Why Should You Consider a Quality Independent Shop Over a Dealership?

Some vehicle owners and lessees swear by dealer service. Perhaps it’s because they have a warranty that stipulates dealership service as part of the binding contract. Maybe it just makes them feel like their car is getting the best care because, after all, who knows it better than the dealer? 

Well, the truth of the matter is that an independent shop or mechanic might actually know even more and have better solutions to help you repair your vehicle. Not only that, but they’re not going to try to force expensive brand parts and upsells on you like the local service department that has quotas to meet. 

Some dealerships do service very well. Others just make it feel like… well, like you’re at a dealership. And not in a good way. The biggest difference in the way these two do business is a clear sign of who is probably the better choice. Independent shops will do whatever they can to resolve your issues. The caveat, of course, is that if your vehicle has an issue that should be seen by the dealer, the shop will tell you.

It’s rare that you’ll ever have a dealer send you to an independent shop because that means they’ll lose valuable business. 

The Right Time for the Dealership

As we mentioned, there may be a time and place for the dealership. For example, if you have a warranty that will cover the repair, you’ll be better off letting the dealer do it at no cost. You can always call the dealership first to find out whether you’ve got coverage. 

Another instance is if you have a maintenance plan for your vehicle. This is a post-sale maintenance contract that’s sold to you as an upsell on your vehicle purchase. It entitles you to maintenance and service at low or no cost, which is another time it’s okay to head to the dealership (and even preferred). 

And of course, those who are leasing vehicles will need to adhere to the lease stipulations, which usually includes that maintenance, service, and repairs are all done at the dealership. Some leases will allow outside work to be done, but each contract and dealer is different. One final time that you’ll obviously choose the dealer is if there’s a recall on your car, truck, or SUV. 

These are the biggest indicators that you should stick with a dealer, but beyond this, it’s probably better to choose a local independent repair shop. For one thing, they often have better prices and they’re not going to try to talk you into stuff you don’t need. It’s not to say that you should avoid dealers at all costs. It is just a good idea to pick your battles, if you will. 

Trust a Local Shop for Everything Else

If you aren’t facing any of the circumstances that make a dealer the best choice, you can find several perks in choosing an independent repair shop for the quality repairs and service that you need. independent shops often have much lower labor rates. Plus, they’ve got access to both dealer parts and aftermarket parts, as well as used parts for extreme situations or if you drive an older car where parts are hard to find. 

A dealer isn’t going to suggest going to a junkyard and buying a used part—and yet, for some vehicles, it’s the best solution. A reputable shop will always be upfront about all of your options. They’ll also be trying to work with your budget so that they can keep your business, and they’ll be able to come up with more creative solutions and help you get the outcome that you need without spending hundreds at the dealership. 

Did you know that many independent shop owners and employees are former dealer mechanics? What’s more is that a lot of them are total gearheads, and they’re passionate about the work that they do. That alone makes them much more worth your time than a dealership where mechanics might just be punching the clock and following the mold. 

Tips for Choosing the Best Automotive Repair Solution 

Ultimately, it’s about choosing the best solution for your situation. Whether that’s a dealer or a local independent shop, here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to narrow down your options. 

  • Look for the repair service that offers scheduling that fits your needs. For example, if you need evening service appointments, find those. If you need last-minute repairs or a quick once-over, you’ll be more likely to get that from an independent shop than a dealership where waiting lists are usually at least a week out for service. 
  • Consider what’s wrong and the repair that needs to be performed. Look for a shop that specializes in that kind of work. This is where working with an independent shop comes in handy again because their mechanics are typically more well-rounded and capable of providing more solutions. 
  • Think about your budget. Dealers aren’t going to care how much you have to spend. Either you can afford the repair, or you can’t. It’s no sweat off their back. It may work in their favor because then they can talk you into their branded credit card or dealership line of credit. When you work with an independent shop, they’ll do everything they can to do repairs at an affordable rate and help you get back on the road without breaking the bank. 

The Case for Independent Dealers 

In case we haven’t painted a good enough picture thus far, let’s break down the real reasons that you should consider independent shops when your vehicle needs repairs. 

Independent shops are loyal to the customer, not the carmaker

When you choose an independent shop, they’re not tied to any single manufacturer or brand. Therefore, they will focus on delivering the results you deserve and helping you fix your car in the best and most cost-effective way possible. Dealers are loyal to their brands and may discourage things like using aftermarket or generic parts or even trading a vehicle for a different make they don’t sell. 

