oil/filter, complete underbody inspection and tire rotation. They never do anything other than what is listed in the maintenance booklet. I schedule an appointment and am in/out in less than an hour. My local mechanics can’t do any better…and if there is warranty work I am at the dealership and no need for an additional trip… Each to their own opinions…

If your even remotely lucky you won’t have any repairs for a long,long time.

Just decide who you want to do your oil and tire repair work,perhaps some cabin filter replacements. Dealer is going to handle all programing updates.

One thing the Honda Dealer I worked at had us do that I thought was pretty strange was at every service interval they had us remove,clean,and lube the contact points on the brake pads. I always wondered if this was a Honda thing or just something my dealer dreamed up.

“…at every service interval they had us remove,clean,and lube the contact points on the brake pads.”

Was that part of the regular service or did the dealer charge extra?

As I remember no customer was billed seperatly for this service. I am leaning very strongly towards this being a Honda service item,meaning not dealer initated. Perhaps someone with a Honda owners manual around 2003 (thats when I was with Honda) could look and see. We did it with every car not just one model. I found it very odd but with Honda it takes just minutes to get the pads out and cleaned up.

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 have all required (as listed in the owner's manual) maintenance done and to document all maintenance work.  An exception is for those few cars that come with "FREE" maintenance.  In those cases you may need to see the dealer to maintain your warranty, but there will be no charge for needed maintenance.  Watch out for add on stuff, not listed in the manual or included in the "FREE" part.  [Free means they included the cost in the price you paid for the car].

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

Note: Never ever use a quick oil change place. They are fast cheap and very very bad.

WOW…$50 for an oil change from the dealer…We got a coupon from the Lexus dealer we bought our ES-350 from (they’re also a Toyota Dealer)…$120 for oil change/tire-rotation/underbody inspection and cleaning and vacuum. And that’s with a coupon.

The price for an oil change at the dealership that I use is no more expensive than an oil change at most independent shops, and is cheaper than what Quicky Lube would charge if I was actually foolish enough to go to Quicky Lube.

And, since my car has a plastic shield underneath the engine that has to be removed for servicing, someone who is very familiar with this item is far less likely to do damage to the attachments than someone who is not normally tasked with this job.

Additionally, the dealership uses OEM filters, which are far higher quality than the junk filters used by all Quicky Lubes and by some indy shops (you know–those mysterious “white box” filters, with no brand name on it!). Throw in the dealership’s use of Valvoline Motor Oil and the fact that I can have the oil change done in 20 minutes, while I wait, and I see no reason to go anywhere else for my routine service needs. Of course, if I did not have a reasonably-priced dealership near me, I would probably feel differently.

Use what feels best to you. My local Honda dealer was mostly reasonable vs locals so I used them for major services every 30k.

In the rarer event you have a major issue just past warranty using the dealer for maintenance during the initial warranty period helps incredibly.