What Repair Shop Should You Use: Dealer, Independent, Chain?

What Repair Shop Should You Use: Dealer, Independent, Chain?

For many people, there is an inherit distrust when it comes to mechanics and the shops they work for.

The problem is, like any business, there are some crooks out there.

Many people will are more willing to trust a dealership or a large chain; for example, Active Green and Ross or Midas.

The thing to remember is; these are all businesses that exist solely to make money.

Service advisors face pressure to upsell the customers on things like, fancy oil and filters, engine flushes and services your car may not yet require.

The key to a mutually beneficial relationship is knowledge.

If you read the owner’s manual for your car (you know, that book-like thing crammed in your glove box), you will find the required service schedule developed by the manufacturer for your vehicle.

The guidelines in the owner’s manual will give you the confidence to deal with service advisors, and once you see they are not trying to mislead you, this will build trust.

Should you only use a dealership?

Well, there are some advantages to using a dealership’s service center. They have the latest information in regards to recalls, and needed service tweaks: i.e. a bolt on a steering component may need a re-torque.

Usually when you take your car in for the oil change, the technician checks your record, and if there is some service advisory, will do the needed work free of charge.

Also, you know you are getting OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts. Since these technicians work only on that brand, they know it inside out and have a unique insight into its particular quirks.

That being said; it is not always in your best interest to use only the dealer, as OEM parts are more expensive.

A real life example is my cousin, who has a Chevy Silverado with a 6.6L diesel engine. It was having a hard time starting due to an issue with fuel leakage. A diesel owner’s website reported that these particular engines tend to suffer from leaks around the fuel filter head.

Now, his specific leak was around the plug for the heating element within the filter head. So, we priced a replacement part at Chevy. I nearly choked when the parts advisor told me the part was $1,400.00 before installation. I then inquired as to the existence of a rebuild kit. I was told Chevy did not have one.

I did a little more digging on a site dedicated to diesel trucks, and found an aftermarket kit for $20.00 US – it has all the seals and O-rings to make replacing the filter head a needless waste. It was shipped to my door, and the total cost of the kit and delivery was under $50.00, my cousin saved $1,350.00 plus hours of labour charges.

An independent shop or a diesel specialty shop would be willing to install this rebuild kit. However, many chains and dealerships will outright refuse to install parts they cannot upcharge for. Of course, they would say, “We cannot install any part that we cannot warranty”.

By spending time looking for a shop, or even researching the repair that is required, you could save a lot of money.

As a general rule consider using aftermarket parts and a chain or independent shop for little things like filters, brakes, shocks and batteries.

I suggest using a dealership for major repairs, strange electrical problems and precision parts (engine pulleys, seals etc.).

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Robert is a lifelong car nut. He works as a Technician with 16 years experience and has multiple trade licenses. Having worked on vehicles ranging from Porsche's, fire trucks, trains, and industrial/mining equipment, he has a varied and broad knowledge base to draw on. But his favorite thing to do is drive, be it on two or four wheels.