Christie's Car Keys


Is it more expensive to have your car serviced at a dealership?

This is a great question with an answer that 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.

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 person to person. 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.

So what if it takes less time, 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.

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. So bottom line, it is usually better to have your car serviced at a dealership.

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

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