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Dealer vs. Mechanic: Who Should You Choose for Your Car Service?

Explore the pros and cons of dealerships and mechanics to find the best car service option for your needs.
Published on June 12th, 2020
  Written by 
Adrian Edlington
Adrian Edlington is PR & Communications Manager at Savvy. With a keen interest in personal finance, car loans, the mortgage industry, cost of living pressures, electric vehicles and renewable technology, Adrian's research includes conducting primary data surveys and analysis of up-to-the-minute secondary Australian data sources. His work on behalf of Savvy has been featured on ABC.net.au The Conversation, the Sydney Morning Herald, AFR, News.com.au, The Age, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, SBS On The Money, 7News, Car Expert, Which Car, Drive.com.au and more. In his spare time, Adrian enjoys mountain biking and business podcasts.
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   Reviewed by 
Bill Tsouvalas

Reviewer

Bill Tsouvalas
Bill Tsouvalas is the managing director and a key company spokesperson at Savvy. As a personal finance expert, he often shares his insights on a range of topics, being featured on leading news outlets including News Corp publications such as the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, Fairfax Media publications such as the Australian Financial Review, the Seven Network and more. Bill has over 15 years of experience working in the finance industry and founded Savvy in 2010 with a vision to provide affordable and accessible finance options to all Australians. He has built Savvy from a small asset finance brokerage into a financial comparison website which now attracts close to 2 million Aussies per year and was included in the BRW’s Fast 100 in 2015 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. He’s passionate about helping Australians make financially savvy decisions and reviews content across the brand to ensure its accuracy. You can follow Bill on LinkedIn.
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Owning a car comes with a number of responsibilities, one of the most important being regular maintenance. This crucial aspect of car ownership ensures your vehicle runs smoothly, safely and efficiently. However, when it comes to car servicing, the question often arises: should you choose a dealership or a local mechanic?

A 2023 Deloitte study found that 49% of Australians surveyed serviced their vehicle at an authorised dealership, while 43% used an independent provider. Both options cater to different needs and preferences, so understanding the pros and cons of each can help you choose the one that best suits you and your car.

Can I choose who services my car?

It is a widespread belief that you must use dealership services to maintain your car's warranty. However, in Australia, consumer law protects your right to choose a service provider for your car, regardless of the manufacturer’s warranty. This means you can choose a qualified mechanic, including independent workshops, to service your car without voiding the warranty, provided certain conditions are met:

  • The service is performed by a qualified mechanic using suitable parts for your car. This ensures the repairs maintain the same level of safety and performance as genuine parts.
  • The service follows the manufacturer's recommended service schedule and specifications. This ensures your car receives the necessary maintenance as outlined by the warranty.
  • The workshop keeps clear and detailed records of the service performed, including the type of parts used. This documentation is crucial if you need to make a warranty claim in the future.

However, it's important to be aware of a few key points:

  • Some dealerships may offer additional warranty benefits beyond the manufacturer's standard warranty. These benefits might be contingent on servicing your car at their dealership. It's crucial to clarify the specific terms and conditions of these additional warranties before making a decision.
  • Dealerships may have access to specific diagnostic tools or software not readily available to all independent mechanics. This could be relevant for certain complex repairs or troubleshooting procedures.
Car Segment Average Minor Service (AUD) Average Logbook Service (AUD)
Small Car (e.g., Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30) $220 – $320 $380 – $480
Medium Car (e.g., Toyota Camry, Ford Mondeo) $250 – $350 $420 – $520
Large Car (e.g., Holden Commodore, Kia Stinger) $280 – $380 $450 – $550
SUV (e.g., Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5) $240 – $340 $400 – $500
Ute (e.g., Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux) $260 – $360 $430 – $530

You should also consider websites like https://www.autoguru.com.au which allows you to enter your car details and desired service type to get quotes from mechanics in your area specifically for your car.

