Are Local Auto Repair Shops Better Than Retail Ones?
- by Maeve Turner
Dealerships and chain repair shops have a variety of staff members that work together to get your car in, out and back on the road. At a local independent shop, you might interact with just one person throughout the process.
Look for ASE certifications and Better Business Bureau accreditation. Before choosing a shop, try scheduling a minor job like balancing your tires.
If you’ve been to a local repair shop a few times, chances are you’ve come to know the service advisor and maybe even the mechanic who works on your car. This is a great way to build trust and to make it easier to get repairs done. You can also get recommendations from friends and family members who have used the shop, or ask online for shops with good reputations.
Many small shops are staffed by experienced, dedicated employees who truly love working on cars. They take the time to explain what’s wrong with your vehicle, why certain repairs are needed and the costs involved. They can also recommend alternatives if the problem is too complex or outside their scope of expertise.
Another advantage of choosing a local auto repair shop is their flexibility in scheduling and availability. Without the constraints of strict corporate policies, they can be more accommodating to customers’ needs. For example, when my mother-in-law brought her car in for a state inspection and alignment, the quick inspection revealed that she needed new spark plugs and brakes. While she wasn’t expecting to spend hundreds of dollars that day, she trusted her local shop and agreed to the additional repairs.
Local shop owners can also be more flexible with pricing, a benefit for car shoppers on tight budgets. They may be able to offer lower labor rates or work with you on pricing if necessary. Additionally, they might be able to use aftermarket parts instead of OE (original equipment) parts, which can save you money.
A big reason why most drivers prefer a local auto repair shop over a chain like Firestone or Pep Boys is that these shops tend to offer more services than just oil changes. They might also include things like tire mounting and balancing, battery replacement, air conditioning servicing, and transmission flushes.
When choosing a repair service, be sure to check their certifications and qualifications. Look for technicians with ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification, which is the gold standard of car repair expertise. Also, choose a shop that offers service guarantees and warranties on their work.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some dealerships and car repair chains (like Jiffy Lube or Meineke) can be a little overbearing when it comes to selling extra services. If you feel like you are getting pressured, consider taking your business elsewhere. Also, be sure to compare pricing between shops and beware of prices that seem too low. That may be a sign that they are cutting corners or using lower quality parts. Checking the shop’s reputation and customer reviews can help you find a trusted and complete auto repair service. Also, be sure to ask the mechanics any questions you might have about their services or your vehicle.
Generally the dealer or chain shops like Firestone and Pep Boys will be more expensive for labor. The reason is the techs there are usually fresh out of school and have very little experience on a particular make or model car. Also the service writers and managers are in it to make money so they tend to upsell as much as possible.
This can cause you to spend a lot more than what you actually need to. They will add a battery thats a bit more expensive than you really need, replace the spark plugs with some high dollar ones or maybe even the water pump which is a big ticket item. This isnt always the case but it does happen.
The other problem is things will break during the repair. Parts get rusted or seized, other parts can break in tight places or the shop may have to clean something up which requires extra time.
The other issue is any shop can and will rip you off. Its rare but it happens. So if the place is shady looking, has no cars outside or looks run down don’t use them. Its not worth it to get ripped off by a dishonest shop.
Supporting the Local Economy
When you spend money at a local reliable auto repair shop, it stays in the community and helps create more jobs. This also keeps more money circulating in the economy, rather than going to a few large cities or corporations.
Dealership auto repair shops are loyal to the car manufacturer, so they are less likely to offer competitive prices or great customer service. In addition, they usually have higher labor costs because their technicians are specialists in the brand they represent.
A good way to avoid automotive repair rip-offs is to become familiar with your vehicle and how it works. You should also know your consumer rights and shop around before making a decision. If you do decide to go with a shop, make sure it is properly licensed and insured. It should also offer a warranty policy that details the terms and duration of its work.
If you suspect a repair shop is overcharging or performing unnecessary repairs, contact the DMV and request an investigation. If the DMV determines there was a violation, it may issue a warning to the shop or suspend or revoke the license. The administrative law judge presiding at the hearing may also order the shop to pay you restitution for any losses you suffered as a result of the violations. However, this does not prevent you from filing a lawsuit against the repair shop or seeking other remedies from other government agencies and private organizations.
Dealerships and chain repair shops have a variety of staff members that work together to get your car in, out and back on the road. At a local independent shop, you might interact with just one person throughout the process. Look for ASE certifications and Better Business Bureau accreditation. Before choosing a shop, try scheduling…