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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There are two kinds of shops looking for your repair dollars, the Dealer and the independent repair shop. The dealer charges about $80.00 an hour for labor and the independent shop charges about $65.00 an hour. Each is good and can effectively service your vehicle, but they do have differences. This week I want to talk about those differences.
The Dealer...
Lets begin by seeing the strengths of the dealer, beginning with the technicians. The technicians at a dealer are specialists. They are trained by the factory and work almost exclusively on your particular make and model of vehicle. These technicians are on an ongoing training program that not only includes the technicians, but the service manager and service support staff.
The manufacturers provide this training only to their dealers.

The dealers pay for these training programs fully, or in part, to keep up with the latest developments and techniques in service and repair of your vehicles. zSB(3,3)
A well-trained and experienced technician is the biggest asset a dealer, and it's service customers, has.

To keep these technicians and to remain competitive, the dealers generally offer higher salaries. Benefit programs and incentives can also be offered to not only keep the technicians they have, but to attract new technicians. These costs are passed on to the customer in the form of a higher hourly labor rate.
Another strength is the dealer's service facility. This includes all the equipment needed to service and repair your vehicle. The dealer gets help from the manufacturer with start up costs and equipment needed with building a dealer facility. This means they have more cash available that translates to more money spent on the latest equipment that means better service to meet the customers' needs.
This consists, mostly, of special tools from the manufacturer that are initially made available only to the dealers. These special tools increase the quality of service to the customer.
When it comes to servicing your vehicle, size does matter. The dealerships generally have larger facilities with more service bays to meet the needs of their customers. With more service bays, there are more technicians available to take care of customer vehicles. There is a Chevrolet dealership in New Jersey that has over 100 bays and technicians working three shifts to service vehicles.
Another strength of the dealer is it has the name and backing of the manufacturers. Owners of the dealership, or dealer principles as they are known as, pay big bucks to obtain and hold on to the manufacturer's name. This carries the responsibility of manufacturer representation and meeting the standards of proper customer service. This benefits the customer since the manufacturer keeps a close watch on the dealer to be sure they are treating you, the customer, properly.
As the manufacturer's representative the dealer can back up repairs with a warranty that can be honored nationwide. Should a problem pop up, another dealer can do repairs under the warranty and, in most cases, perform any required maintenance while still in the warranty period.
Another strength is the dealership can offer extended warranties for new and used vehicles that are backed by the manufacturer. This makes getting repairs done under warranty easier since all the manufacturer's dealers honor this warranty.
Dealers only carry the manufacturers O.E. (Original Equipment) parts that meet higher engineering and quality standards that only the manufacturer can authorize. Most dealerships offer a 12-month/12,000 mile warranty on parts and labor for service and repairs. Many manufacturers offer some of the best warranties in the business on not only the parts but also the dealer's labor to install those parts.
All these strengths are why you pay a higher labor rate at a dealers service facility than an independent shop, which makes it the main reason for not going back to the dealer after the warranty expires. Some other reasons for not using the dealer's service facility is that they won't usually install aftermarket or high performance parts. To most of us that's no big deal, but it does matter to some. Dealerships tend to be less personal, thus, unfortunately, less trusted.
I have, in my time, worked at a few dealerships and have seen it all; from the good to the bad. There is one dealership in Little Silver, New Jersey I can drop my car off and say, "Fix it." and know I will be treated fairly and honestly. On the other side of the coin, there is a dealership in Lacrosse, Wisconsin that I would never take my car to because the management would just as soon screw you as look at you.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Dealer Vs Aftermarket cont.

The Independent Shop...
For the sake of this discussion I will be speaking about small repair shops and not the chain repair shops like Midas or Meineke. The chain repair shops sit between the smaller independent shops and the dealer.
The biggest strength in any service facility is the service staff. Former dealership technicians start a lot of independent service facilities to be in business for themselves. Because these technicians are from dealership service facilities, they have been factory trained before they left the dealer.
Once they go independent, they can continue keeping current with the latest repair techniques and advancements by taking private classes and getting certified, if they are not already, by the A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence).

This training is not so make and model specific and is different than training by the manufacturer. zSB(3,3)
Certification by A.S.E. is the standard in the auto repair industry and you should always check what kind of training and experience your technician has. Most independent technicians have been certified by the A.S.E. and the manufacturer.

Independent service facilities are a smaller company than large dealerships and customers have a more personal experience with an independent shop. This personal relationship brings a certain amount of trust between the shop and customer. This is something all dealerships struggle with on a daily basis.
The smaller independent shop also has less overhead costs than a dealer and can offer lower hourly labor rate. Added to the lower labor rates is the lower cost of parts since independent shops use aftermarket parts rather than OEM parts.
Most of the time the Independent shop is more convenient than the dealership. Like the shop across the street from where you work or a few blocks from your house, rather than on "Dealer Row".
Another strength is that most independent service facilities will modify your vehicle to your specifications. If you go to the dealer to get some high performance modifications made, they won't do it. There are many independent service facilities specialize in certain makes and models and know them just as well, if not better, than a dealer technician, especially when it comes to making performance modifications.
Along with these strengths come some weaknesses. Independent service facilities do not honor the manufacturers warranties and use aftermarket parts that may not be as good as OEM parts. The warranty independent service facilities offer on repairs and service may not be as long as the warranty offered by a dealer and it only covers parts or labor, not both.
This means if you have a fuel pump installed and it fails 60 days into the 90-day warranty, you will get a new replacement pump but have to pay the labor to install it. Another weakness is your shop is local. If you had that fuel pump replaced in Minneapolis and it fails in Cleveland you are out of luck as far as the warranty goes.
You will have to pay for a new fuel pump in addition to the labor to put it in. In addition the technicians work on anything that comes in the door and may not have the special skills and training to properly, and efficiently, service your vehicle.
In The End...
The final decision is yours. As you can see the dealer and the independent shop both have their strengths and weaknesses. But which is better? It depends on you in the end. You get to try both and decide for yourself which one is the better alternative for you. Hopefully, whichever one you pick, your decision and experience is a good one.
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