Car Repairs: Should I go to a dealer or a mechanic?

ByGeoff Williams

Updated: October 20, 2023

ByGeoff Williams

Updated: October 20, 2023

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If your vehicle is at the point where it needs some serious first aid, you may be wondering — is it better to go to a dealer or an independent mechanic? And if you have an auto insurance claim that requires car repairs, you may also be asking — does your car insurance cover one but not the other?

These are straightforward questions with no straightforward answers.

Ultimately, it’s your choice whether you take your car to a dealership or an independent mechanic, even when your insurance company is involved. Thanks to the “right to repair” law, which was established in 2005, it’s your call where you take your car for repairs. However, your insurer will have a say regarding the type of car parts that your mechanic uses to bring your vehicle back to life. But we’ll discuss this in detail further on.

Now that we know that it’s up to you where you take your vehicle for repairs, we can return to our initial question: is it better to take your car to the dealer or an independent mechanic?

You can make a great argument for either case. If you initially bought a car from a dealership, you might consider them the experts on your car’s make and model. On the other hand, your local mechanic likely has years of auto service experience and is less likely to overcharge you for repairs since they aren’t operating on commission.

To help you figure out who to turn to in the event your car needs repairs, we identified the pros and cons of going to a dealership versus a mechanic, and will explain how your auto insurer may factor into your decision.

Reasons for Going to a Dealership

You may feel loyal to the dealership that sold you the car, which may compel you to use them for your car repair needs. Its mechanics essentially work on your vehicle’s make and model every day, so it may seem like an obvious choice. There are other sound arguments for taking your car to a dealership whenever you have car repairs, including possible warranties, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and specialized diagnostic equipment.


Reasons for Going to a Mechanic

While some people swear by dealerships, there are plenty of good reasons to stick with an independent mechanic.


So Where Should You Go — a Dealership or a Mechanic?

Again, there’s no right answer. It’s impossible to say for sure because every garage is different and every driver has a personal preference. Some drivers love the peace of mind of going to a dealership, knowing that the mechanic knows the ins and outs of their car, while others have the same reverence for their local mechanic.

If you’re taking your car in for repairs that are related to an insurance claim, and you don’t have strong opinions either way about dealerships and independent garages, it’s probably best to ask your insurer for guidance. The claims department usually has experience working with the local mechanics in your area and likely knows who the best ones are, and if not, your insurer may steer you to a dealership.

Chad Brinkle offered some good advice. Brinkle owns the website, which is an off-road parts and accessories manufacturer. Based out of Lexington, North Carolina, Brinkle rents an office out of Perrymans Alignment & Auto Repair, and so he certainly has an affinity for mechanics.

Still, his advice is worth considering, especially since he feels that sometimes, the dealership is the best way to go.

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“The best combination that I have found that saves money is to take my vehicle to the dealer for some routine jobs, mainly oil changes. And some dealers have really great prices on new tires as well,” Brinkle says.

But if you have car repairs other than routine maintenance that need to be done, Brinkle suggests comparison shopping with a mechanic first.

“Find out if the shop offers a warranty on their work, many local shops do, so there is no reason to go to a shop that does not stand behind their work,” he says.

Brinkle says that most car repair quotes are based on what is called “book time,” the already determined number of hours a car repairs job will take to finish based on information from labor manuals and software services published by the auto service industry. So it really does come down to what the labor costs are going to be, and, of course, your gut feeling about the dealership or the mechanic you’re working with.

Dealer incentives or other perks may also factor into your decision. Does your dealership give you a loaner car to drive while your car is in the shop? While your local mechanic can’t provide this service, maybe they offer a pick-up or drop-off service to and from your home?

And maybe you’ve come to personally know your mechanic or the service manager at your dealership, and you like the idea that your car repairs are helping put food on their table.

If that’s the case, then you should probably stick with what’s working for you. It’s always great to get the best deal you can on car repairs, but good customer service and connection counts for something, too. It’s easy to assign a cost value for a transmission or spark plug replacement, but trust and accountability are priceless.

About Geoff Williams

Geoff Williams headshot

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist in Loveland, Ohio, who specializes in personal and finance issues and often writes for He recently took his car to his dealership and wound up spending an unexpected $6,900 in car repairs. He says that next time, he will try a mechanic.