19 September, 2018

Car Servicing - Should you choose a main dealer or local independent garage?

Should you take it to the main dealer, or will a local independent mechanic be just as good? 

The answer might be a little unexpected, but it doesn't generally depend on the company you take your car to, rather the skill of the mechanic looking at your car and what maintenance is being undertaken. Almost all mechanics in the automotive industry are trained to the same standard and their qualifications are awarded by the same body, irrespective of whether they work in an independent or franchised dealership. 

These qualifications cover a whole host of topics including servicing, repairs and fault diagnosis. So whether you visit an independent garage or a franchised dealership, the basic service you get should be to the same standard.


Next we look at cars. There are many different car manufacturers, but since it's initial inception, fundamentally the engine hasn't changed, but what has changed is the reliability and precision with which the engines work. Now you might be sat there saying "But what about the manufacturer specific systems?". Well, I hate to break this to you, but what I call all wheel drive, you might call four wheel drive. They're the same thing, just repackaged using another name. 

Don't get me wrong, some manufacturers do have unique systems, but there aren't that many. To that end, for general annual maintenance, such as servicing it really doesn't matter where your vehicle is taken, simply because the process the mechanic will follow, will be exactly the same, whether you take your car to an independent garage or a franchised dealer. 

The difference comes when your vehicle develops a fault. The reason you get a difference at this point is for a number of reasons. The first is to do with specific brand knowledge. Each franchised dealership sends their mechanics on courses to provide them with knowledge on their specific products, this means they're more likely to be familiar with their brand vehicles problem and may have experienced it before. 

The second is to do with access to brand specific software. Whilst local garages have access to generic diagnostic software, which can help to point a mechanic in the right direction, dealership level diagnostic software is able to access the inputs and outputs in more detail, meaning that combined with the brand specific knowledge, the mechanic is more likely to be able to identify something that doesn't look quite right. That said, although a dealership mechanic may have more brand specific knowledge and access to dealer level diagnostic software, a mechanic from an independent garage should generally be able to diagnose most faults, to the same level, albeit it may just take a little longer and I emphasise the word may. 

In defence of the local independent mechanics, they do benefit you as a car owner. Generally speaking a dealer mechanic will replace parts once they have an idea of the problem, but many car owners who take their vehicles to local independent mechanics simply can't afford to keep replacing parts to find the problem. This means that a local mechanic needs to be absolutely sure of the problem before they start replacing parts. This translates in to a more cost effective repair in terms of parts, something that is really important when the parts cost a couple of hundred pounds. 

Ultimately, there is a reason you take your car to a main dealership as opposed to a local garage and that has very little to do with best care and all to do with resale value. If you buy a new car worth £30,000, then if you intend to sell it at any point you want to maximise that resale value and whether rightly or wrongly, a car with a full dealer service history holds it's value better. Where as if you buy a £300 car and you simply want to keep it on the road, a service with a local garage is probably more cost effective