Around the Industry: Independent Shops Outshine Dealerships in Consumer Reports Study

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Consumer Reports’ latest survey of repair service satisfaction found the odds are consumers will be more satisfied with an independent repair shop than with a franchised new-car dealership.

The survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in 2014, was based on subscriber satisfaction with repairs on more than 121,000 vehicles — 80,000 of which were repaired at franchised dealers and more than 41,000 at independent shops.

The survey found that, in general, independents outscored dealerships for overall satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness of the staff and work being completed when promised. With few exceptions, the entire list of independent shops got high marks on those factors.

The Consumer Reports  survey also found that just 19 percent of respondents tried to negotiate over repair work. But among those who did, 60-82 percent were able to save some cash at dealerships, depending on the brand. Haggling success was even better with independent shops, with 71-84 percent of negotiators receiving discounts.

The median amount of money consumers saved worked out to be about $120 for repairs at dealers and $94 at independents.

Some luxury-car dealers were accommodating at the bargaining table. Those at BMW knocked off a median of $187 from contested repair orders. Mercedes-Benz dealerships discounted $180 from successful hagglers’ final bills. Among mainstream brands, successful hagglers saved a median of $152 for Subaru dealership repairs, $135 at VW and $133 at Chevrolet.

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