Scheduled maintenance - dealer vs local shop?

As an avid cyclist and reasonably handy guy with a wrench, I know that the annual bike tune-up is, to put it indelicately, a rip-off. Basically you pay a pile of money for some air in your tires and a little chain lube.

So is the dealer tune-up a similar high-margin money maker for the car dealer?

Once a vehicle is no longer under warranty, is there tangible benefit in returning to the dealer for scheduled maintenance vs taking it to my local shop who I know and trust and who charges significantly less due to his reduced overhead?

I?ve got a 2009 VW EOS that is due for a 40k mi maintenance and I?m torn… dealer ? vs ? local shop.

Any thoughts?

Are You Saying That An 09 Car With 40k Miles Is Out Of Warranty ?

Tune-up can be different things to different people, but is usually a set of spark plugs on a gasoline engine, but there’s much more to car maintenance than a tune-up.

Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule whether done at a dealer, independent shop, or DIY.


I quit using my dealer while my car was in warranty because they wanted to do unnecessary (not in the manual) work. So yes, find a good independent shop, but do what’s required, don’t skimp. And if your bike shop just aired up the tires and lubed the chain, they were not doing what was needed.

I go to the dealer only for recalls or something similar. Otherwise I patronize my local independent mechanic and save buckets of money.

Use the Car Talk Mechanics Files to find a recommended local mechanic, preferably one who specializes in VW’s. Preferably a guy who worked at a VW dealership, learned his VW stuff, then went out on his own. That’s who you want.

Although some dealerships have excellent service departments (e.g. the Honda one near me), you’re going to pay more there as a general rule.

I’ve found that using an independent mechanic over the years has made car ownership a lot less of a headache. Just be wary of local chains, they tend to be cash cows. Try to find a small, family owned place. Take it there for an oil change or brakes, and see how that goes.

I take my Honda to the dealer to have the transmission fluid changed because they already have the OEM fluid in stock and its actually cheaper there than it would be through “John.”

That’s the exception rather than the rule though. Look around, some indies specialize in European cars.

As an avid cyclist and reasonably handy guy with a wrench, I know that the annual bike tune-up is, to put it indelicately, a rip-off. Basically you pay a pile of money for some air in your tires and a little chain lube.

I disagree with your premise. You obviously haven’t found the right shop for your bicycle work. They should also be cleaning the chain before they lube it, fine tuning the spokes to make the wheels true, etc.

With that said, the day of the “tune up” is pretty much over because of computer controls and electronic fuel injection. Today, a tune-up basically means changing the spark plugs, and maybe also the spark plug wires.

Personally, I believe there is a benefit to going to a dealership for scheduled maintenance. That would be maintaining your warranty. Even after the bumper-to-bumper warranty expires, there are other warranties (emissions equipment, for example), that go longer.

If you are good about keeping your maintenance records, you can go to pretty much any certified mechanic for maintenance work. I, however, don’t like keeping these records, so if I can find a good dealership service department with decent pricing, I get my work done there until all of the applicable warranties have expired, including the drivetrain warranty and the emissions warranty.

If you would, post back what is going to happen at the 40K service. I have never liked this technique of describing what happens when the car is in for service. I know one thing that is all most sure to happen ,you will be pressured to buy services not mentioned in your owners manual.

On the other hand, staying loyal to a Dealership may get you a expensive job paid for under “goodwill” status, or maybe not.

That’s the way I felt about the Mazda dealership where I bought my car from. I think the only time I’ll return there is for the transmission fluid change in a few years, unless there’s some kind of Ford equivalent, then I might head over to the Ford place here in town.
The place I had frequented for the past several years was the Honda dealership for my Civic and I wound up taking my Mazda to them to do it’s oil change. I might try a few places around town and see how they are when the time comes for my next oil change

A manufacturer scheduled(see manual) maintenance is a requirement for long vehicle life and saving in break downs down the road. If you are more comfortable with your shop go there.

I personally prefer using a dealer (of the make of the car) for all service while the car is under warranty. For most of that work, I’ve found that I can find one near me that offers prices that are very close to or better than many independent shops. Its the repair work where they tend to get higher in price, from my experience.

I figure I’m not paying much (if any) more $$$, but the manufacturer has good records of my service in that case.

The key is just to be firm about saying no to all services not in the maintenance schedule. More frequent service than in the manual may not hurt, but if they don’t recommend a throttle body cleaning, don’t pay for one. In fact, I’ve caught dealers offering non-scheduled service that might actually be harmful. For example, Ford used throttle bodies that were coated and some dealers were wanting to spray cleaners in that could harm the coating.

If you make them stick to the maintenance schedule, the 30k/40k/60k/whatever service is often much more affordable.

So far with our new car, the only one under warranty, the dealer has been good about not pushing extra services, but it is brand new. One oil change and all they offered was a tire rotation, which I declined. Based on our mileage so far, it was reasonable to assume that it would be due for a rotation prior to the next scheduled oil change, but knowing our expected driving in the future, I knew that I could get it done at the same time as the next oil change and it wouldn’t be late.

And since part of the sales deal was free oil changes for life (standard duty schedule), that oil change cost me $0. Ford dealers not that far away were offering oil and filter for $9.95 last summer when I had my Taurus, so even that was a heck of a deal.

Another reason to use possibly use dealers is that they may have specialized tooling that an independent may/may not have. If the independent is properly equipped, no biggie… but this can affect scheduled maintenance, too. The Mazda6 used to use a cartridge-type oil filter that required a special tool for safe removal of the canister. The tool (just a carefully crafted oil wrench) was cheap ($7-8), but a lot of shops didn’t buy it. A contact I have within the company confirmed that there were a lot of cases where shops used channel locks on the cartridge, which is a common practice at quickie lube places. It isn’t a problem if you have a spin-on filter like the 6 uses now, where the old filter would be tossed out… but with the cartridge housing, it would tend to deform it and crack it… and if the shop didn’t catch the problem, you’d be sent on your way with an oil filter gushing oil, and end up with a seized engine shortly thereafter. Using the proper tool saved all sorts of problems…