When faced with necessary auto repair services, car owners face a years-old debate: Is it better to take a car into a dealership, or to one of the independent auto repair shops in the neighborhood? Conventional wisdom says that while a dealership offers better service, an independent shop offers better prices. But there’s a middle ground that often offers the best of both worlds: specialized independent shops. For example, this might be a Toyota repair shop (or Acura repair shop, etc.) that isn’t associated with a dealer but services only a few makes of cars.
To continue the example, here are a few reasons you might consider taking your car to a Toyota repair shop:
- Training Levels
There are basically two types of training certifications: manufacturer-backed and Automotive Service Excellence-backed. Dealers often claim an advantage in training because their technicians are manufacturer-certified (which translates into higher labor costs passed along to the customer).
But dealerships don’t necessarily have the best technicians; many independent auto techs have even worked for dealers in the past. Make-specific shops have an advantage in that their technicians are likely to have trained extensively regarding cars from one or two automakers at most — in this case, Toyota and perhaps another popular import brand such as Honda.
- Overall Costs
Auto repair costs are a top concern for almost every driver, but it’s important to compare costs knowing exactly what you’re getting. Dealerships are known to pad their service costs, especially since dealers tend to make more money off their service departments than they do off new car sales. That’s a big incentive to head to an independently owned shop instead.
Even when compared to generalized independent shops, specialized shops come up on top. A specialized shop may save you money where a general shop can’t, since technicians are more familiar with the cars — and therefore able to diagnose and fix problems more quickly and with less experimentation.
- Personal Service
Dealerships often claim that they offer better service, but surveys tend to show otherwise. If you pick a local auto shop and stick to it, you’re more likely to develop a personal relationship with the workers there — which will translate into better communication, higher quality work and sometimes even better pricing.
So, what’s the verdict? Would you be taking your car to an independent Toyota repair shop, or to a dealer? Or would you just stick to a general service garage?