Independent shop owners/employees: What makes your shop better than the dealership?
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    1. #1

      Independent shop owners/employees: What makes your shop better than the dealership?

      Often we refer to work done at the dealer as the best quality/most official work you can have done on your car since they are the supposed experts and backed by the manufacturer. At the same time we rant about the poor value from "stealerships." To those of you who work at independent shops, what makes you better than the dealer?

    2. #2
      Member thegoodson's Avatar
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      The ability to truly care about customer needs vs wants, and helping them understand the difference. I have the unique ability to take ensure the care of every person in my store, whether they spend money now, or ask for their future business. No gimmicks.

      Also, we are more knowledgeable in my specific field than likely any service writer or counter help peddling same or similar products and services. We are the industry standard because we specialize.

      Unfortunately, in my opinion, the dealership service department exists to do warranty repair, and to sell cars off of "expensive repairs", when a new car is only $xxx/month.
      Last edited by thegoodson; 04-02-2017 at 07:13 AM.

    3. #3
      Quote Originally Posted by thegoodson View Post
      The ability to truly care about customer needs vs wants, and helping the understand the difference. I have the unique ability to take ensure the care of every person in my store, whether they spend money now, or ask for their future business. No gimmicks.

      Also, we are more knowledgeable in my specific field than likely any service writer or counter help peddling same or similar products and services. We are the industry standard because we specialize.

      Unfortunately, in my opinion, the dealership service department exists to do warranty repair, and to sell cars off of "expensive repairs", when a new car is only $xxx/month.
      Well said . What line(s) do you work on?

    4. #4
      Member Rmeitz167's Avatar
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      In my experience being all about private shops and running a show to support said shops for 2 years. I have now been a dealer tech for 4+ years. I think we exist to fix the mistake of the 95% of "independant" shops who do nothing but mess things up and get in over their heads. I am in full support of the 5% who do a good business. It forces the people who own my dealership to be fair, and match or beat prices. That is good for the consumer
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    5. #5
      Member gonzo08452's Avatar
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      These guys literally details why they're better than the dealer. However their prices are the same if not higher.

      http://www.tokyoautomotive.com/Placdentia-Oil-Change

    6. #6
      The dealership doesn't let you swing by on off business hours to pick up a product even when you are hours late from when you said you would stop by
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    7. #7
      Member thegoodson's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by PsychoVolvo View Post
      Well said . What line(s) do you work on?
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    8. #8
      Quote Originally Posted by Rmeitz167 View Post
      In my experience being all about private shops and running a show to support said shops for 2 years. I have now been a dealer tech for 4+ years. I think we exist to fix the mistake of the 95% of "independant" shops who do nothing but mess things up and get in over their heads. I am in full support of the 5% who do a good business. It forces the people who own my dealership to be fair, and match or beat prices. That is good for the consumer
      I would agree that applies to a good portion of generic indy shops, probably not 95% but I'm not going to argue numbers I can't substantiate. However, independent shops that specialize in a few makes/models (VW/Audi/Porsche, Subaru/Toyota, any variation of the above), are the ones that I think are typically as good as a dealer for the most part for vehicles that are out of warranty but still need service. Most of those types of shops have techs who are dealer trained but have left the dealerships for one reason or another.

      Those types of indy shops tend to not scoff at aftermarket parts or modifications, and will use practices and techniques that may REPAIR a car instead of just throwing parts at it.

      I know a local VW/Audi shop that frequently repairs the crap flex joints VW/Audi uses in their exhaust systems with off the shelf generic flex joints while saving the customers hundreds if not thousands of dollars when compared to buying the one piece downpipe/catalytic converter/flex joint that VW/Audi would love to sell you. While that is nothing spectacular or unique, it is an example of the type of service an independent shop may offer over a dealer.

    9. #9
      Member BostonB6's Avatar
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      I think there's a bit of a difference between a general Indy shop and a specialized Indy shop. It's been my experience that a shop that specializes in the make of your car generally does good work. That said, although it may cost more, I've found that a dealership, with its specialized diagnostic tools and manufacturer database of repair info, generally diagnoses and repairs the problem correctly on the first attempt.
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    10. #10
      Member Volkl's Avatar
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      Once my vehicle is our of warranty, I'll have a hard time justifying the costs to bring it to the dealer.

