Gone are the days when, if your car needed to be serviced, you would simply drop it off at the trusty corner garage. These days, there are several “flavors” of car repair shops that you can choose from. If this comes as a surprise to you, or if you are confused as to which one to choose, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of these different types of repair shops.
The dealership. If your car is still under warranty, then you have little choice but to bring your car back to the dealer for repairs. Otherwise, you risk your warranty being voided. In addition, if a recall has been issued for your particular model and make of vehicle, you can only bring it to a dealer for service. The advantage of bringing your car to the dealer is quite obvious: The mechanics who will work on your car are specialists who have been specifically trained to work on your particular make of car. Given their training and expertise, they are more likely to quickly identify what is wrong with your car and are able to fix it efficiently.
However, there are a number of complaints that you will encounter when it comes to dealerships: They are seen to charge more than other types of shops, the service is impersonal, and you have less recourse in case a problem occurs with your car other than to bring it back to the shop again. Also, there are longer turnaround times - meaning, the time that you are without your car is longer.
The independent shop. These are the corner garages that were beloved by your father and grandfather - only they have upgraded their level of service and expertise. The mechanics working there are more likely to be ASE-certified, meaning they are among the most skilled practitioners in the car repair industry. The shops themselves will have more advanced tools, expertise, and equipment that will enable them to repair most current models.
Since they are closely linked to the community in which they are based, you are more likely to develop a personal relationship with the mechanic (similar to the one you have with your doctor), such that the technician becomes so familiar with your car that he may be able to diagnose what is wrong with it simply by listening to the noises it makes.
The disadvantage? They may not have the qualifications to repair current cars. To confirm their expertise, ask if they are members of industry groups like the ASA or the iATN, or if they are a facility that has been approved by the AAA.
Specialty shops. These specialize in a particular system of your car, such as the cooling systems, electronics, HVAC, transmission, and drivetrain. The main benefit of using one of these shops is that if you have a problem that can’t be identified but know generally which system is affected, the technicians there can easily identify what is wrong and have the specialized tools and expertise to effectively repair the problem.