Most shops have better warranties on their repairs than dealers

Dealers don’t want people to use their warranties—it’s just the nature of them. If you look at most dealership warranty and maintenance programs, you’ll see that the type of things that are covered are much less common in vehicles and that the common issues aren’t covered at all. Not only that, but they’ll offer limited warranties on their repairs unless you choose to purchase an extended warranty. A local shop will just give you a better warranty, period.

Local shop owners live and work in your communities

When you are working with an independent shop, you’re working with members of your community, not some big faceless dealership corporation. This gives you the chance to get personal service that you don’t usually find at dealerships. People who work in communities want to build the trust of their local customers and keep that trust, so they’ll go above and beyond to deliver what you need. 

Dealers still want to sell cars 

Sure, dealers will do repairs. However, they’ve still got vehicles to sell. A lot of dealers will see a vehicle pull into the service lane and then run the VIN to check not only what service needs performed, but also how much you have left on your loan, what your credit is like, and whether you might be a good candidate for a sale. If so, they might be less willing to look into repairs or they might attempt to push you towards a trade instead when it’s not necessary. 

You’ll be known by name, not VIN or vehicle model

Speaking of your VIN, that’s mostly what dealers remember. They might see you and remember your face when you come in, but they don’t know your name and they might not even remember what you drive until they look it up. At a local independent shop, you’ll get greeted by name and treated like a close personal friend, not just another car in the service line. 

For people who hate getting repairs because they feel like another cog in the machine, an independent shop can eliminate that feeling.

There are more flexible scheduling options with most independent shops

This is usually a big selling point for many people. You often can’t wait days, or even weeks, for work to be done on your vehicle. And yet if you’re at the mercy of the dealership, you might have to. Local shops tend to have more flexibility and availability in their hours. Some even have more weekend and evening availability, making it easy for those who work and have families and events throughout the week. 


In addition to being more well-rounded, mechanics at independent shops also typically have more experience, thanks to age, than those working at dealerships. Dealers like to hire inexperienced techs and train them to save on payroll. They can train someone and get the same level of skill, in their eyes, as a mechanic that charges three times the entry-level rate by doing the training themselves. Most mechanics branch out and look to local independent shops later in their career, where their experience will be more appreciated. 

What to Expect 

When you get to an independent shop, you’ll be greeted by someone who genuinely wants to help you. If you haven’t called ahead, or even if you have, they’ll have you confirm the information about what’s wrong with the vehicle or what brings you in. They will explain their process to you, and then get started on the work. 

If you choose to wait while repairs are being performed, most independent shops have a small waiting area for their customers. You may even just be waiting for the diagnosis, which can be done in short order in most cases. Once they know what’s actually wrong and what is required to make the repair, they’ll come to discuss everything with you, including the costs involved. 

Some shops will even take you out to the garage and walk you around the vehicle and show you what they’re referring to. They have faith in their diagnosis and are happy to share their knowledge with you. Other shops might not offer a walkaround until the end, but you can always ask if this is an option. Some repair shops might not do this at all because of liabilities, so keep that in mind. 

The Bottom Line

Dealers are great when you’re looking for assistance with a recall or warranty issue. They’re helpful for car sales and even if you want to trade in the vehicle you have instead of paying for huge repairs and maintenance costs. However, they’re not always the best place to take your car. They might not be the right place at all. If you want personal service, dependable results, and a connection with a repair service that you can trust, keeping it independent is the best way to go. 

Another great way to know which solution is best—choose the one that tells you they might not be it. You’ll rarely find a dealer that will suggest you go somewhere else for better service or prices. An independent shop, however, will have your best interests in mind. This means they’ll be honest about what they can and can’t do, and whether there might be a better solution to your car troubles than what they can offer. Sure, factory techs have fancy factory tools and access to genuine OEM parts, and they might be so-called “experts” on the brands they work on through a dealership, but they’re more experienced at running the machines and following what they were taught than actually working on vehicles, in many cases. 

If you have a warranty or recall, or another situation that warrants a dealer, that’s all well and good. Otherwise, though, you’ll want to stick with independent shops for the best results and service. 






Written by Strut Daddy's

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