      On my VW, the dealership screwed up the 20K service and forgot to change the fuel filter. When I pointed it out to them, they argued with me that its not needed at 20K. Even though the service schedule calls for it. The dealer also charges $140/hr, and bills parts at "Matrix pricing." VW recommends the part be sold at X, the dealer marks that price up 25%

      I have plenty of independent shops in the area that specialize in VW, then generally charge around $100/hr, and they buy parts wholesale from the VW dealership, and then sell them at MSRP.

      When I had a Wrangler, I brought it in to the dealer for oil changes since I had 5 years free oil changes. Had I brought the vehicle there for service, they charge $180/hr.

    11. #11
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      Most dealerships I see will only have one or two techs that actually have a clue, the rest are just people with very little experience. I have generally never seen a dealership tech that really impresses me. I personally have over 20 years of experience and am always keeping up with technology. Does this mean I'm perfect and never make mistakes? Of course not. But I also charge 1/3 what dealerships do and very rarely have a car come in that I have to turn over to a dealership due to them having specialized equipment that I don't.

      I'm not a shop by the way...I just do weekend jobs (2-3 cars a week).
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    12. #12
      As a customer of an indy shop, I like knowing who's working on my vehicles. I've stopped to bs with them. Talked about other cars they've got squirreled away out back.

      (This is a primarily german car repair shop)


      I've called them before for parts for my E30 (PS pump). They asked around, one of the techs had one sitting in his shed, within half an hour it was in my hands. Can't do that with a dealership. I just like knowing who I'm dealing with.

    13. #13
      Geriatric Member Aonarch's Avatar
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      No corporate BS.

      Lower hourly rate.

      Usually better techs, if at a legit well-rated specific indi.

      Will talk with you and shoot straight.

      YRMV.

    14. #14
      Its difficult to make generalizations, since it all boils down to people. I've never been to a VW dealer for a car repair, but that's because I own a Corrado, and the VW dealers aren't even sure what they are. I asked the local VW service writer a question about my Corrado and he looked up and said "Corolla? You need the Toyota dealership".

      A lot of indy shops don't pay well, so they hire high school dropouts that want to learn...on your car. To me, fixing a car isn't that difficult, but diagnostics can be. So I'll try and find a shop with a good diagnostician first. If you don't diagnose the problem correctly, you have little hope of a successful repair, no matter how skilled a tech you are.

      If I have to find a new shop, I'll usually do something to my car that might be a tricky diagnosis but an easy repair and see what comes back. If I get "A vacuum hose was loose, so we fitted it and you're good to go" I'll return. If I get "Your fuel injectors need cleaning/replacing" I'll make like the roadrunner and hightail it out of there.
      Last edited by a_riot; 04-02-2017 at 01:54 PM.

    15. #15
      Quote Originally Posted by a_riot View Post
      Its difficult to make generalizations, since it all boils down to people. I've never been to a VW dealer for a car repair, but that's because I own a Corrado, and the VW dealers aren't even sure what they are. I asked the local VW service writer a question about my Corrado and he looked up and said "Corolla? You need the Toyota dealership".

      A lot of indy shops don't pay well, so they hire high school dropouts that want to learn...on your car. To me, fixing a car isn't that difficult, but diagnostics can be. So I'll try and find a shop with a good diagnostician first. If you don't diagnose the problem correctly, you have little hope of a successful repair, no matter how skilled a tech you are.

      If I have to find a new shop, I'll usually do something to my car that might be a tricky diagnosis but an easy repair and see what comes back. If I get "A vacuum hose was loose, so we fitted it and you're good to go" I'll return. If I get "Your fuel injectors need cleaning/replacing" I'll make like the roadrunner and hightail it out of there.
      Sounds pretty accurate. My old 2000 Ford Ranger 4.0 XLT 4x4 had developed an odd misfire when it had 150k or so. I figured what the heck, lets do some work. Replaced intake manifold gasket, had injectors serviced, few other things and put it back together. No change. I had replaced the plug wires, coilpack, and plugs about 6 months earlier, so those were left alone. Drove for a little while and finally got around to dropping it off at a local indy joint for a look see. Got a call from them after about an hour saying I had a bad spark plug. They replaced the one plug, and voila, problem solved. Half hour labor and a $5 part. I felt pretty dumb. Truck ran great for another 20k and then sold it. The guy who bought it from me called a few months later with a similar misfire and I told him to look at the plugs...he replaced them and solved the problem.

      Good mechanics are out there...if you find one it may be worth following them from shop to shop.
      Last edited by jaystone; 04-02-2017 at 03:20 PM.

