Let’s say you’re in the following hypothetical situation: Your 4-year-old Lexus has squeaky brakes, and you know it’s time to take it in for brake pad service. Where do you head—to Lexus repair shops and dealerships in your area, or the auto shop down the street? Here are some of the pros and cons of each choice:
Pros and Cons of the Dealership
The top reason people go to a dealership, especially in the first five years of owning their car, is to receive repairs covered by their warranty. Since this is their only option, it doesn’t really help you to decide whether dealerships actually provide better service. But there is some value in knowing that the technicians in a dealer’s service center spend about 95% of their time servicing cars made by a single auto manufacturer: Lexus repair shops work on Lexuses, and Honda repair shops work on Hondas. Employees may also receive education directly from the automaker.
Overall, prices are often higher at a dealership’s service center. You should also watch out for “shop supplies,” on your bill, since that’s a common tactic dealerships use to pad profits (according to an interview with a former service center manager in Popular Mechanics).
If you are still under warranty, it may pay off to get all your maintenance — even what isn’t covered — at the dealer. This allows you to build a relationship, and may make the dealer more likely to take pity on you when you have a major transmission problem 12 days after your warranty ends.
Pros and Cons of Generic Auto Repair Shops
Costs are likely to be a top concern for any car owner. If you get auto repair estimates from both a dealership and a local shop, you’ll likely find that the local shop offers you better prices. You may also receive better customer service. This is because auto repair shops rely for their business on happy customers wanting to return, whereas dealers have a consistent stream of new owners coming into their service centers.
The downside to an auto shop that services almost any kind of vehicle you bring in is that the mechanics working on your car may have only worked on a similar vehicle once in the past month, instead of multiple times just in the last day. This makes it more likely that they’ll misdiagnose your car’s problem.
You can also split the difference between a dealership and a small local repair shop by choosing an auto repair shop that specializes in 10 types of cars or fewer. This is a particularly good choice if your family has several drivers and cars from multiple manufacturers; you’ll be able take them all the same place and develop a long-term relationship with the staff there.
So, what’s your verdict? Would you be rushing your luxury vehicle to Lexus repair shops, or giving the shop around the corner a try? Share your opinion in the comments.
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