So you are experiencing some issue with your German vehicle. Whether you own a BMW or Mercedes Benz you know that you own an awesome albeit very complicated vehicle. You want to go to the most competent and trusted service center for your vehicle and you don't want to feel like you've been ripped off! If this sounds like the thought process you have had then here are some things to think about between dealer vs an independent. For the purposes of the comparison we have naturally used our shop (M-Spec Performance) as a reference point many times however this should apply to some reputable German car or European specialty shops around the country.
The dealerships have access to manufacturer training and tools. Logically they would be the best equipped and most knowledgable source to repair your Audi, BMW, or Mercedes Benz. If you step into a dealership you will probably hear some boasting about the dealership's superior capabilities in handling repairs where as independent shops just can't do the work. This assumption although makes sense on the surface is completely wrong once you dig a little deeper and get to know some facts.
At our shop many of our technicians first started their careers at the dealer. They have since moved on and continue their training with us. We send our technicians to continued training specifcally for your BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen an Mini Cooper. Our technicians attend 40 hours minimum of training annually to stay up to date and competitive in the repair knowledge and techniques of the industry. The top independent shops around the country also share this philosophy. We also promote and encourage ASE certifications. ASE is the recognized certification in the independent repair field for technician competency. This is something important to look out for at a top independent shop.
We are also equipped with the same tools and diagnostic equipment as the dealership. We invest heavily in having the proper equipment so our expert technicians can perform your service in the proper and most efficient manner. This combination makes a top indepedent shop a true dealership alternative.
Something that top independent shops are also uniquely experienced in is the common repairs and effects of higher mileage and slightly older vehicles. Once a vehicle is out of warranty, vehicle owners generally don't return to the dealership due to the high costs and lacking customer service. Independent shops are then tasked with caring for these vehicles and the unique repair and maintenance needs that the manufacturers are just not accustomed to and have not experienced. On average, Americans are keeping their vehicles for 10+ years now! This creates a need for service centers that know how to take care of older vehicles. This is where top independent shops are the clear choice.
Instead of titling this portion "Customer Service", I chose to use the word trust. The nice smiling faces and the complimentary croissant and coffee are nice while you wait. Even the loaner vehicle is convenient benefit but can you really trust the dealer? Dealerships although they may advertise as "family owned" are more liken to the big corporations that are generally less ethical. Big corporations are driven by numbers and sales goals. At the independent level, all of the top shops are truly family owned. Many shop owners have had dealership experience where the customer was just not taken care of. As a budding entrepreneur they felt they could fill a need. That need is to take care of people first. At M-Spec Performance that is the core of our why. We take care of people. Our clients and our team members are of the utmost importance to our existence and we go through great lengths to satisify the needs of our people. Along the way we have provided our clients with a trusted advisor, an excellent warranty that exceeds the dealership (3 year, 36,000 miles), courtesy rental or loaner vehicles, and many other benefits that rival the dealerships. The most important part however is that we care deeply about our people which is shown with every facet of our business. The top independent shops are always fighting for your trust. The purpose of this section is not to discount or talk badly about the dealership experience but just to shed some light on the motivations of both the dealerships and independent shops.
Reputation is another trust qualifier. Simple search on yelp and google will generally bring up less than stellar customer reviews for most dealers. Top independent shops will have glowing reviews and the nice thing is most of these happy customers can be contacted through yelp and google.
No one wants to get ripped off. Car repairs are a high anxiety event and a grudge purchase. We all know that, we don't have to sugar coat things. In general independent shops will be less expensive than the dealership on 95% of the repairs. Speaking from our perspective we have seen that on average we are about 30% less than the dealer across the board. The reason for this is expenses. Dealerships are generally much larger operations than independent shops with much larger overhead. There is also many management levels which have big salaries. This causes a need for higher profits. Now I am not saying that the services of a top independent shop are going to be "cheap" but certainly less expensive than what you would pay at the dealer. Many times you are paying for an increase in quality of service with a longer warranty for less money. That seems like a win-win to me.
I hope this little article has given you something to think about. Ultimately take your vehicle where you feel comfortable. Call up dealerships and independent shops and ask questions! I hope you will be have the best vehicle service experience possible.