Dealerships, Chain Repair Shops and Independently Owned shops: What's the difference?

Just because you don't know everything about how cars work and what's what when you open the hood, that doesn't mean you can't be an informed consumer when it comes to getting your car repaired. When you choose where you get your car repaired, you need to know what you are getting for the price you pay. You also need to compare apples to apples if you price shop. Here's some general information about your options when choosing which shop you'll trust to repair your car.

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Which kind of shop is best?

You have three basic options for getting your vehicle serviced: dealerships, chain auto repair shops, and independently owned shops.


While a dealership offers technicians that may be a little bit more specialized in working on a certain make or model vehicle, they tend to charge higher prices. Because they have a higher volume of clientele, they may not get your vehicle in for service as quickly, or they may need to keep it longer. However, most dealerships offer free shuttle services, and at the higher end dealerships, loaner cars for the convenience of their customers. While the technician that works on your vehicle may be specialized, a different technician may be servicing your vehicle each time you bring it in. The specific training and certification of technicians varies from dealership to dealership, and even from technician to technician, depending on their time in the field. Dealerships, like most big corporations, are fairly numbers driven, and make most of their profits on their services and in the finance office, not on the actual sale of autos. Many dealerships lead car owners to believe that if they get maintenance done anywhere else, their warranty could be voided. This is simply not true. TheMagnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 says that a dealership cannot void your warranty for having proper maintenance performed somewhere other than the dealership. However, a dealership is the only place that can make repairs that fall under your factory warranty. Maintenance work, such as brake jobs and fluid flushes do not fall under factory warranties.

Auto Repair Chain Shops

The technicians at these repair shops can tend to be less certified and less diagnostic oriented. These shops may try to sell more maintenance and repair work and avoid doing diagnostic work, such as investigating a check engine light, since their technicians aren't usually as specialized. These shops may not have access to diagnostic equipment and industry knowledge for a specific vehicle, and they tend to have cut deals with aftermarket part suppliers, such Auto Zone, Checker and Napa. This means these shops may be using lower quality parts in your car, and depending on the shops mark-up on parts, you may be paying just as much as you would for a higher quality part from the dealership. These shops tend to offer more personal service because they are smaller, but because they are corporately owned, they too have quotas to meet. My personal experience working in one of these type of shops saw a quality manager with high integrity and good work ethic get demoted because the store wasnt achieving it's performance-based figures. He was replaced by a manager who was more concerned about numbers than providing quality service with integrity.

Independently Owned and Operated Shops

These shops are hit or miss as far as the quality of shop owners and technicians. It is entirely dependent on the owners ethics, integrity and expertise what kind of service you will receive. Keep in mind, however, that with no corporate business manager breathing down their necks, these shops have the flexibility to deal with you the customer on an individual basis. Their parts mark-up is also entirely dependent on the owners ability to negotiate with suppliers, as well as his integrity in making a fair profit.

Which kind of shop do you take your car to and what has your experience been?

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Posted in Automotive repair Post Date 02/22/2017






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