Dealer or Private Mechanic: Auto Mammoth Advice on Repairs

by / Saturday, 14 April 2012 / Published in Archive, Automotive News, Featured, Information

Dealer or Private Mechanic: Auto Mammoth Advice on Repairs


Your car is a testament of 150 years of automotive ingenuity-forged through grit, sweat, grease, and screeching tires. Today’s cars are complex machines. Did you know that, on average, your engine has roughly 200 moving parts? Fixing just the engine, let alone the over 30,000 parts on your car–is big business. In 2011, AAA released its annual “Your Driver’s Cost” study and found the average car operations cost rose 1.9 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile, or $8,776 per year; based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving. It is no surprise considering the spiking fuel prices, that car owners are holding onto their used cars longer for fear of buying newer vehicles.

According to auto market data firm R.L.  Polk Co., the average car on the road today is 11 years old. Holding onto an older car means that you’re bound to run into worn parts and mechanical failures. collected information from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Federal Highway Administration and the Aftermarket Industry Association on average cost of repairs at a dealer versus an independent garage. The results were that, on average, a U.S. driver spent a total of $1,209 at a dealer to $903 at an independent mechanic. Most of these repairs were common like brake replacement and minor transmission work.

The dealer – private garage debate has been swirling for decades. However, what it boils down to is your answer to one question: is your car under warranty?

It is essential to read your owner’s manual to know if your car is under warranty, and for what parts and service it covers. With today’s cars, their sophisticated electronic and computer control systems—if you are covered by a warranty on your car it may be best to get serviced for repairs at a dealer. They will have the explicit expertise and advanced equipment to best service your vehicle. Your owner’s manual will be your compass.

However, most people don’t go to their dealership for most repair issues. According to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, roughly 70% of people bypass the dealership and choose an independent or aftermarket garage for their work to save on labor and potentially parts costs. This is because, historically, labor is cheaper and aftermarket parts are more affordable.

No matter what decision that you make—dealer or private garage—knowledge is power. Refer to your owner’s manual if you have a newer car. Most people go to a private garage for routine oil changes, wiper blade replacements, or brake service. Be wary of cheap deals however—the mechanic might be a butcher. The internet helps you make sure that you get the job done right. Go to and find one of over 400,000 blue-seal certified mechanics in your area.  Also, do some shopping around in terms of parts and labor costs. Call multiple shops and compare dealers’ estimates with their estimates. Also, a great resource is, where you can estimate your repair by dealer, private shop, or DIY. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, and use this information to your advantage.

Finally, if have been going to a private/independent mechanic and your car has had serious problems that you think are from faulty repair practices—again check your warranty. If you are still covered, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 stipulates that a dealer must honor a warranty. So you still may be able to get serviced and repair the faulty mechanic’s mistakes if your warranty covers it.

Bottom line: routinely check your car for fluids, tire wear, and performance. Do go to either a dealer or private garage before it’s too late—because no matter which you choose, it will cost you in the long run.