Drivers Prefer Independent Service Shops

Consumer Reports' latest survey of repair service satisfaction found that odds are consumers will be more satisfied with an independent repair shop than with a franchised new-​car dealership. The survey found that, in general, independents outscored dealerships for overall satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness of the staff, and work being completed when promised.

The Independent Shops Outshine Dealership Repair Centers in Consumer Reports Car Repair Satisfaction Survey was based on subscriber satisfaction with repairs on more than 121,000 vehicles‰ÛÓ80,000 of which were repaired at franchised dealers and more than 41,000 at independent shops.

The survey found that, in general, independents outscored dealerships for overall satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness of the staff, and work being completed when promised. With few exceptions, the entire list of independent shops got high marks on those factors. The same couldn‰Ûªt be said for franchised new-​car dealers.

‰ÛÏTo be fair to mechanics at franchised dealerships, our respondents also reported being very satisfied overall with their repairs despite being outscored by independent shops,‰Û said Mark Rechtin, Consumer Reports Cars Content Development Team Leader.

The one automaker that outscored the independent shops was the electric carmaker Tesla, which earned high praise for its on-​time repairs, courtesy, price, quality, and overall satisfaction. But part of Tesla‰Ûªs current success might be because it‰Ûªs new to the market, and it has a relatively small number of customers to satisfy compared with the established luxury brands.

Luxury and upscale brands topped the chart among franchised new-​car dealers, with Buick, Lincoln, Cadillac, Lexus, Porsche, and Acura slotting in behind Tesla, in that order.

There were also some disappointments involving prestige marques. The biggest gripe was about the cost of parts and labor. Mercedes-​Benz drivers, in particular, were much more satisfied with the price they paid at independent shops.

Also dinged for high prices were Jaguar dealerships‰ÛÓas well as Mini dealerships, which often share a service drive (and high prices) with an affiliated BMW dealership. And if you own a BMW, Porsche, or Volkswagen, bargain hunting for a mechanic might not pay off. Owners of those brands were equally satisfied with the price paid at dealerships and independent shops.

The lowest overall satisfaction score came from RAM owners that went to franchise dealerships, but that score was still a 76, which indicates that those consumers are still at least ‰ÛÏfairly well-satisfied‰Û with the service they received.

It Pays to Haggle

Consumer Reports' survey also found that just 19% of respondents tried to negotiate over repair work. But among those who did, 60–82% were able to save some cash at dealerships, depending on the brand. Haggling success was even better with independent shops, with 71–84% of negotiators receiving discounts.

The median amount of money that consumers saved worked out to be approximately $120 for repairs at dealersåÊand $94 at independents.

Some luxury-​car dealers were accommodating at the bargaining table. Those at BMW knocked off a median of $187 from contested repair orders. Mercedes-​Benz dealerships discounted $180 from successful hagglers‰Ûª final bills. Among mainstream brands, successful hagglers saved a median of $152 for Subaru dealership repairs, $135 at VW, and $133 at Chevrolet.

‰ÛÏYou don‰Ûªt have to be a professional negotiator to be successful,‰Û Rechtin said. ‰ÛÏBy simply getting a second opinion on a repair, you can pit repair shops against each other in a bidding war for your business. Also ask for an itemized estimate up front to avoid inflated charges. Dealerships will often lower their price to ensure that you come back the next time."

AudienceSCAN finds that 9.6% of U.S. adults plan on getting auto repairs or body work done this year. 54.5% of them are male. This kind of planning could be a result of owning older vehicles for first-​time drivers. 19.5% of this audience has teenagers living at home.

You could help them in their search for repair shops with ads in the Yellow Pages! This audience is 66% more likely than the average consumer to take action after seeing an ad on YP​.com or in the physical Pages. Also, they're taking notice while driving their clunkers: 14% started an online search after seeing a billboard, and they are 118% more likely than average to notice outdoor ads.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports inåÊAdMall.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.