Lifting the Veil on Dealer Service Departments
As someone who has spent a significant amount of time behind the scenes at a dealership, I can honestly say that all those doors and garages you see in a dealer’s service department are not there to shut consumers out of the loop. You may have encountered this, but some independent and third-party mechanics promote the sense that dealership service departments charge exorbitant fees for the same services and parts they provide. Nothing could be further from the truth — in a lot of ways the dealer offers many things that private shops simply cannot.
Reasons to Take Your Car to a Dealership for Repair
Economies of scale play a significant role in why dealerships can offer lower prices on services for your matching make of vehicle: if a shop has to stock parts and technicians who can handle a wider range of makes and models, their overhead will go up to account for the variety. Dealer service departments also have the luxury of a laser focus — they work primarily on one manufacturer’s vehicles and often have special relationships with the factories and distributors associated with that brand. This knowledge is passed on to you in the form of savings and expertise.
Furthermore, dealer technicians are often required to take courses in servicing taught by your vehicle’s manufacturer, whereas private garages more than likely have a staff with a sporadic array of credentials. When you’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in a vehicle, the knowledge that your car is in the hands of an expert is welcome news indeed.
Check for Additional Fees and Charges
None of this is to say that there’s nothing you should look out for when dealing with a service department at a dealership. For example, I suggest scouring your bills and invoices for a charge known as “shop tools fee” or something similar. More often than not, this fee is greatly inflated beyond the actual cost of the materials. Ask about it at your next visit — it’s not unheard of for a service department to remove this charge when prompted.
Check back with Honest Car Dealer for more car buying and maintenance information and helpful tips in the future.
July 22, 2012 by Jamie Rettig