Last Updated: February 12th, 2021
If you have bought a new car, there may be a debate you go through every time the car needs maintenance. Should you go to the dealer for repairs or to an independent shop? The debate is constant between car owners, and it seems that half the people you ask say dealerships and the other half swear by independent shops. There are risks and benefits to both choices, and the option you decide to go with depends entirely on your personal preference.
Do Dealerships Do Collision Repair?
The first question people often have is whether or not dealerships even do collision repair. Dealerships will always have their own service department with trained technicians employed to handle all different types of collision repair for your make and model. However, some dealerships will outsource body repair to 3rd party shops, usually because of time and cost constraints.
Dealerships are highly proficient in standard repair work, but when it comes to bodywork, like that needed after a collision, they tend to focus more on the time it takes to repair a vehicle rather than repairing a vehicle correctly.
Do Dealerships Do Body Work?
Most dealerships do bodywork for the makes and models that they sell. Some dealerships will outsource this bodywork if they don’t have the current capacity to complete it. Many dealerships are under a lot of pressure to complete bodywork quickly. With dealerships, service fees and repair work are often tied to how long the department calculates it will take to repair a vehicle.
This incentivizes the service departments at dealerships to rush through repairs quickly. If a technician can complete a job quickly, under the hours estimated, the dealership makes a profit. And at a time when dealerships margins are being squeezed by online competitors (Carvana), increasingly well-informed consumers (Autotrader, TrueCar), and automakers, they are looking to recoup this lost profit through their service departments.
Are Dealership Mechanics Better?
Technicians at dealerships often have factory training and know the makes and models sold at the dealership very well. But are they better than an independent body shop? Not always. Independent body shop technicians often have the same factory training as dealership technicians, and could be more proficient if they’ve been in the industry longer.
Working on a range of makes and models at an independent body shop gives these technicians a wider range of experience and technical know-how when it comes to repairing any vehicle. Body shops can also be certified as Collision Centers for specific makes and models, meaning they have been independently certified by that automaker for repairs. For example, Subaru, Honda, Volkswagen, and Tesla all require specialized training and certification to complete some repairs.
Collision Repair Shop vs Dealer
The 3 main factors for deciding whether to take your vehicle in to a collision repair shop or your local dealer are:
As far as price of repairs go, the independent shops have the dealerships beat. On average, people who go to dealerships for their car repair end up paying more for those repairs. Independent shops can help cost conscious car owners save money on their needed repairs. However, people who go for the dealers argue that though they pay more on average, the repairs come from more experienced workers, which as we’ve discussed, isn’t always the case.
Arguments over the experience and knowledge of the mechanics for both sides seem to go back and forth. However, one thing that cannot be argued is that workers at a dealership work almost exclusively with certain car brands, while independent car repair businesses work on a wider variety. Dealership mechanics may have more knowledge of that specific car, and, in turn, may do better work due to that knowledge. However, it is not always a guarantee that independent mechanics will know less. Many independent shops around the United States have a blue seal of excellence, meaning they have passed several exams that validate their status. They also have to be recertified every few years.
While most garages have access to the parts required for your car’s unique repairs, some parts are more readily available to dealerships, due to their focus on those certain makes and models. They are more focused on specific cars, and work with those cars exclusively, meaning they know all about specialty parts and their availability.
Repair Your Vehicle Right the First Time
While there are costs and benefits no matter where you go, it is ultimately your personal choice about where to take your car for car repair. Dealerships may have more knowledge about your specific car, but independent shops may be less expensive. The important thing is to do your research before making any decisions and choose the option that works best for you.
If you’re in the Portland, OR area and in need of body work done on your vehicle, consider choosing Mackin’s Auto Body to get your collision repair done right, the first time. Our network of 8 auto body shops have served the Portland community since 1945. Call us to set up an estimate, or read our thousands of reviews here.