Independent Shops Outscore Dealers in Satisfaction Survey

A new survey has found that, on average, customers looking for vehicle repairs are happier when they use an independent garage rather than a new-car dealership. 

The survey, conducted by Consumer Reports, polled its subscribers about their satisfaction with repairs on more than 121,000 vehicles. Of those, 80,000 were fixed in a franchised dealership while about 41,000 were taken to independent shops.

Overall, the survey found that independent shops outscored dealers in customer satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness of staff and work being completed on time. There were a few exceptions, but the independent mechanics outscored the dealers in almost every case.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Safest Family Sedans

Having a strong service department is very important for dealerships to turn a profit. “As far as the profitability is concerned, NADA data show that service/part department business is responsible for approximately 40% of total dealership gross profits (new and used sales account for between 24 – 28%),” said Laurence Dixon, Senior Automotive Analyst for NADA.

Not all was bad with the dealer service though, as most respondents said they were satisfied overall with repairs completed. Even RAM owners, who reported the lowest overall satisfaction with their dealers, gave a score of 76, representing a“fairly well-satisfied” customer base.

Tesla was the one automaker that outscored the independent shops. The company is praised for its on-time repairs, courtesy, price, quality and overall satisfaction, though Consumer Reports notes that the high score may have to do with the small number of customers the new-to-the-market company has to service.

SEE ALSO: Tips from a Salesman On How to Buy a New Car

High prices were also listed as a major issue at Jaguar, MINI and Mercedes-Benz dealerships, where most respondents say they paid less for repairs at independent shops. On the other hand, BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen owners report paying roughly the same prices at independent shops and dealers.

Only 19 percent of respondents say they haggled over the price of their repair, but of those that did, 60 to 82 percent say that saved some money at a dealership. An even better 71 to 84 percent say they got the price lowered at independent shops.

“Generally, there is a cost discrepancy when a consumer chooses a genuine factory part compared to an aftermarket part,” said Dixon. “Consumers must determine the “true cost” of a repair when choosing a new-car dealership or an independent repair shop. What may seem cheaper at first may not be at all if a faulty or an inferior part causes a repair failure.”