    16. #16
      Member Atl-Atl's Avatar
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      A close friend of mine owns a Volvo repair shop in Denver. The shop has been around for a long time and they know their Volvos. Not only are they willing and able to repair things that the dealer will simply "price out of the range of possibility" for a lot of customers they are also willing to help the customer in ways the dealership wont. Such as giving customers loaners even for their sh*tty used car repair, used parts when a new part isn't necessary, being open outside of normal hours for assistance, costing significantly less, buying cars off customers that are simply not worth the customers money to repair etc. The list is extremely long. Also, they are willing and able to cater to a crowd most dealerships simply wont; aftermarket parts, racecars etc. They are willing to align your racecar to the specs you want, not just to whatever factory spec is because I can only follow the computers prompts, install aftermarket parts, install slicks or other not street legal parts and on and on.

    17. #17
      Our shop can beat their prices by a large margin, and aside from a couple older guys hanging around that I strictly deal with, all of our local dealerships are staffed by people who barely know their own brand, let alone any other. It's very common that we know more about their own product, so much so that to avoid confusion I research parts and their superceded numbers to help save the half hour for a parts counter guy to figure out what's going on. If we simply left it to them, our parts shipments end up being incorrect very frequently.

      We also fix many nightmare diagnosis, repairs and mistakes from dealerships. One of customers with a Hyundai Entourage went to FOUR different dealerships and got quotes for anything from "all four 02s" (sure, they all failed at once), to a transmission replacement when I figured out the only issue was that his intake boot was torn. Or the customers that took their Ranger into the local ford dealer for power locks to be installed, and instead of plugging some factory actuators and switches into the existing harness, they got a terrible aftermarket kit and threw them in the doors with tack welds and assorted, random screws. They then wired the door lock actuators wrong so it would unarm while locking, and arm while unlocked.

      A good deal of our business is fixing other "professional" mistakes. It a scary thing how much trust is instilled into dealership when the likelyhood is that their techs are the most likely to not care or actually know what their doing.

      Our Indy shop also caters to performance, have excellent relationships with our suppliers, will have conversations with our customers and recommend/not recommend repairs, suggest other vehicles, not charge for inspections, fit our customers in at a moments notice is possible, give rides, show our customers the exact issue, and in general educate them so they feel comfortable with the job their paying for.

      At the end of the day our customers and us are humans, it's hard to get there with a random dealership.
      Last edited by WALS1; 04-02-2017 at 04:14 PM.

    18. #18
      Quote Originally Posted by Rmeitz167 View Post
      I have now been a dealer tech for 4+ years. I think we exist to fix the mistake of the 95% of "independant" shops who do nothing but mess things up and get in over their heads.
      You non-dealer guys have no idea how true this is.

      Thirty minutes ago I just helped one of my service advisors push a car across our lot. It's a 2009 WRX. It needed head gaskets, but the owner decided to save a buck and have them replaced at an independent shop rather than here. Fine. The aftermarket shop bolted the engine back together, but now it won't start... so the owner had it towed here for us to fix. I'm worried they may have screwed up the timing and lunched the valves. We'll see, I guess.

      But, hey, at least he saved money on the gasket replacement, right?
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    19. #19
      Member Unilateral Phase Detractor's Avatar
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      I've been very unhappy going to independents to fix our old Ford Escape. They either didn't fix the problems or used incredibly cheap parts that failed within 10k miles. The VW independents are good here, but the prices are no better than the dealership with a discount.

      I think indy shops have their place especially with niche brands like Volvo, but for mass market the dealership is the place to go especially when they send you a $50 off coupon.

    20. #20
      Quote Originally Posted by TurboMinivan View Post
      You non-dealer guys have no idea how true this is.

      Thirty minutes ago I just helped one of my service advisors push a car across our lot. It's a 2009 WRX. It needed head gaskets, but the owner decided to save a buck and have them replaced at an independent shop rather than here. Fine. The aftermarket shop bolted the engine back together, but now it won't start... so the owner had it towed here for us to fix. I'm worried they may have screwed up the timing and lunched the valves. We'll see, I guess.

      But, hey, at least he saved money on the gasket replacement, right?
      I think the issue is that an "independent shop" can mean almost anything.

      It can mean "your friend who is really good with cars and offered to it for $100 and a case of beer", or it can mean "Bob's 10 minute oil change (we do timing belts too!)", or it can mean "Euroworx Atohauz oramathon Audi specialist", or it can mean "Pebble Beach quality restoration shop with a hermetically sealed cleanroom."

