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Dealer Versus Aftermarket: The Fight Is On

    There is a battle being fought every day in the auto repair industry. And the winner gets your service dollars.
» Part 1: The Dealer
» Part 2: Size Matters
» Part 3: The Independent

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. 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. I 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.

» Part 1       » Part 2       » Part 3
Additional Information provided courtesy of and Warranty Direct
© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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