We may feel like car dealerships are our best bet for servicing and maintenance of our vehicles, but this level of reliance could end up being a costly one if we’re not careful.
Oftentimes, car dealerships can be the most expensive way of carrying out maintenance on our cars. We may also feel obligated to visit a dealership in order to keep our warranty valid. But there’s legally no requirement in place to continue visiting your dealership if there’s no need to.
This means that our options are far more open than we may realize when it comes to keeping our cars spick and span.
So, what does this mean when it’s time to change your oil, fit new tyres, or perform other maintenance on your vehicle? Let’s explore six essential ways to avoid running up major charges from car dealerships:
1. Research can Go a Long Way
One of the single most effective approaches that can be taken to avoid heavy charges at car dealerships is for car owners to research the service and repair manual for their car. These can be readily available at major auto parts chains like AutoZone or Pep Boys and can be an excellent resource for better understanding your vehicle.
While a service and repair manual probably won’t help you to become a mechanic overnight, it can help you to better understand the problems your car may have and to identify the best course of action to take.
This can pay dividends when it comes to talking to a mechanic or service advisor about what’s wrong with your car and can be a great asset in preventing dealerships from running up unnecessary costs.
2. Explore Your Options
If a problem occurs with your car, there’s no danger of manufacturers invalidating your warranty if you take your vehicle to a non-franchised dealership. In Europe, this is protected under the European Block Exemption legislation, while US dealerships cannot refuse to honor the warranty if a car has been serviced elsewhere.
This means that you don’t have to risk running up expensive maintenance costs by visiting your local dealership, and can instead use licensed garages to perform essential work. Just remember to keep a record of all the maintenance that’s been carried out on the vehicle for the benefit of keeping your warranty in check.
3. You Don’t Need Your Dealership for Replacement Parts
It’s also worth looking a little closer to home when it comes to sourcing replacement parts for your car. While a dealership is more likely to have equipment sourced directly from the car manufacturer, good garages may be capable of providing replacement parts that are fully compatible with your make and model without any issue at a lower cost.
This can also apply to your smaller electrical hardware like key fobs, and car key fob replacement services are popularly provided by skilled locksmiths that are capable of reprogramming fobs to suit a range of cars. While replacement key fobs can cost between $100 to $400 with a locksmith, this represents a healthy saving on visiting a dealership, which can sometimes run up costs ranging beyond $1,000.
4. If You Have to Visit Your Dealership, Always Have a Plan
If you have to pay your dealership a visit, it’s essential that you never go in without having a plan in place. While going into a retail store without a plan can be a relaxing way of browsing new products, the same approach at a car dealership may lead to running up a series of unexpected expenses.
Whether you’re going in to ask about an unfamiliar noise coming from your breaks, or are simply browsing the new cars on show, be sure to already troubleshoot your issue or query online and know the relevant information about your car, or what’s available at your dealership.
There’s nothing worse than the feeling of being led into an expense that you feel is unnecessary, so try your best to always keep in mind what you’re seeking to get out of your trip, and the work you expect your dealership to carry out.
5. Remember That You Have the Power to Refuse Service
While it can be a cliché to suggest that car dealerships may exaggerate the importance of maintenance work in order to maximize their profit margins, it’s certainly worth knowing that you have every right to refuse service on your car.
“Absolutely in any jurisdiction in North America you have the right to refuse the service that’s recommended to you,” explained Mark Whinton, an expert mechanic in a CBC interview. “This isn’t surgery on your child. This is a consumer item. It’s an asset…’thank you for your advice. I’m going to get a second opinion.’”
6. When to Embrace Your Dealership
Of course, now it’s important to caveat this article by noting that not all car dealerships are hell-bent on squeezing money out of motorists. In fact, many dealerships can provide a good service without forcing customers to pay through the nose for essential servicing and maintenance.
In addition to this, location can play a key role in the viability of dealerships. If your local car dealership is expensive but the only logical option based on your location, the complexity of the task at hand, and the quality of the garages around you, of course, it’s a good idea to do your research and pay them a visit.
Here, the key is to conduct a sufficient level of due diligence. Think about why you’re visiting and the quality of service you expect to be provided. Can the job get done elsewhere? If so, the least you can do is look at the price difference and quality of service you should expect to receive.
As with most things in life, knowledge can be a powerful tool when it comes to maintaining your vehicle. When you equip yourself with research regarding your car’s maintenance, your options in terms of where you can visit for help, and cost expectations for servicing, you’ll be able to stand in a stronger position when it’s time to fix an issue.
Always have a plan, and never cave into pressure if you’re not completely sure about what you’re being told at your dealership. It never hurts to get a second opinion–and this can feel particularly true when your wallet’s involved.