Are Car Dealers the Cheapest for Car Maintenance?

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I’ve grown up believing that the service department of a car dealership is the most expensive place to get your car repaired or serviced. I attribute that to my Dad, who taught me at a young age to always take my car to an independent repair shop to get the best price.

I carried that belief into adulthood, and only now am I starting to realize that’s not always the best approach.

To be fair to my Dad, maybe that was true 20 years ago. Maybe dealerships have realized they need to be competitive with other shops to keep customers coming back. Whatever the case, it’s time to give car dealerships another look for service.

A couple weeks ago I shared some thoughts on getting cars to the 200,000-mile mark and pledged to keep my 2008 Audi Q7 in tip-top shape so I could reach that milestone. The first step was new front brakes. The Audi dealer quoted me about $600 for new pads and rotors, which shocked me and sent me running to my nearest independent shop. The dealer said the Q7 uses special pads and rotors that cost more money than those for the typical car. I was skeptical and did some research online in addition to getting three other quotes from local shops.

The first shop, which specializes in European cars and is locally owned with a long history of business in town, quoted about $650. The second shop, also a European specialty shop, but only in business for the last two years, quoted $690. The third shop, one of a chain of local stores famous for honesty and low prices, quoted $800. All of them echoed the dealer and said the parts are not common and simply cost more.

In this case the dealership offered the lowest price. I managed to save even more money by opting to have the rotors machined instead of replaced, but that’s an option I had to request.

Prices will obviously vary depending on the make and model of your car, the availability of parts, and the rates charged at various shops. The lesson I learned, though, is to include your dealership when shopping around for the best price on repairs and service. Even you, Dad.

Where do you find the best prices on car repairs?

-tgriffith

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Used Audi Q7

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