Can I Have My Car Serviced by an Independent Mechanic?
I’ve been listening to you on Radio 2UE with Tim Webster this afternoon.
For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been getting one of my cars (a 1995 BMW 328i) serviced by a local neighbourhood mechanic service center. They do a good job and have been significantly better value than the few times I’ve had it serviced at the local BMW dealer.
My other care is a two-year-old Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI which I do about 5000km per year in, and I have had it serviced at the local Mercedes-Benz dealer. The price for what they did (basically an oil change and inspection) was pretty high but as the car was relatively new at the time, I paid up.
Now it’s due for another (12 months) service and I would like to ask your opinion about getting it serviced at my local independent mechanic, who seems to be able to work on any cars.
I’ve seen Holden/Audi/Lexus/Toyota etc., in there with the local guy. Given the value of the car is it advisable to bite the bullet and pay up at the dealer or can I relatively safely use my local mechanic?
Is the car particularly specialised that it needs the dealer, or would a well set up local mechanic have what's needed to do the service.
Appreciate your opinion and/or advice.
Thanks and regards.
Dealership service is very expensive. A lot of that is simple profiteering, but some of it is because dealers have huge overheads, and the margin on new car sales keeps getting smaller. The servicing business at dealerships is a river of gold for the business, and many car owners believe, by inference, that the warranty requires in-house servicing.
This is not the case in fact.
You can absolutely get your car serviced at a qualified mechanic's without this affecting your new car warranty. The ACCC is very clear on this. It is illegal for a car company to negate your warranty if you do this, and it is illegal for a car company to issue a warranty on a new car subject to its servicing being carried out only at an authorised [BRAND] dealership.
There are, however, three key conditions you need to meet in order to preserve your warranty, and these apply to 'authorised' and independent mechanic services. These are sensible and straightforward.
I have written a comprehensive post about saving money using an independent mechanic and also preserving your new car warranty here.
The short answer is: Yes. You are absolutely free to do this.
Can you relatively safely use your local mechanic? Subject to him being competent (and your experience here indicates he is) your mechanic can absolutely cope with the job.
Standard servicing is straightforward. (Mercedes-Benz would imply that it's up there with re-aligning the Large Hadron Collider, but 99 per cent of it is just changing the oil and checking other fluids and key components for wear - and in this respect Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai are identical... Mercedes-Benzes are 99 per cent ordinary cars and one per cent badge, in as far as the objectivities of servicing are concerned.)
In terms of the car's specialisation: all brands use proprietary software to attempt to sideline independent mechanics. It's easy enough for a mechanic to do a standard service. (Yanking the sump plug on a Benz is about as challenging as doing it on a Kia.) What's harder is if a warning light comes on in the car. This often requires a specialised (and expensive) computer to be plugged in to interrogate the car's computerised fault logs. The proprietary computer used to do this is nothing special. However, the software is unique. So Mercedes-Benz sells it to their dealers at extortionate prices, and their dealers in turn violate you, retail, when you need it to be plugged in.
Luckily, a good mechanic who is independent probably has the closest Mercedes-Benz service manager on speed-dial, and has an arrangement in place to plug the car in, wholesale, for a less extortionate fee, should the need arise. That's about as specialised as it gets.
Warranty claims, service campaigns (the industry term for running fixes) and recalls cannot be handled by the independent bloke. These need to be done at a dealer - but they are free.
I haven't had a car serviced at an authorised dealer for about a decade now. In that time I've owned four new cars. I have a great independent mechanic, and I have never had a problem.
Hope this helps Jim.
Thanks for listening.