Whether you have chosen to buy your car new or used, the one thing consistent with every vehicle is that it must be maintained and repaired. A few brave souls either know how, or think they know how, to do regular maintenance and some even know how to take care of major repairs. Most drivers, however, will probably need the services of a professional mechanic. The question is, do you follow the dealership's recommendation and use their service department or should you visit a locally run and operated garage? Both options have pros and cons and it takes some information and careful consideration to reach the right decision for your specific needs.
At the Dealership
There is no doubt the cost of maintenance at the dealership is higher than you are likely to pay at a local garage, unless of course, your vehicle is still under warranty. In that case, most service departments offer regular maintenance and repairs with no charge. Once that warranty expires, you can expect to pay premium prices for the services rendered. The markup comes from several factors.
The technicians in the dealership service department are factory trained on a specific make of cars and they have hands-on experience working on the same cars and trucks they see daily. This expertise costs a bit more. The training the dealership service department staff undergoes is extensive and ongoing. The dealerships have special arrangements with the manufacturers to pay for the classes and seminars the mechanics participate in. These classes usually pertain to one specific make and cover the entire vehicle. As issues or common problems with the model come up, the manufacturer will create new training material to ensure the mechanics are up to date on the various aspects of the car. With this type of education, the consumer can be sure his or her vehicle is receiving the best possible care.
Dealerships also have access to, and only use factory parts. This means that all replacement parts were designed by the manufacturer specifically for that make of cars. While a local garage can often provide factory parts, they usually do not. Instead they use non-brand parts that may be sufficient, but they may not fit perfectly or provide the best results.
Outside the Dealership
While there are some very enticing reasons to consider using the dealership's service department for your vehicle's maintenance and repairs, there is plenty to be said for choosing a local garage as well. For one, you would be supporting a local business. Many of these business owners started out as dealership service techs and really know their stuff. Since it is so difficult to compete with the dealerships, these companies often headhunt for the best and brightest talent in the area. While they may not have the same certifications as the dealership techs regarding your specific make and model, they often have experience and connections to other professionals that may not exist in the dealerships.
Speaking of connections, it is unlikely that you as the vehicle owner will be able to make any kind of connection with the service techs at the dealership. There is something to be said for having a personal relationship with the person who works on your car to ensure your safety, as well as that of your family and passengers. Many people also feel that the local techs care more about their clients.
Regular Car Maintenance
Whether you choose a dealer or your local garage, it is important to be informed. Naturally, customers are encouraged to bring the vehicle back for car maintenance and necessary repairs. In some cases, the service department may recommend service beyond an oil change and tune up. Without a doubt, a regular oil change and tune up is essential to keep the vehicle running smoothly; however, some dealerships and repair shops will encourage extra services that can really push the price way up. Most auto experts suggest keeping the car maintenance to the necessities and not being sucked into the scare tactics and other techniques used to get consumers to spend more. The best bet is to be informed about the specifics of what your car needs. Check your owner's manual so you know what maintenance is needed and when.
Of course, repairs are a different story. Again, with the dealership's close relationship with the manufacturer, you can be assured of good car and expert opinions. At your local garage, you will likely find a better price and often, more personal customer service.
The Bottom Line
When choosing between a dealership and local garage, money is also likely to be a consideration. In most cases, the local garages offer better pricing than the dealerships. The lower prices are in part designed to entice customers away from the dealerships, but they are also in place to help keep the garage going with plenty of customers. In the end, the ultimate decision lies with you and your specific needs.