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Please discuss or flame this observation!

Based on limited evidence (a number of friends in northern VT who own various makes of cars), I’m thinking that the general rule is:

  1. Local, independent mechanics make their money and build customer loyalty through honesty.
  2. Dealership service departments make their money through dishonesty and figure a lot of customers won’t think to question where they get repairs, whether they’re really needed, or how much they should cost.

I believe this because our conversations involved several occasions when a dealer did a warranty repair and called to say that various expensive, non-warranty repairs were needed immediately. When we weren’t frightened into agreeing, we’d take our cars to a local mechanic, and he’d find no evidence of need, and even refuse to charge us for looking.

I wonder why the two types of business are so different, and whether a dealer representing a less-desirable make but with a great word-of-mouth reputation for service honesty couldn’t do really well.

I find that most dealerships operate under the illusion of offering better mechanical services because they actually sell vehicles. This is a false assumption. Most independent mechanics must remain honest and build lasting relationships in order to stay in business but some are as dishonest as the day is long. Dealerships seem to work on a monthly cycle and most are fairly honest but they all are expensive. I always recommend a good independent mechanic in your local area. I never recommend dealerships because they are always expensive when the bill comes due and there’s always that monthly cycle thing to contend with.

Your observations are not widespread enough to be anywhere near accurate.

Yes, dealerships do tend to charge more than indy mechanics, but their overhead is sure to be higher and the cost of OEM parts is usually higher than that of aftermarket parts.

Additionally, I have never gotten a laundry list of recommended non-warranty repairs when having a warranty-related repair performed, and that includes all 8 of the new car dealerships that I have dealt with during my life. I don’t doubt that the OP has experienced what he reports, but I have to say that his experience has not been my experience.

My own feeling is that many years ago dealerships used honest repair/service departments to help attract customers for new car purchases, but new cars sales haven’t been sufficient to support them for years now and they’re now using the service facilities as revenue generators to help support their new car operations. That has caused a lot of practices with which I disagree.

There seems to be a policy of going through an entire car, no matter what it was brought in for, with the sole purpose of creating a long list of expensive work the “needs to be done”, most of which really doesn’t need doing at all. Things like new oil pan gaskets and new valve cover gaskets are some of the biggies. They also seem to have policies that preclude doing a simple repair, such as changing an entire oil pan because the drain hole is stripped. Nobody can bring an older car in to a dealership without being told they need at least $2,000 worth of work. Rarely are more than one or two of the “needed items” actually needed. More often none of them are.

I’ve seen people told that they needed a new battery because of the age of the car, when they just put one in the year before (clearly nobody even bothered to look at the battery), I’ve seen numerous people told that they need new valvecover and oilpan gaskets that were only exhibiting normal and minimal old-car seepage without significant “oil usage” and without any drips at all. We’ve had a number of people post here who have been told they need new oilpans because the drain hole was stripped. People are routinely told they need new struts simply because if their car’s age… anything over 5 years old is “game” for that suggestion. I’ve seen people whose bushings exhibited minimal surface cracking told that they need all new bushings. I personally get routine reminders in the mail that I need work done because of my car’s age. And I haven’t been to the dealership in years.

I know that others here, for whom I have the utmost respect, feel that good service includes examining the entire car. I feel differently. I believe dealerships in today’s world are fishing for whatever revenue they can squeeze the customer for. And I believe they’ll stoop to any low to get it.

I agree that dealers service shops are more expensive than independent mechanics. The problem is with the organization and business model, and their high overhead. The service manager at a dealership is under pressure to generate more business and the service writers (euphemistically called “service advisors”) will push many services that are not really needed, such as a fuel system flush, etc, while also trying to rebuild your car for you to bring it up to “new” specifications. None of this is dishonest; the part that IS dishonest is they scare unknowing owners, mostly housewives, into doing all this expensive stuff.

The oil pan on my Corolla shows some sign of “sweating”, it has a light film of oil on it. No oil is found on my driveway and garage floor, and the car uses no oil between changes. Yet the “service advisor” (a guy who could not actually do any of this work himself) said it was urgent I get this done and he quoted $450 for changing the oil pan gasket and resealing it. All he got out of me was a smile.

The same car was serviced by an independent garage when the time came to check the brakes and other inspection items for which the dealer wanted $168! The indy shop did it basically for free since they did the oil change and a few other service items. They did say that the oil pan was sweating but did not recommend any repairs at this time. They also mentioned my 8 year old serpentine belt has some minor cracks, but said it was not urgent at this time to replace it.

So, I don’t believe dealership shops are crooked, just overzealous in taking your money. There are also a lot of incompetent indy shops who will do unnecessary work the way a quack doctor misdiagnoses your symptoms and prescribes unnecessary or the wrong drugs or treatment. I have seldom run into an actually crooked indy shops; that designation belongs more to muffler, tire and exhaust shops that will try to sell you stuff you don’t need. One local Midas shop here fits that category, as well as Sears Automotive who tried to sell me ball joints I definitely did not need…

There are honest people and dishonest people in both types of shops. Just the luck of the draw. The difference in a small shop is that if a tech is trying to pad his paycheck by selling an oil pan gasket I can come out and look/verify the leak. At a dealership the guy selling the work probably never even sees the car or sets foot in the shop. It has been my observation though that more dishonest (or incompetent work) happens at the cheap discount shops than at the dealers.

