Keep Your Car in Great Shape

The dealer will have the factory original parts for your vehicle, as well as technicians trained by the manufacturer to be familiar with repairs specific to the brand. Dealerships are also equipped with expensive factory diagnostic computers. According to CR’s repair shop survey, satisfaction ratings for dealer service departments range from very good (Acura, Lexus, Mazda, and Volvo) to not-so-good (Jeep and Kia). So your experience may depend upon what kind of car you own.

Best For
Fixing infotainment system glitches: “If the screen in the center of your dash has a habit of freezing up, or the touchscreen-activated climate controls aren’t working, the dealership is the most likely place to find someone with the know-how to fix problems that maybe only a factory-authorized technician can access,” Ibbotson says.
Price: Varies widely

Safety system recalibration: “Anything from a crack in your windshield to a minor fender dent can upset the calibration of the sensors that make features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control work,” says Ibbotson. The sensors can be located on the thin plastic that covers your bumpers, or inside the windshield. Many independent shops aren’t equipped to recalibrate the sensors so that they can accurately calculate the car’s position in relation to other cars and road hazards. The dealership will most likely have the equipment and experience to do this work correctly.
Price: $300-$600

Software updates: Modern cars are basically rolling computers, with dozens to hundreds of computer modules controlling everything from power windows to engine and transmission operation. “A software malfunction can cause any number of problems—a poorly shifting transmission or exterior lights that don’t illuminate, for example—and may have to be tackled at the dealership, which should have technicians trained on these specific problems,” says Ibbotson. Newer cars may be able to receive software updates wirelessly, but older ones will need face time with a technician if there’s an issue.
Price: $150-$200 (more for luxury marques)

Warranty repairs and recalls: When a manufacturer issues a recall for things like faulty airbag components or malfunctioning brakes, the dealership will fix the problem free of charge. Same with malfunctioning cars still under a factory warranty. “An independent shop could possibly fix the problem, but you would have to pay,” Ibbotson says.

Price: $0

Not So Great For
Saving money on service and repairs that could be done at a qualified independent shop for less.