Owners prefer independent shops

Last reviewed: June 2011

When it’s time to take the car in for repairs or routine maintenance, remember this: Independent repair shops continue to get higher marks for satisfaction than car dealers, according to the results of our latest Annual Survey.

The survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, was based on subscribers’ experience with 176,000 cars taken in for repairs over 12 months and 322,000 cars that received maintenance.

For repairs, independents received an overall reader score of 87, higher than the score of 80 for dealers. But there was a wide range among makes. For Mini and Acura, the difference in scores between independents and dealers was only three or four points; for Kia, Chrysler, Jeep, and Volkswagen, it was at least 10 points. If only maintenance was performed, people were only slightly more satisfied with independents than with dealers.

Regardless of whether service was performed at an auto dealer or an independent repair shop, we found satisfaction scores to be higher overall for maintenance than for repairs. That is not surprising, given that repairs are often more expensive, time consuming, and aggravating than scheduled service.

For dealer repairs, Acura, Porsche, Lexus, Buick, and Lincoln owners were among the more satisfied. Jeep, Volkswagen, and Land Rover owners were among the less satisfied.

For maintenance, owners of Lincolns and Buicks were among the more satisfied, and there was little difference between those that had their cars serviced by dealers and those that went to independent mechanics. Mitsubishi and Mazda owners were among the less satisfied with maintenance overall.