Visits to a service provider for car maintenance can be annoying to many car owners, but when the misfortune of unexpected repairs befalls, mere annoyance can turn into stress. The level of stress is usually directly proportional to the cost of the repairs. Historically, the automotive dealerships have been the "big dog" in the area of car maintenance. But now technology has levelled the playing field for the smaller, independent auto repair shops.
New car dealerships (most also sell used or "pre-owned" vehicles) are franchise organisations offering services and products to those seeking to purchase/lease vehicles or who need service in the form of repairs or scheduled maintenance. Dealerships are usually composed of several buildings housing various departments. The showroom, parts, service, finance and other dealership components create financial "overhead" that gets passed on to customers. One area where this becomes significant is in the cost of labour and parts for repairs.
About Independent Garages
Differences in labour and parts costs can vary widely between dealerships and independent repair garages. The independent garage, many times a true "mom and pop" operation, enjoys less overhead than dealerships. Independent dealers also offer a more personal relationship for customers. According to Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers' Checkbook, "people are more satisfied with independent repair shops" and independent repair shops tend to be "less expensive than dealers."
Advantages of Dealership Repairs
Dealerships have the diagnostic equipment and proprietary software to analyse automobile computer codes and messages. Dealers perform warranty repair that is usually free. Dealerships have factory-trained vehicle-specific auto technicians who have knowledge that is superior to independent garage technicians. Dealerships are better suited to handle vehicle recalls and service bulletin updates. Dealership technicians also participate in ongoing routine training to remain current on technology and repair procedures.
Advantages of Independent Garage Repairs
Independent garages offer a wider choice than dealers. Independent repair shops are usually located closer than dealerships and depend on their satisfied customers to send them new clients with positive word-of-mouth referrals. Independent garages have lower labour rates and lower parts markups than dealerships. Many "corner garages" are operated by factory-trained technicians who were once dealership technicians who may also have Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification.
For warranty repairs, at home or 1,000 miles away, a dealership is the best option. For amenities like waiting areas, clean rest rooms and a television, dealerships offer these while most independent garages do not. Dealerships may even wash your car after repairs. Remember all of this is part of dealership overhead.
The independent repair shop's greatest advantages are lower labour costs, lower price markups on parts and a more personal customer relationship. An independent garage may also be able to provide faster service and turnaround. Whether independent garage or dealership, it's advisable to get recommendations and/or check records with the Better Business Bureau when choosing a repair facility.
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