Why You Should Trust Your Local Mechanic Over the Dealerships

by Calyn Ehid

For some, their car is their life. It gets them to work. It gets kids to school. It takes the family on adventures and vacations. It gets them to that special first date at just the right time. When your car breaks down, panic can set in. It is essential to have a reliable mechanic you can trust to repair your car, not only quickly, but honestly. Do they exist?

Brand new cars have manufacture-issued warranties and sometimes this makes choosing a dealership mechanic a smart financial choice. Warranties have fine print, however, and dealerships are trained to upsell you into paying for more repairs than actually needed. Having a local mechanic you trust gives you safety, security and financial savings you might not get when going through a corporate-run garage. Read on to learn more about why you should trust your local mechanic over the dealerships.

Mechanic Working on Engine

Household Name or Name Of Household?

There is something alluring about pulling into a car dealership and seeing the sunshine on all the bright, fresh paint jobs in the lot. The big sign that reads “Toyota,” or “Jeep,” or “Subaru,” lets you know this place specializes in dealing with your type of car. While the name on your dealership is likely a household name, it is not necessarily the name of a household you know and trust. It is important to know the person working on your vehicle has the same safety concerns and value system you do when it comes to repairing your car. Sometimes knowing the name of the household in which your mechanic grew up is intrinsically more important than the allure of a brand name.

The Flat Hourly Rate Trick

Mechanics bill for their labor in blocks of hours, or partial-hours. This is generally true for dealerships and local garages. While a dealership wants your vehicle to be repaired accurately and safely, its main goal beyond those two obvious objectives is to make a profit. The point is, being billed by a dealership for two hours’ labor does not necessarily mean it took the full two hours to do the repair job. While your car might be done in one and a half hours, you are still billed for two hours. During that half hour overlap the mechanics start on a new repair job for another customer, thus increasing their profit margin.

No real way exists to question or observe this unless you stay at the garage the entire time your car is being repaired. Even in that unlikely scenario, you are not allowed in the actual garage for insurance/liability purposes. Local garages bill hourly too. Many local garages do not have the financial prowess of a corporate dealership, however. They know honesty, reliability and return-customers are the best way for them to stay relevant and make the long-term profits required to sustain a local business. This does not mean no local garage will overbill for hours. It does mean you are much less likely to experience such a scenario and instead receive partial hours on your bill from a local mechanic you have known for years.

Secret Service Advisor

Warning: People behind the service counter in the front are usually not the mechanic they appear to be. Who is the person with the big smile and friendly greeting when you walk into a dealership repair center? This person is called your “service adviser,” and are almost always not mechanics. The service advisor only dresses like the mechanics in the garage.

This is the scenario where some upselling comes in to play because the service advisor is a salesperson, plain and simple. A service adviser knows the best upsells are the minor ones. Replacing an entire engine or performing a full transmission overhaul takes a long time and requires viable labor. Dealerships make the bulk of their profits by adding small repairs to your bill requiring 20 min of labor time billed at a flat hour fee. Service advisors can also be on commission. The more they add to your bill, the more they take home on their paychecks.

Local garages are businesses, too. They need to make a profit to stay in business. The message here is not one where every local mechanic is honest and every dealership mechanic is not. You are simply much less likely to have sales pitch from a mechanic you meet face-to-face in your local garage than you are a corporate salesperson dressed in a mechanic shirt.

Tales from A Local Mechanic

Local garages are also diverse. Dealerships are more specialized, servicing only those brands they sell. They also charge more for it and are not necessarily authorized to handle problems outside those specialty areas. Local mechanics can repair more issues at less cost. Local garages also deal with almost any insurance their customers have. Dealerships have handshake deals with certain insurance companies, which means higher prices and more limited options. Break it down further and it means dealership pricing is all about corporate profit. That is not the case with the local mechanic, who is often willing to drive to the next county to get you a part at a better price, or tow your car anytime, day or night, because it is the right thing to do.

Trust Is A Must

When it comes to repairing your car and guaranteeing the safety of it and its precious cargo, local mechanics understand your needs. After all, they are your neighbors and live where you do. Loyalty to local community, professional integrity and prideful work ethics are the foundations upon which most local garages are built. Dealerships know they will have customers as long as their brand of car is made. Local mechanics know to stay in business long-term they have to continue to earn your patronage.