Yes, dealers often look over the whole car to find additional sales because that’s their job and it’s what they are supposed to do. It is expected of them by the customer. Dealer mechanics are held to a higher standard. No one calls me, a small local shop, back to complain that I didn’t note and fix (for a charge) the broken A/C vent on a 6 year old car that was in for brake service or that the door still squeaks after fixing a coolant leak. But when a dealer customer gets a follow-up call to ask about the quality of the service the customer will complain to them.

There’s a steak house here that will bring you a plate of fresh fruit between courses to refresh your palate. They will use a special brush between courses to sweep the crumbs from the linen tablecloth. Some people want that kind of attention, some don’t. If your oil pan gasket was perfectly dry when your car left the factory and now there’s some seepage from one corner, it’s no longer functioning as new and needs to be replaced. Or not.

It’s not stooping to a low to get revenue, it’s just a different (not necessarily better or worse) level of service.

My experience is split. The local Chevy dealer was my ‘go-to’ shop, honest, never recommended unneeded work, even suggested ways to save money. I used them until the car was sold after 12 years. The Lexus dealer was the opposite, I quit using them shortly after purchase, when they tried to extort unneeded work (said if I didn’t change the transmission fluid every 15k that I’d void the warranty).

My kids ask questions like this.
For which there is no single blanket answer.
There are numerous variables and no single means of stating one or the other.

I’ve seen scheisters hiding under a gleaming, shiny, national name brand signs who were really just those guys you read about…squirting oil on shocks, saw dust in the differential, pulling one plug wire loose , etc

I read an article somewhere (can’t name the source) that said that the Internet has made bottom-line new car prices much easier to figure out, and actual needed repairs are much less frequent on new cars. So the two big profit centers are add-ons at closing (maintenance agreements, etc) and non-urgent “repairs.”

But also realize that dealers ( again no blanket stereotype ) are often more prone to be aiming toward having your vehicle …’‘showroom new’’ condition.
Egged on by the manufacturers and the above mentioned business model, they often recomend procedures that are keeping you vehicle near perfect ( proactive maintainence ) rather than waiting for breakdowns and malfunctions to tow you in the back door.

Your choice.

Reading the owner’s manual , you can see these listed and you get to pick based largely on your own knowledge of your finances and your vehicle’s condition.
Kinda like brushing your teeth and visiting the dentist every six months.
YOU pick how much maintainence you wish to invest in


I work at a dealer.
I read all these digs at dealer reputations and do what I can , as a parts man, to keep our dealer trust worthy and honorable. WE are not New Mexico’s oldest Ford dealer by mere chance or without merit and I would like to keep the history alive. ( I’ve been here since 1979 )
I have caught my service writers, and had to tell them to offer the customer the choice of ''showroom condition ‘’ repair or ‘‘good enough to drive home’’ …o.e. parts or aftermarket choices too.

I think everyone needs to remember that broad generalizations–whether about car dealerships, political parties, races/ethnic groups, or virtually any other topic–have just as much potential to be wrong as they have to being correct.

I think everyone needs to remember that broad generalizations--whether about car dealerships, political parties, races/ethnic groups, or virtually any other topic--has just as much potential to be wrong as it has to being correct.

I’ve NEVER EVER seen broad generalizations on ANYTHING to be correct. People who make broad generalization do so from ignorance.

Right about the first observation, wrong about the second. I can’t tell if "most " applies to everyone else, but many years ago, a small dealership cut their teeth on making their customers happy with their service after the sale. Since, they have expanded to seven to eight different local dealerships and more in the southern part of the state. Dealerships that competed had no recourse but to start treating their customers better. I feel this is true everywhere. Do they charge higher prices…well yes, often. But, their service is prompt and as reliable as any independent and…they give you wifi in the waiting room which most independents have lagged on. :wink: You just have to be more informed to fall for the same lines you can get from every repair shop, dealer or otherwise. You can’t pigeon hole them all into two categories either. Lots of variation.

“I’ve NEVER EVER seen broad generalizations on ANYTHING to be correct. People who make broad generalization do so from ignorance.”

Hee, hee. Nothing like a broad generalization about broad generalizations. Sometimes they do help sorting out all the noise though.

I’ve never really had a problem with dealerships. They really don’t make much money on selling cars anymore so have to rely on service and parts. Ask yourself though if you had a breakdown away from home, wouldn’t you just want your car towed to the dealer? At least you are assured that the mechanics are trained and parts are available even though you may pay more.

Hee, hee. Nothing like a broad generalization about broad generalizations.

yup…you’re right. It’s either ignorance…or just plain being a bigoted *ss. So which one are you??

Just a comedian pushing buttons.

Generalizations or not, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs rate car service complaints as either the top or near the top. Consumer Reports did their own membership survey and several hundred thousand said that the best service was from independent shops; dealers and chains ranked far behind, although some dealers rated good. VW had the worst dealer service, as I recall.

Actually, Bing has a good point.
If someone was to make the broad, general statement that “all blue-eyed people are left-handed”, it is not correct to claim that this generalization is always incorrect.

A certain percentage of those blue-eyed folks will be left-handed, and a certain percentage of them will be right-handed. Thus, as I stated, someone making a general statement has “just as much potential to be wrong as they have to being correct”. Some will be left-handed, some will be right-handed, and some may actually be truly ambidextrous.

Sometimes a dealer is a better choice, sometimes it is not, it is related to the type of repair needed in my experience.