      Those various options will completely runt the gambit in terms of quality and price. Add to that, the work that needs done can run the gambit. There's throwing on a new set of brake pads, and there's diagnosing some mysterious computer fault that only shows up with a dealer-only scan tool. The former can be done by anybody with half a brain for most cars, the latter may truly need the dealer's resources.

      In the end, you just have to carefully consider what your needs are and go with the provider that matches it. Dealers are the obvious choice for warranty work, and for work that might not be easy for a non-specialist shop to handle due to proprietary tools or diagnostics. Specialist indy shops are often the best option for out of warranty euro cars, but you have to make sure you pick the right one. Some of those cut-rate places that are willing to get the car back together with duct tape and bailing wire may be the only option for those who need to get to work TODAY and can't afford a proper shop.
      Last edited by Nealric; 04-03-2017 at 02:45 PM.

    21. #21
      Member Hogan's Avatar
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      My old shop had a great relationship with our customers, and we had the flexibility to cater to their needs better than we would if he had to deal with corporate BS at a dealership. All in all the experience felt a lot friendlier and genuine. There was a lot more trust there, and that meant a lot to me as a tech too, cause way too many people think we're all crooks trying to screw them over, so on my end, knowing our customers trusted me cause they knew me meant a lot. It was also a good bit cheaper, which is nice.

      And above that, the techs that I worked with at independent shops were WAY better than most of the techs that I knew that worked at dealerships (I personally stuck to indie shops, I got a few offers at dealerships, but I liked the indie shops better. The dealerships had the advantage of very thorough and extensive diagnostic equipment that basically just tells the techs what is wrong and how to fix it. If any problems pop up past that, most of them end up stumped. I'd rather have a good tech with good problem solving abilities working on my car than a tech with no imagination and a computer.

      Not saying all dealership techs are like that, I'm just saying that theres a definite human factor at independent shops that most dealerships are just kinda lacking.
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    22. #22
      Member DonL's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by thegoodson View Post
      The ability to truly care about customer needs vs wants, and helping them understand the difference. I have the unique ability to take ensure the care of every person in my store, whether they spend money now, or ask for their future business. No gimmicks.

      Also, we are more knowledgeable in my specific field than likely any service writer or counter help peddling same or similar products and services. We are the industry standard because we specialize.

      Unfortunately, in my opinion, the dealership service department exists to do warranty repair, and to sell cars off of "expensive repairs", when a new car is only $xxx/month.
      Quote Originally Posted by PsychoVolvo View Post
      Well said . What line(s) do you work on?
      Quote Originally Posted by thegoodson View Post
      Passenger/light truck tire and wheels retail
      Might I ask where? I'm looking at some summer tires now, and some winter tires later in the fall.
      Quote Originally Posted by jamie@vwvortex
      I'm not grouping everyone together - I would have said everyone in this forum is a moron.

    23. #23
      Quote Originally Posted by BostonB6 View Post
      I think there's a bit of a difference between a general Indy shop and a specialized Indy shop. It's been my experience that a shop that specializes in the make of your car generally does good work. That said, although it may cost more, I've found that a dealership, with its specialized diagnostic tools and manufacturer database of repair info, generally diagnoses and repairs the problem correctly on the first attempt.
      I have had the complete opposite experience. I see situations and have been part of a situation where the dealer just throws parts at the issue. In some cases, the parts don't come close to fixing the issue and you are back and forth to the dealer. I have also gotten the call from the dealer saying we cant replicate the issue, but a quick google search shows well documented fixes and parts to the issue you took the car to the dealer for. My experience has been outside of warranty, find a good indie that specializes in your brand or model.

    24. #24
      From my experience the quality of ALL shops has been decreasing over the past decade or so.

      It's VERY hard to find a good shop of ANY kind, indy, dealer, or otherwise.

      I don't find as much crookedness, but I do find much more outright incompetence at ALL types of shops.

    25. #25
      Quote Originally Posted by GT-ER View Post
      Most dealerships I see will only have one or two techs that actually have a clue, the rest are just people with very little experience. I have generally never seen a dealership tech that really impresses me. I personally have over 20 years of experience and am always keeping up with technology. Does this mean I'm perfect and never make mistakes? Of course not. But I also charge 1/3 what dealerships do and very rarely have a car come in that I have to turn over to a dealership due to them having specialized equipment that I don't.

      I'm not a shop by the way...I just do weekend jobs (2-3 cars a week).
      Its pretty sad when a weekend mechanic(granted you got 20 yrs exp) can do better work than folks who actually work there. I have found I can my do my jobs better as well,hence why i ended up doing all my own work.

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