Christie's Car Keys

Time for Service - Where Should You Go?

Is it more expensive to have your car serviced at a dealership?  The answer might surprise you. There is often a misconception that dealerships are higher priced. But in reality most are as reasonable, or even less, than independents, even for things as simple as an oil change.

Here's the scoop. Most dealerships use what is called a Labor Time Guide to determine pricing for service work. This guide was developed by the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence organization that sets and develops standards for automotive service) in response to the need for more consistency in pricing. Chilton's and Motors are two common guides that are used by service providers. These guides provide a standard by job for the time it should take to perform service work. By using these standards, customers are assured they will be charged consistently from place to place, and there are no surprises when the bill comes. In fact, even though the work might actually take longer than the guideline suggests, you will not be charged more. Good news, right?

So you might ask, if it takes less time than the guide states should you be charged less? The answer is no, and with good reason. Think about your own job, if you are able to finish a project sooner than expected, would you expect to be paid less? Well neither should the dealership that might have a more efficient technician work on your car on a given day. And again, consistency in pricing is the goal.

Although many independents use time guides as well, there are some that do not. Meaning they might base their charges on actual time, which could result in a higher charge, even if their labor rates are lower.

And speaking of labor rates, they will vary based on the skill level required to do the job. For example, the rate for an oil change is far less than a complex engine overhaul due to the skill level required to perform the work.

One other thing to consider is reputation. Obviously you want to do business with a reputable provider that is reliable and honest. So get referrals, look at online reviews or industry awards, or go with your experience. If you purchased the car from a dealership that treated you well and with respect, then you should have the same experience in the service department.

And finally, keep in mind that there are advantages to having your car serviced at a dealership. Dealerships use factory parts, employ experts certified to work on your vehicle, and some dealerships even provide free loaner cars for service that may require longer to complete.  You can often schedule an appointment for service too so you can bring your car in at your convenience. Of course, warranty work is covered by the factory, so the work is required to be performed at the dealership.

So where should you go? There are lots of good reasons to make the dealership your choice for service with peace of mind.

Christie Walin is Director of Marketing for Modern Automotive. You can reach her with questions or comments at