Dealership or Repair Shop? AutoMD.com Debunks Top Five Myths

Car Owners can Save an Estimated $300+ a Year Opting for an Independent Service Shop, but Should They?

Carson, CA---May 17th, 2010 -- Car owners can save an estimated $300+ a year1on average by opting for their local independent repair shop versus the car dealership according to AutoMD.com (www.automd.com), the most comprehensive and unbiased free online auto repair resource – but should they? In an analysis released today, AutoMD.com debunks the Top Five Dealership versus Independent Repair Shop Myths, helping dissect when it is best to go to the dealership service center (where car owners spend approximately $56.7 billion a year2) versus the independent service and maintenance shop (where car owners can save an estimated 25% on their total repair bill1).

“There are many factors in deciding where to go for your vehicle’s service and repair; and, in some cases, the dealership service center can make more sense than the local repair shop for recalls, warranty work or complex repair issues,” said AutoMD.com President Shane Evangelist. “But for many jobs, if the car owner does his/her research and finds the right independent repair shop, the work required can be done expertly while also saving hundreds of dollars.”

By debunking the Top Five Dealership versus Repair Shop Myths, AutoMD.com continues its mission to empower car owners to make the service and repair decisions that are best for their vehicle … and for their wallet.”

AutoMD.com Debunks the Myths

# 1 THE WARRANTY MYTH
If I don’t get all my service done at the dealership, I lose my warranty.

AutoMD.com: Not true! You are legally allowed to have anyone service your vehicle for issues not covered by your warranty -- provided the job is done correctly -- without impacting the validity of your warranty. This is part of a federal statute enacted in 1975 called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. According to the act, no warrantor may condition the continued validity of a warranty on the use of only authorized repair service and/or authorized replacement parts for non-warranty service and maintenance.” 3 Meaning: you can get maintenance and service not covered under your warranty (such as oil changes, etc.) done at an independent shop without impacting your warranty.

However, if you have a repair issue, such as a broken transmission, which is covered under warranty, the dealership is the best place to have the work performed because the work is free. Of course, always check your warranty and read the fine print to be sure, but the law is the law. (Federal Trade Commission site: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/adv/bus01.shtm#Magnuson-Moss)

#2 THE OEM PARTS ARE BETTER MYTH
OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts used by dealerships are what my car needs, are higher quality than what I will get at the repair shop and there is no chance those parts will ruin my car.

AutoMD.com: Not True! The fact is that OEM parts can fail as well (which is why there are parts and service departments at the dealership) -- and are not necessarily better than other brands of aftermarket parts, which can often exceed OEM specifications. Beware of a dealership that warns you that using non-OEM parts could negate your warranty. According to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, aftermarket equipment that improves performance does not automatically void a vehicle manufacturer's original warranty, unless the warranty clearly states the addition of aftermarket equipment automatically voids your vehicle's warranty, or if it can be proven that the aftermarket device is the direct cause of the failure. And, according to the statute, the burden of proving that is on the dealer.4 Check online to see what parts are available and compatible with your brand and, if you opt for an independent shop, make sure that they are using high quality parts.

#3 THE CHEAPEST OPTION IS THE BEST OPTION
I should always opt for an independent repair shop because they have much lower labor rates and are just as good at repairing my vehicle as the dealership

AutoMD.com: Not True! While it is definitely true that labor rates generally are much cheaper at your local repair shop (as much as 20% less on average) 5 than at the auto dealership, and that many of them specialize by brand and even have OEM-certified mechanics on staff, it is not always the best option, especially if you own a later model year vehicle and the job is complex. For those jobs, dealerships most often will have the upper hand as they not only have the diagnostic equipment supplied by the factory, but also the proprietary and – in some cases - restricted OEM codes and information needed to diagnose and repair the more advanced technology issues in newer vehicles. Opting for the local repair shop for these jobs – no matter how much brand expertise they have and how good they are at repairing older vehicles - could prove costly if hours are spent misdiagnosing; or, worst case, if an unnecessary repair occurs.

