Auto Tech

Car owners prefer independent repair shops, chains to dealers – CR

Car Owners Prefer Independent Repair Shops Chains To Dealers Cr

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This may be one of those survey results that prompts a hearty “duh” from the average car-savvy reader, but Consumer Reports released a report Wednesday suggesting that owners prefer independent repair shops and chains to dealerships when it comes time to take their cars in for repairs. Repairs being the key word here; we’re not talking about routine maintenance or scheduled service. This is about getting your car fixed on your own dime when something goes wrong.

CR surveyed nearly 11,000 of its members who reported their experiences with 11,670 repairs across 36 auto repair chains (such as Goodyear, AAA Car Care and Firestone), independent shops and dealerships. They were scored on 12 attributes: honesty; price; the quality of the work; the amount of time it took to complete repairs; communication about the repair; whether or not the problem was fixed the first time; the accuracy of the initial cost estimate; the shop’s willingness to negotiate on price; the presence of free perks with service (such as car washes, loaner cars, and shuttle service); the presence of discounts; the proximity or convenience of the shop’s location; and the presence of guarantees or warranties for work done.

Broadly, independent shops and chains scored higher marks for honesty, cost and the quality of their work. Dealerships scored higher marks for comfort and perks, while chains were noted for their convenience — more than 80% of respondents took their cars to a repair shop within 30 minutes of their homes, CR said. But at the end of the day, there are some things only a dealer can tackle, namely tasks that require specialized equipment or training to complete. Some makes, such as Tesla, are repaired almost exclusively by branded service facilities. 

Surprisingly, there was little overlap between the highest-rated dealership and those most often utilized by customers. Acura, Lexus, Mazda, and Volvo service departments were all highly rated, despite not appearing among the most-often used, which were Tesla (89 percent), Cadillac (61 percent), Audi (54 percent), Ram (54 percent), and Subaru (52 percent). But it’s a different story down at the bottom of the list; where two of the three lowest-rated dealership experiences — Hyundai (40 percent) and Jeep (39 percent) — were next to only Chrysler (31 percent) and Dodge (29 percent) for franchises least-often utilized for repairs. 

CR notes some trends that enthusiasts would take for granted. Owners of newer cars are more likely to have them repaired at dealerships in order to take advantage of (or preserve) factory warranties and to have specialized equipment (such as safety systems) fixed or calibrated. Owners of older vehicles were more likely to patronize independents and chains. The full list of ratings is available on CR‘s web site with a subscription. 


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