Many folks are mystified by the process of taking their car in for service. There are so many questions: Should the car be taken to a dealership or an independent? Should owners pay for “preventative maintenance” services? Is the estimate accurate or is the owner getting ripped off? Is this repair covered by a warranty? The next few articles will try to answer these questions, as well as dispel some myths and misconceptions.

Where to Go

One of the first questions most people ask is: Where should vehicles be taken for service and repair? If a new car is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, then going to the dealership for warranty work makes sense. But what about routine maintenance? Or cars that are no longer covered by warranties? What makes the best sense in those cases?

Routine Maintenance

For routine maintenance, price is an obvious consideration for most consumers. Most dealerships charge about the same for oil changes as independent shops, but other maintenance services can cost more at the dealership. For example, a fuel injector cleaning may run over $100 at the dealership, but cost somewhat less at Joe’s Car Repair down street.

If a technician recommends a routine service–or the car has reached a factory-recommended service interval–it might not hurt to call around before having the work performed.

Repair Work

Unscheduled repair jobs are a different story. Most dealerships charge a higher customer pay labor rate compared to independent shops. The reasons for this are varied. Most dealership hire union technicians, which means the pay for techs is a bit higher.

Also, dealerships have access to factory training and equipment, and some even offer free loaner cars. For these reasons and others, dealerships justify charging more per hour for labor. The markup on factory parts is usually higher, as well.

Getting Value from Service

Higher prices don’t necessarily mean better service. The key is do some research before visiting a new place, whether it’s a dealership or independent. Check online or with the local Better Business Bureau to see if any other consumers have filed complaints or positive reviews of the shop you are considering.

Dealerships offer the advantage of factory training and knowing the make and model of your car intimately. Independents offer a lower price for similar work, and in some case, may offer more personal service. Much of the decision will rest on what each customer is comfortable with. A little research can go a long way.