choochart choochaikupt / Getty Images/iStockphoto

choochart choochaikupt / Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you don’t have an automotive expert in your corner who you can trust to quote you fair prices for parts and labor, it can make it tricky when it comes time to fix something on your personal mode of transportation.

If you did not purchase your car from a previous owner, chances are that you bought it off the lot at a dealership, whether used or new. Therefore, it might make sense to take it back to the dealership in order to get the services you need done on your vehicle. Press the brakes!

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We know you might not personally know a mechanic or have a go-to shop when you need your car fixed, so GOBankingRates reached out to a few auto experts — real-life mechanics — who gave personal reasons for not taking their vehicles to the dealership for certain services. Here are their top 10.

Tire Rotation and Replacement

“As someone who’s spent more time under the hood than most have behind the wheel, I’ve got some strong opinions on dealership services for both cars and motorcycles,” said Ryan Ratkowski, founder of Motorcycle Maestros.

“You can get your tires rotated or replaced at many other service stations or tire shops often for less money and with quicker service. Many tire shops will throw in rotations for free if you buy your tires from them,” he explained.

“While essential for extending tire life and ensuring vehicle safety, these services are often available at better rates at tire specialty shops, where the staff are highly focused and experienced in tire care,” shared Joe Giranda, director of sales and marketing at CFR Classic, who also added that alignment work usually falls into this category as well.

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Body Work

“Another service often bypassed at dealerships is aftermarket installations, such as audio systems or vehicle wraps,” Giranda said. “Specialty shops not only provide a wider range of options but also possess the specific expertise that dealerships might lack, ensuring a higher quality and customization level.”

Giranda went on to suggest that services on your car such as “paint jobs or body work are typically better handled by auto body shops.” He said, “They specialize in this field and can offer services from dent repair to full repaints, often at a better price and with more personalized service than a dealership could provide.”

Wiper Blade Replacement

“It’s just swapping out blades,” said Ratkowski. “Dealerships might use this as an opportunity to tack on extra service fees. Grab some from an auto parts store and change them in your parking lot.”

Windshield Replacement

“Similarly, windshield replacement is another service best handled by specialists. These shops often offer faster service and competitive pricing compared to dealerships,” added Giranda.

Oil Changes

Giranda mentioned that something as routine as an oil change can be managed more cost-effectively at local garages or chain stores. “These places often run promotions and can provide the same level of service without the premium price tag of a dealership.”

Something like an oil change is Car Care 101, in Ratkowski’s professional opinion. “Dealerships can charge an arm and a leg for a simple oil change that you can do in your driveway for a fraction of the price. Plus, it gives you a chance to get up close and personal with your engine, and you know exactly what quality of oil and filter is being used.”

Air Filters

“A dealership might charge you triple what the air filter costs just for popping the hood and swapping it out,” Ratkowski said. “Buy one online or at a local auto parts store and do it yourself in 10 minutes.”

He described swapping air filters as “[a]nother quick job you can do yourself.”

Brake Pads

It’s important to make sure the brakes on your car, particularly the pads, are in good condition. But do not think that the dealership is the only place you can go for this kind of maintenance, because that will typically put a dent in your pocket.

“While brakes are critical for safety, changing brake pads doesn’t require the complex tools and setups that some other jobs might,” Ratkowski noted. “Local mechanics or specialized brake shops often offer better rates and the same level of professionalism without the dealership markup.”

Battery Replacement

According to Ratkowski, dealerships will most likely “upcharge you for a battery you can pick up at a local store.”

He explained, “Installing a new battery is straightforward and only requires basic tools. It’s a quick switch that saves you money and a trip to the dealership.”

Basic Fluid Top-Offs

For windshield washer fluid, engine coolant, and quick liquid fixes that are of the same type of work, there’s no reason to pay someone to open a container and pour it into another container. Keep an eye on your fluid levels and top them off yourself.

Spark Plugs

“Depending on the vehicle, changing spark plugs can be a doable task at home,” Ratkowski shared. “It might require a bit of elbow grease and a socket set, but it’ll save you from the marked-up labor costs at a dealership.”

Ratkowski had some overall mechanic advice to share with the average car owner and driver when it comes to going to the dealership for repairs.

“I’ve found that doing these tasks myself or finding a trustworthy local mechanic not only saves money but also builds a bit of a bond with the car,” he described. “You start to understand it better, which can lead to noticing when something’s off before it becomes a major problem.”

Ratkowski added, “Dealerships have their place, especially for warranty work or recalls, but for regular maintenance, you’re often better off taking matters into your own hands or going to a specialist. Keep your car’s maintenance manual handy, invest in some basic tools, and you’ll be set to handle most of these tasks yourself.”

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This article originally appeared on I’m a Mechanic: Never Go to the Car Dealership for These 10 Services


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