Dealer Maintenance vs. Independent Maintenance

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Car repair

Car service shops aren't created equal, but you don't have to always use the dealer shop. Image from Flickr.

When you take your car in for maintenance, choosing where you go is often a difficult question – should you go to the dealer for your maintenance, or go to an independent maintenance shop? There are benefits and drawbacks to both, and the ultimate answer is that it depends on what type of vehicle repairs you are going to the shop for.

When you should go for dealer maintenance

The maintenance shops attached to and authorized by dealerships are often “recommended” when you purchase a new vehicle. For some items, such as manufacturer recalls and warranty work, the dealership is definitely the best place to get the work done. You should also visit the dealer maintenance shop if you have a difficult-to-diagnose vehicle problem. In short, anything that is included in the price of your vehicle should be done at the dealership shop. However, if you have car repair concerns that don’t fall under this purview, the dealership may not be your best option.

When you should look for independent maintenance

Dealership maintenance, at times, can be very expensive. Scheduled maintenance, oil changes, or basic repair jobs are often more expensive at dealership car repair shops because they have higher overhead. You should go to an independent car repair shop for much of this work. Usually, the work will be much less expensive. Independent shops can still use original equipment manufacturer parts if you would like – or less-expensive generics. Read your vehicle warranty carefully, but most of the time, an independent shop will not void your vehicle warranty. Just keep records – including receipts – for all work that is done on your vehicle.

Vetting your independent maintenance shop

Just because an independent maintenance shop is less expensive does not mean you should always go with the lowest bidder. When you are checking out car repair shops, make sure the mechanic you are visiting is ASE certified. ASE certification – from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence – is a non-profit certification. ASE certification is not usually required, but proves that a mechanic has two years of hands-on experience and has passed knowledge tests.

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