- Car Care & Maintenance
Having your Car Serviced at a Dealership- a necessity or a scam?
Worth the price or a rip off?
I know this will garner a lot of opinions, which I will respect, there are still owners that insist on 3,000 mi oil changes when the industry experts have deemed it a farce so people will have their own beliefs and that's okay. I personally think getting your car serviced at a dealership, unless it is warranty work or something specific and highly technical like with a hybrid car, is a complete rip off. Here is what started my thinking this way.
I bought my first brand new car at an AMC dealership back in the mid 1980s. It was a 6,400 dollar Renault Alliance 2 dr sedan. This was my first ever dealership experience and they were nice and explained why their mechanics know your car best. I didn't know any better and of course I wanted to keep my car running smoothly so I agreed. I thought the service costs were really high but I sucked it up and kept going. After I had the car for a few years and the warranty was expired I noticed my speedometer wasn't working right. It would jump all over the place from not moving to registering really high. I took it in to the dealership, explained what was happened and left it for them to figure out? I got a call a few hours later and was told the remedy was going to be over 300.00. They went through some mumbo jumbo scientific jabber saying that this went wrong which then caused this to break etc. I refrained because this didn't sound right to me, I at least wanted a second opinion before I spent that much. Here is the kicker and what forged my negative opinions.
I had the local mechanic that my parents went to for their repairs look at it. His finding was completely different than the dealers. According to him I only needed to replace a speedometer cable that was less than 30.00. I paid him, he fixed it and I was good to go again while saving over 270.00. I went back to the dealer and said my "peace" and have never been back for service since. Here I was thinking that you bought their car from their dealership and you're going to let them work on it and they have the nerve to "screw" you this badly? No thanks!!
I started going to a Michel Tires Plus center because I knew the manager there and he had always been very trustworthy. He had actually left some other service chains because of their dishonesty. I went to him for over 10 years and I've gotten quality service on every car I've owned since, from Honda's to Mitsubishi's etc. For the record, Michel Tires Plus in now under new management and are very dishonest. This prompted yet another leave by my good friend who has now finally found a permanent home at the highly regarded Bob Sumerel Tire & Service center.
I almost found myself "falling again" for the service scam when I bought a certified used 2009 Honda Fit sport last year. This is a great car that I truly love and it seemed the more that I read about its service needs the more nervous I got. They come with a "maintenance minder system" which tells you when your car needs service. Instead of mileage for an oil change it calculates how good your oil still is and gives you a percentage display on the dash. It doesn't need changing until the display reads 15% and miles don't matter. Of course if you drive very little I would still change it at least once a year to be safe. Well after almost a year and 9,000 miles I hit the 15% mark and had to make a decision. I followed my heart and talked to Doug, my manager friend and told me his wife has a 2012 Civic and they were real familiar with what Honda's "need". Just to be safe I gave him a list of everything that the maintenance minder says I should have done, it also gives a code name and number which coincides with a service need when the display reaches 15%. There is a book that explains what all of the numbers and letters mean, that's how I knew. It was an oil change & filter change, rotate the tires and inspect a lot of different parts.
I brought it in to Doug the next morning and waited on it. like I usually do. After about an hour my car was finished and it cost me 28.00. I got a discount for having AAA, tire rotations are always free with oil changes as well as inspections. I was confident that it was done correctly after more than 10 years of dealing with him. I spoke to the Honda dealer and their cost was 279.95 for the exact same thing so another huge savings on my part. Now I'm not a fan of the jiffy lubes & valvoline instant oil change type places but if you have an experienced and proven reliable mechanic or auto care center then trust me you will get the same service and save a ton of money.
I would like to finish again with this being my personal opinion from my experiences. Until I have a car that "blows up" after a non dealer service then I will remain a believer. Sadly some of my friends and family still use dealerships for service and don't agree with me and again that's okay, its their money!!