Dealership vs Independent Mechanic - Who Should Fix Your Car?
Posted by: Dan on 12/07/2016
When your car is running right, your driving experience can feel downright dreamlike: every traffic light you encounter turns green, there’s always a carpark available for you at the shops, and even if the police pull you over, it's only to admire your ride.
But when your car breaks down and it’s not something you can fix yourself, that experience can feel like a nightmare.
And it can be made worse by the complexity of choosing between getting the repairs done at a dealer or by an independent mechanic.
Auto repairs are very common, of course – and the industry is only getting bigger, growing by 1.9% between 2011 and 2016. But that doesn't mean that repairs should be a painful and arduous experience. Read on for some tips and techniques for choosing whether a dealer or an independent repair shop is best for you.
One of the chief factors in deciding whether to take your repair to a dealership or an independent mechanic is the question of expertise. If you have a car make and model that is widely available – such as as Ford Falcon, a Holden Commodore, or a Toyota Corolla – it’s usually safe to assume that an independent mechanic will be pretty familiar with your make and model and be able to perform most repairs.
But if you have a very rare Ford, a heavily-customised Holden, or an expensive imported Mercedes, BMW, or Ferrari, touching base with the car’s dealership is the best course of action. While there are many renowned mechanics around Australia that service such luxury car models, by heading to the dealer first, you’re guaranteed they’ll have the expertise and experience you need.
Once you have established who can offer you the best service in repairing your car, the question then turns to cost. While there are numerous good and upstanding mechanics that charge a fair rate, just like with any industry, it’s a reality that some of those in the repair business are more expensive than others, and needlessly so.
A good way to deal with this once you’ve received a quote from one mechanic for the work in question, is to go ahead and take it to another mechanic if you find the cost too high.
This process may at first appear to favour independent mechanics, but you can always ask your dealer if they’d be willing to throw in some extras or give you a discount if you’re willing to come to them for service. They may be willing to do so in order to gain your loyalty as a customer. You may pay a little more initially at a dealership, but get a better deal in the long run.
Warranty and Paperwork
Once you have a mechanic and cost in mind, checking in with your insurance company is often the next step. A big misconception in Australia is that you need go with the repair shop your insurance company recommends. This is not the case; under the The Competition and Consumer Act 2010, your car cannot be sold to you with conditional restrictions.
While using “Outback Jack’s Risky Car Repairs” isn’t recommended, you’re legally entitled to seek repair with whomever you wish, while at the same time having your warranty maintained and remaining valid throughout.
That being said, it’s possible that the car manufacturer may be able to offer streamlined service in-house, and the entire process can be wrapped up more quickly. In addition, while you’re free to get your car serviced anywhere, if the work done was of poor quality – and then you went back to your manufacturer to seek redress or replacement – the manufacturer could try to claim that it wasn’t their defect, but the repair work that caused the problem.
To be sure, you want to see the repairs done properly, but also as quickly as possible. If there’s one thing both dealers and mechanics have in common, it’s receiving lots of phone calls from customers asking, “Is it ready yet?”
If you’ve got multiple family cars at your disposal, the length of time the repair will take is not critical. But if you have one car that you depend on to get you to and from work, time is of the essence, and can dictate who you should choose to complete the repair.
So, rather than handing your car over for repairs and then having to wait by the phone, make sure you have a clear idea of the repair timetable from the start. While some flexibility on your part is necessary, if one provider is especially vague – “Oh, you know, probably 2 weeks but we’ll see how it goes” – take it as a warning sign to look elsewhere for quick and efficient repair.
The Personal Relationship
Finally, an often-overlooked but very important aspect of deciding where to get your car repaired is the value of having a good working relationship with your mechanic.
There are plenty of dealerships that offer first-class customer service, and, with a bigger team and vast resources at hand, that can provide repairs more quickly than an independent shop.
But if you’ve been mates with a mechanic who has been looking after your vehicles for 20 years, you know that when they say, “I’ll have this back to you by the end of the week,” they mean it. That personal connection can be critical in how quickly you’ll have your repair needs met.
Overall, the best way to seek out the right mechanic for you is to speak with both your dealership and an independent mechanic. While there may come a time when you do need make the call and choose one, oftentimes you can also combine their work and save money: for example, your dealership may be able to source cheaper parts for your repairs, while your mechanic can install them at a much lower cost.
So don’t be afraid to lead the process and ensure that you get the best results for you and your vehicle. Once you’ve got your repair all sorted out, you can get back on the road and look forward to driving again.
What has your experience been like using a dealership vs. an independent mechanic for repairs? Do you have a great repair story to share? Let us know in the comments below: