Why are dealerships so expensive? Are they ever worth it?

Q: Tom, when should I go to my car manufacturer’s dealership for repair? Is it ever worth the money?

A: The easy answer is if your car is under warranty, go to the dealership, if your warranty has expired, take it to a private shop. You should also take your vehicle to the dealership for any recalls and service bulletins.

In general you will pay much more for your repair at a dealership. You will get a mechanic trained to work specifically on your type of car, but unless you have a rare and complicated problem, a competent mechanic at a local garage will likely give you the same parts and service for up to 40% below what you would pay at a dealership. Some people feel that they need to take their cars to dealerships for factory maintenance. The requirements for factory maintenance are published online and can be performed by any auto repair shop.

I think the most important thing in auto repair is the customer-mechanic relationship. You are less likely to get to know the mechanics at a dealership, and they are less likely to get to know you and vehicle. On the other hand, a dealership represents a multi-million dollar corporation, so they go to great lengths to make sure their service is consistent and reliable. You need to do some research on a private shop before you take your car there because they could be way over-priced, unreliable, or just plain rude.

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