Comparing service providers: dealerships vs independent mechanics

Whether you choose a dealership or a local mechanic, there are pros and cons to weigh up. Let's take a look at some key advantages and disadvantages of each:

Dealership

  1. Expertise: dealerships employ factory-trained technicians who specialise in the specific make and model of your car. This expertise can be beneficial for complex repairs or adhering to specific warranty requirements.
  2. Genuine parts: dealerships use genuine parts manufactured by the car manufacturer, ensuring they fit perfectly and maintain the vehicle's warranty. 
  3. Convenience: dealerships offer a convenient one-stop solution for both sales and service. Some even offer loaner cars while your car is being serviced.
  4. Warranty compliance: servicing your car at a dealership helps maintain your manufacturer's warranty, which covers repairs for specific components or systems for a set period.
  1. Cost: generally, dealerships are more expensive compared to independent mechanics. The combination of specialised technicians, genuine parts and overhead costs can lead to higher service charges.
  2. Appointment scheduling: booking appointments at dealerships might be more challenging due to their popularity and limited service bays. You may need to schedule appointments further in advance or face longer wait times.
  3. Limited flexibility: dealership service departments may not offer the same level of flexibility in scheduling or repairs as independent mechanics. They might prioritise specific repair procedures or parts over personalised requests.

Independent mechanic

  1. Cost-effective: independent mechanics often offer a more affordable alternative to dealerships due to lower overhead costs and the possibility of using aftermarket parts.
  2. Flexible: independent mechanics often have more flexible scheduling options and may be willing to accommodate specific repair requests or work outside of regular business hours.
  3. Personalised service: many independent mechanics build long-term relationships with their customers and offer personalised service, tailoring repairs to your needs and budget.
  4. Wider range of services: some independent mechanics specialise in specific car types or offer additional services like performance modifications or tyre installations, which might not be available at dealerships.
  1. Varied expertise: while some independent mechanics have extensive experience and qualifications, finding a reliable and skilled mechanic requires careful research and recommendations.
  2. Warranty considerations: servicing your car outside of a dealership might void certain parts of your manufacturer's warranty. It's crucial to check your warranty terms and conditions before choosing an independent mechanic.
  3. Parts quality: some independent mechanics might use aftermarket parts that may not be of the same quality as genuine parts. It's essential to choose a mechanic who uses reputable parts manufacturers and offers warranties on their work.

Additional factors to consider

Beyond the key differences between dealerships and mechanics, here are some other things to consider when making your decision:

  • Your car's age and warranty status: if your car is new and under warranty, servicing at a dealership might be preferable to maintain warranty coverage. For older vehicles, an independent mechanic could be a more cost-effective option.
  • The severity of the service: for routine maintenance like oil changes and tyre rotations, either a dealership or a mechanic may suffice. However, for complex repairs requiring specialised knowledge, a dealership might be preferred.
  • Your personal preferences: consider factors like convenience, level of trust and past service experiences when making your choice.

Making the right choice

When it comes to choosing a trustworthy service provider for your car, taking the time to research and consider your options can make all the difference. Here are some helpful tips to guide you in making the best decision:

  • Read online reviews and recommendations: check online platforms and ask friends and family for recommendations on reputable mechanics or dealerships in your area.
  • Compare quotes: obtain quotes from several service providers before making a decision. This allows you to compare pricing and services offered.
  • Ask questions: don't hesitate to ask questions about the service provider's qualifications, experience and warranty policies.
  • Check credentials: for independent mechanics, verify their qualifications and ensure they are licensed and insured.

By following these tips and taking the time to research and compare options, you can confidently choose a service provider that meets your needs and ensures your car receives the care it deserves.

A proactive approach to car maintenance

Looking after your car involves more than just the occasional check up. By taking a proactive approach to car maintenance, you can keep your vehicle running smoothly and avoid costly repairs in the future. Here are some essential tips to go beyond the basics:

  • Follow the manufacturer's recommended service schedule: your car's owner's manual outlines the recommended service intervals for various maintenance tasks. Sticking to this schedule helps prevent potential problems and ensures optimal performance.
  • Be proactive with maintenance: don't wait for problems to arise before addressing them. Regular maintenance can prevent minor issues from escalating into expensive repairs down the road.
  • Keep service records: maintain a record of all service performed on your car, including dates, mileage and work completed. This information will be valuable for future reference and can potentially increase the resale value of your vehicle.

Choosing the right service provider for your car requires careful consideration. Ultimately, the best choice between a dealership and a mechanic comes down to your individual circumstances and priorities. By understanding your needs, you can make an informed decision that ensures your car receives the proper care and stays on the road for years to come.

If it’s time for a new set of wheels, Savvy can help you compare car loan options from a wide range of lenders, allowing you to find competitive rates and terms to suit your circumstances. Get started with a free, no-obligation quote today!

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The content on our website is produced by experts in the field of finance and reviewed as part of our editorial guidelines. We endeavour to keep all information across our site updated with accurate information.

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