Dealership vs. Independent mechanic: Who to choose for car repairs and maintenance

By: Daniel Kim

Featured Image – “이유미 – LEE Yumi” by KRWonders licensed by CC 4.0

Notice the 2nd item on the list – Horn: check operation. Or how about this side-stitcher – Indicator lights: check operation.

I know that most of you feel that taking your vehicle into a dealership is the right way to service your trusty transportation apparatus. This article will hopefully convince you otherwise.

I’m sure there are some good, honest dealerships out there…..okay I had to stop myself before I started laughing too hard. There is NO SUCH THING.

What if I told you that most of a dealership’s profit comes from its service department? Or that Service Managers and technicians are required to aggressively up-sell maintenance work that you don’t even need?

I did an internship in my Junior year of high school in the service department of a major import brand’s local dealership. One time, I saw a technician play ‘F1 pit stop’ with a customers wheels, hitting the lug nuts in rapid succession with his air gun. After destroying them, he grinned to his fellow mechanic and fired his gun in the air, the whir symbolizing his satisfaction with the infantile deed.

Okay, you still don’t believe me. You think, CarCrazyDan’s got some kind of vendetta against dealerships. (Well, I kind of do). Would I change your mind if I said you could save a few thousand dollars every year if you found a reputable independent mechanic?

Porsche Boxster 30k minor service schedule

Porsche Boxster 30k minor service schedule

Read through the above list carefully. Notice the 2nd item on the list – Horn: check operation. Or how about this side-stitcher – Indicator lights: check operation.

The only thing they actually do is change your engine oil and filter. Okay, so how much to have ’em make sure your horn and turn signals work? Oh, well, about $1500, no biggie.

Yeah, it’s a Porsche, so servicing costs are a little bit more expensive than your average import, but most minor services look very similar to this one. If they actually told you they only really change your oil and filter for a 30,000 minor service, who do you think would pay $300? Even the most unknowledgeable car person would think twice about shelling out that kind of dough for such little in return.

I’m not saying you have to go buy a lift, a complete Snap-On tool set and a Haynes manual, but I do recommend you find a good local mechanic who you can trust. Start with Yelp, or ask around on an Internet board for your specific vehicle.


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