However, this myth could soon go away with passage of the Right to Repair Act 6 recently introduced in the US Senate, which, according to the AAIA, “prevents automakers and others from unfairly restricting access to the information and tools necessary to accurately diagnose, repair, re-program or install automotive replacement parts.” 7 But, unless the Act becomes law (and even if it does!), if you do opt for your local shop, make sure they have the right diagnostic tools and ASE and brand-certified mechanics – as well as all the information and codes needed to work with the advanced technology in your vehicle. And, regardless of the outcome of the Right to Repair Act, there is no cheaper labor than free -- which is what you should get at the dealership for work covered under your warranty or in the event of a recall.

#4 THE SERVICE RECORDS MYTH
Dealerships are the only ones who can keep all my service records current, so they will know exactly what my car needs and when to get it done.

AutoMD.com: Not True! While it is true that dealerships do keep your service records current, nowadays they are not alone. In fact, with the availability of easy online programs that maintain and update service records with little effort, car owners should keep their own service records – this is particularly important in the event of a resale of the vehicle. Plus, owner’s manuals almost always provide space for service documentation and most independent shops also keep customer service records. The more car owners understand about their vehicle’s service/repair history and requirements, the more in control they will be of the service and repair experience -- the less likely they are to be overcharged.

# 5 THE RELATIONSHIP MYTH:
I have a relationship with the dealership because I bought my car there, and can trust the service center mechanics to do only the necessary service and repairs.

AutoMD.com: Not True! The fact is that your relationship is with the service writer whose pay is based on the amount of service he/she writes. You have no direct contact with the dealership mechanics or technicians (who more than likely will turnover with frequency), so the relationship is not personal. In a smaller independent repair shop, you are more likely to have a more direct relationship with the owner of the shop and even the mechanic. In all instances, always do your homework, check AutoMD.com to make sure you are getting a fair price quote, and to understand possible diagnoses for your problem --- and always, always research and cross-compare for the best shop for your service issue.

Information is Power:

So, what’s the bottom line? There is no question that dealerships have higher labor rates, and that the American consumer, according to both AIAA and AutoMD.com data, can save an average of 25%1 by going to an independent repair shop. Saving money is important but not all independent repair shops can do the repairs. So, in all auto repair and maintenance issues, caveat emptor (buyer beware)! AutoMD.com advocates that consumers make sure that they do their research and know their warranty and service history. And, importantly, that they check online for the best shops for their individual service issue -- starting with AutoMD.com’s Shopfinder, which provides geo-specific information on capabilities and hourly rates, as well as consumer feedback forums for over 400,000 repair shops and dealerships across the country.

  1. 1 Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Federal Highway Administration Statistics, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), and AutoMD.com. Calculations based on industry vehicle cost per mile and average vehicles per licensed driver resulting in average consumer spend of $971 a year on auto repair and maintenance. Adjusted for industry mix (dealer/independent,) and AAIA savings study suggests consumers spend on average $1,209 a year at a new car dealer and $903 elsewhere. This equates to over $300 in annual savings.
  2. 2 Source: AAIA 2010 Digital Factbook
  3. 3 Source: CHAPTER I--FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, PART 700--INTERPRETATIONS OF MAGNUSON-MOSS WARRANTY ACT, 700.10 , Section 102(c)
  4. 4 Source: Dummies.com: Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/keeping-your-mods-warranty-intact.html
  5. 5 Source: AutoMD.com (Phone survey of over 50,000 dealerships and independent repair shops)
  6. 6 Source: Text of H.R. 2057: Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act of 2009: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-2057
  7. 7 Source: AAIA; Right to Repair Act: http://www.aftermarket.org/Government/RighttoRepair.aspx#overview

About AutoMD.com

AutoMD.com™ (www.automd.com), a wholly-owned subsidiary of US Auto Parts Network, Inc., (Nasdaq:PRTS), is the most comprehensive and unbiased free online automotive repair resource designed to empower car owners with the best way to repair their vehicles. Backed by a team of automotive data specialists and certified auto mechanics who are advocates for the car owner, AutoMD.com allows both car owners and DIYers to 1. Diagnose car problems, 2. Know how much auto repairs should cost, 3. Understand the steps needed and the time it should take with How-to Auto Repair guides, and 4. Find the right local auto repair shop at the right price for their issue and 5. Get your auto repair questions answered by the AutoMD.com community.

Unlike other repair sites, AutoMD.com does not rely on revenue from repair shops or dealerships, so car owners can rest assured that AutoMD.com repair shop listings are completely unbiased and designed to help car owners choose the best, most affordable shop for their vehicle issue.

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