When the time comes to have your car inspected, or repaired when problems arise, where will you take it? To the dealership that specializes in your vehicle’s make, or an independent shop in your neighbourhood? Let’s look at the pros and cons of both to help you make an informed decision.
Theoretically, a dealership should have any specialized tools and diagnostic software for your vehicle. In the case that there is an issue with your car’s computer, a dealership will be able to sort it out. Additionally, they will have all the Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) for your vehicle.
If your car requires any specific, or proprietary fluids or parts, a dealership will definitely have them, or be able to order them. These will be harder to source at an independent shop working outside the company.
Dealerships will only work with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. This means that, in the need of a part replacement, your car will only be outfitted with equipment that was made specifically for it. This can be a con as well, as you’re going to be paying more for OEM parts, but the trade off is that you can rest assured that your vehicle will be running with the best possible parts.
Clean lobbies, air conditioning, good coffee and loaner cars are all part of the experience. It will make shelling out those extra bucks a little easier. Plus, loaner cars keep you on the road and living your life while your vehicle gets worked on.
Because dealerships are staffed by technicians who know your car inside and out, if they notice anything else that’s not up to code, they will let you know
High labor costs. Much higher than anything you’ll encounter at a private shop. The technicians at dealerships are brand-certified, and your bill will reflect that.
While the technicians may be certified through the manufacturer, they may be a little green. They can be overly-reliant on their proprietary diagnostic software at times, and may be at a total loss if it doesn’t give them the reading they expected. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for experience.
Remember what I said about a dealership being able to find anything that might not be up to code with your car? Well, this can turn into one big upsell too. They’ve already got you on the hook for the original maintenance, why not bleed you for a little more? It’s a corporate operation, and their main focus is profits. Be wary of any additional work they may prescribe. If it turns out to be necessary, it may not be necessary to have it done at a dealership.
Due to the high volume of vehicles they see in a day, dealerships have become more specialized in replacing parts rather than fixing them. It’s usually a lot more time efficient to remove and replace a faulty part, so that’s probably the route they’re going to take. Faster turnaround, but that new OEM part is not going to be cheap.
On the flipside of the point made about only dealing in OEM parts, these are INCREDIBLY expensive at times. Furthermore, if your vehicle is getting on in years, the part they “need” may be coming from some strange corner of the world. This means shipping costs, lengthy turnaround and all-around frustration. Do some homework on your own before committing to a pricey repair plan. Maybe there’s a third-party solution that will do just fine. Also take into account the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and figure out how much they’re marking it up at the dealership. It can be as high as 300% at times!
Much more reasonable labor rates. They want you coming back, so they will offer competitive prices to set them apart from competitors.
Independent shops will deal in both OEM and after-market parts, and will likely give you the choice between the two. Furthermore, they’ll probably give you some advice on how to proceed.
While parts will still certainly be marked up (they are running a business, after all), the rate at which they do so will be much lower than dealerships.
More often than not, independent shops will give you a realistic idea of what and what does not to be done. Dealerships are more interested in getting your vehicle up to dealership quality, while shops are more interested in getting you back in a safe and functioning vehicle.
The folks working at independent shops are often more experienced than those working at the dealerships. They’re staffed by people who have been living and breathing cars their whole lives. Chances are even the owner gets under the cars from time to time. You won’t get that at a dealership.
While independent shops will still have high-end software with lots of manufacturer codes, they usually won’t have manufacturer specific software unless they’re certified specialists.
They may not have all the Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) for your vehicle. That means that certain issues that your vehicle might be prone to will not be immediately detectable by an independent shop.
Independent shops may not use vehicle specific techniques, or requirements. Also, they might not have all the specialized tools. This may not be a huge issue, but it could lead to problems down the road.
Independent shops usually don’t offer the same creature comforts that a dealership does. Don’t expect a leather couch, soft music and a nice cup of coffee. Expect an old chair in a crammed, noisy room and maybe a styrofoam cup of something resembling coffee. Private shops are usually the definition of “functional.” This means that their shop fixes cars, and not much else. In other words, don’t expect a spa.
While dealerships and independent shops often both provide the same service, the way they go about it can be quite different. An independent shop wants to get you back on the road safely, and they want to see you again. A dealership wants your vehicle to be lot-ready, which means more costly fixes. There will be times where only a dealership will be able to fix the issue with your vehicle, but these are few and far between. Make sure you know the difference in their approaches and that you are making the right choice.