The Dealership Alternative

The Dealership Alternative.

Dealerships tend to suggest that your maintenance services have to be done at the dealership or your warranty will be void. This is not true, independent repair facilities can do your maintenance and in most cases for a considerably lower cost.

Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council states “It’s a common misconception that only car dealers can perform the maintenance services on a newer vehicle that is under warrant. Clearly, consumers can have maintenance services done by their local independent service shop without affecting your warranty, even though dealers and manufacturers often suggest the opposite.”

According to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act the manufacturers are prohibited from voiding the warranty because maintenance and service are performed by independent non-dealer facilities.

Most independent shops have all your vehicle maintenance and service schedules available to them. While it is required that you keep records to show that the required services have been done to maintain your warranty, it can be done by any facility.

So, the question becomes should you use an independent repair facility? It is suggested that dealerships have factory trained technicians to perform your services. That may be true, but likely the dealership may have one or two “A” techs, and it is also likely that those are not going to be the technicians that are doing your maintenance. Independent repair shops have multiple sources for training and continuing education as well as access to manufacturer technical service bulletins (TSBs) Most independent repair shops can and do offer a level of professionalism that meets or exceeds what a dealer can offer, but with a much more personal experience.

The other side of this story is fast food version of service facilities. Do you really want a mechanic working for minimum wage servicing your vehicle? The middle ground would be to find a good service facility with ASE certified technicians.

There are many advantages of an independent repair shop, obviously in most cases price is a huge advantage. Along with lower prices you will usually get a much more personal experience. At the dealership you deal with a service advisor. In almost every case these advisors are paid on a commission of what the sell.   Does that even sound ethical? For a service advisor to make a living they usually have to ‘sell’ $60,000 to $80,000 a month in services. Warranty repairs on your vehicle are not going to allow them to meet that criteria. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking or math to realize that there is a lot of pressure for those advisors to ‘upsell’.   My feeling is that yes, you do need to know what your car needs to meet warranty requirements, and yes, your vehicle will need maintenance and repairs along the way, however, do you want someone that has to ‘sell’ work to make a living advising you on what those needs are?

The personal attention that most independent repair shops offer can be quite appealing. You can actually talk with the technician that is performing your services. You can ask questions and get straight answers, that tech has had his eyes on your vehicle and can tell you what he has seen. When you are working with the service advisor, in most cases that advisor has not actually seen the issue he is telling you about. That issue that is represented as being critical and has to be fixed right now may in fact be a minor concern that just needs to be monitored. Often there is a lot lost in the translation between the technician to the service advisor when the advisor has not had his eyes on the concern.

Independent shops have the option of providing either original equipment (OE) parts as well as aftermarket parts. A good repair shop can advise you on when OE should be used and when aftermarket parts can be used without compromising the quality of the repair or service. Without question in most situations if an aftermarket part can be used, there is a significant savings in the price of that part. Having the option allows the repair shop to pass that savings on to you. Overhead is another thing that impacts the cost of repairs. The dealers have bright shiny shops with lots of buzzers and bells. All that glitter costs money and be assured, the dealership is not absorbing that cost. I have seen repair bills from dealerships that are easily twice what I would be charging for that same repair.

As I write this I am realizing that I could continue on this subject for longer than a blog entry should be. I will close with the suggestion that if you are currently taking your vehicle to a dealer for your service work, I would advise you to look at an independent shop as an alternative. At R&L Automotive, I can help you with your needs and advise you on what is needed for your warranty requirements as well as save you some expense. I have worked in more than one dealership over the years and I know how they generally operate, where they have values and where they are ‘selling’. Things are not always what they appear to be.

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