There are a lot of people that fear the dealer especially if they are someone on a budget but there are times when a dealer really is the best situation for your repairs. In this How To we will look at some of the repairs that a Factory Dealership does best and when it might be best that you find a local shop.
Cost is always going to be more at a Factory Dealership because they pay their mechanics much more. Most dealer are union shops at least most of the American Car Dealerships. Honestly Unions in Car Dealers are pretty useless for the employees but they do help the standardize how they are paid and what is expected of them on the job. National Chains or individual repair shops don’t usually have the same standards for their workers and they pay them less on average unless the mechanic is the owner or a partner.
So what is the great thing about Factory Dealer Repair Shops? Well the first thing is that since they are the company that made the vehicle they are specialists in its repair. Car companies do make a variety of vehicles and they span many years but within the shop you can bet there are guys that can take apart and put together your vehicle with their eyes closed. Also you have access to all of the OEM Original parts for your vehicle. They may not stock every part but they can get them and often if you go to a small shop or even a national chain they will use aftermarket kinda work parts instead of what was actually on your car when it was built. Another thing is that dealers are a network and the mechanics have a support chain. If they find something they have never come across they can reach out to the network and support people and find an answer quickly.
This is great but if you don’t have something difficult or unique wrong with your car then you don’t necessarily need to get the work done by a Dealer because it will just cost more.
For instance a friend just asked tonight about a bill they got for close to $1000 for four new tires, a few small bulbs like their license plate light and an alternator belt replacement. I think they also got their fluids changed. This is a lot for that service and the vehicle isn’t new so it is probably in their interest to get the work done someplace less expensive.
A Tire Warehouse or National Company that sells Tires is often the best place to get a new set of tires but you need to do your research. Between different brands, Sizes and Ratings of the Tires you can pay much more than you should for your vehicle. Also look for coupons.
For small maintenance like changing fluids this is something the average owner should be able to do themselves along with changing a few light bulbs. If you aren’t able to do this because you live in an apartment with no place to work then research a reputable shop. Fluids like Oil and Transmission Fluid are often a ripoff though and you might want to actually pickup some higher quality products at a local parts place. As for Transmission fluid I can say never use anything but authentic Honda Transmission fluid in your transmission or you could kill your transmission but if you have a Chevy or a Ford you won’t run into that problem. You have to know about your vehicle if you expect it to last if not that bottle of fluid could mean $2500 transmission replacement.
Large Repairs Might Be Best Done At A Dealership
Many vehicles require that their timing belt be replaced at scheduled dates and this can be a difficult job that requires a strip down of parts of the engine. You will need a variety of gaskets and probably a water pump that should be replaced if it runs off the timing belt as many do. I know that some dealers will give you a flat rate of about $500 for this service and honestly if you aren’t doing this work yourself I would select a dealer to do it. Since its a higher level but scheduled maintenance job they will normally have a couple mechanics that specialize in this service. They might also do other work but the large number of times they replace these belts in their career means they have found all the shortcuts that can be taken without jeopardizing the work. Meaning they know when to pull out a hand or torque wrench rather than just fire up their impact gun and zip the bolts down to a guestimate tightness.
Our friend that asked about this and the reason why I thought it was a good topic to cover probably could have done just fine getting the work they needed done at a local shop. They would have saved a few hundred dollars that they could have put into other parts of the car or saved for the future.
If the vehicle is under warranty or if there is a service recall that would cover the repair then you always want to take the vehicle to the dealer. BUT don’t let them squeeze in some other things while you are there so they can make back part of the free repair unless you know for sure you need the service and they are the best place to have it done.
No one likes to pay more for the same service but sometimes Dealer will provide a better service. They have access to all the technical manuals and specialty tools and many cars do require specialty tools that are only for that make of vehicle. A local shop just won’t invest in Manuals and tools or training for their staff.
The most important thing as a car owner is that you take some time to research your vehicle. Just do some web searches for your car and see if you can find some of the problems that people are having. Watch some videos and learn how to do easy maintenance or ask a friend to help.