June 22, 2024
Car Maintenance

Top locations for car maintenance and repair

In this period of widespread inflation and elevated interest rates, the difficulties of obtaining a car or SUV have been extensively documented. Therefore, it is more crucial than ever to safeguard that costly investment by upkeeping it.

Lately, Autoblog has presented Consumer Reports assessment of the most and least expensive car brands to maintain, along with suggestions on extending a vehicle’s lifespan. Various factors, such as more intricate vehicles, novel materials and production methods, a scarcity of skilled technicians, and replacement parts shortage, have impacted these expenses, particularly since the pandemic period. Repair costs have surged by approximately 10% annually since 2022.

This month, Consumer Reports is offering a valuable guide on maintaining your vehicle in optimal condition, recommending the best options for selecting a repair shop, based on CR’s advice, tailored to “your vehicle and your circumstances.”

Author Ben Preston identifies three primary types of repair facilities: dealership service departments, independently owned repair shops, and chain repair shops. Establishing trust with a specific shop and feeling at ease going there is essential. Preston quotes John Ibbotson, chief mechanic at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center: “While you may save some money by choosing the shop with the lowest prices, if you desire consistent, trustworthy service, it’s advisable to locate a repair shop you have faith in and stay loyal to it,” Ibbotson suggests.

The article proceeds to evaluate each service facility type. Here’s a summary of CR’s discoveries:


Dealerships are suitable for owners of newer vehicles, particularly for covered warranty repairs. However, the downside is the prevalent high labor rates in dealer service. Satisfaction ratings for dealer service departments vary from excellent (Acura, Lexus, Mazda, and Volvo) to less satisfactory (Jeep and Kia).

Dealerships excel in:

Rectifying infotainment system malfunctions: “If the display in the center of your dashboard frequently freezes, or the touchscreen-controlled climate settings are malfunctioning, the dealership is likely where you will find an expert capable of resolving issues that perhaps only a factory-authorized technician can address,” Ibbotson remarks.

Safety system recalibrations: “Issues ranging from a windshield crack to a minor bumper dent can disrupt the calibration of sensors responsible for functionalities like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control,” Ibbotson explains. Several independent shops lack the capability to recalibrate sensors accurately to calculate the vehicle’s position concerning other cars and road hazards. Cost: $300-$600.

Software updates: Modern cars essentially function as mobile computers, with computer modules supervising everything from power windows to engine and transmission operations. “A software glitch can trigger various problems — such as a poorly shifting transmission or malfunctioning exterior lights — and may require attention at the dealership, which should have technicians specialized in these specific issues,” Ibbotson states. Modern vehicles may receive software updates wirelessly, but older models will necessitate direct attention from a technician if an issue arises. Cost: $150-$200 (more for luxury brands).

Dealerships are less suitable for:

Economizing on service and repairs that could be executed at a qualified independent shop for less money.

Independent repair shops

As per CR’s repair shop survey, independent repair shops garnered commendable scores for honesty, work quality, repair completion time, and communication. They also received high ratings for affordability and successful resolution of issues on the initial visit.

Independent shops are ideal for:

Routine maintenance: Oil changes, fluid level inspections, tire pressure evaluations. Ibbotson remarks, “Any seasoned technician is capable. Conducting these procedures provides ample opportunities for your regular independent technician to assess your vehicle’s overall condition.” Cost: $131-$145 (oil change).

Suspension shock/strut replacements: Worn-out struts, shocks, and other suspension components can lead to unsafe braking and handling. Replacement is typically uncomplicated and can be handled by any skilled mechanic. Cost: $924-$1,043.

Significant engine repairs: Labor-intensive tasks like timing belt replacements or new transmission installations can generally be competently managed by an independent repair shop. Cost: $1,915-$2,220 (head gasket replacement).

Water pump replacements: A crucial component of the vehicle’s cooling system (even in EVs), the water pump will deteriorate over time and necessitate replacement. “Independents can swap it out when required,” as per Ibbotson. Cost: $732-$866.

Independent shops are less ideal for:

Recall repairs: These are best left to dealerships, which receive directives concerning necessary work directly from car manufacturers.

Chain repair shops

“Chain repair shops can be an excellent choice for basic services such as tire mounting and wheel alignments at a reasonable cost,” Ibbotson advises.

Chain shops are optimal for:

Tire services: Tire replacements may sometimes be more economical at a tire repair chain. However, exercise caution regarding repair recommendations for other vehicle components. Additionally, Pszczolkowski recommends, “Do not feel pressured into purchasing whatever tires are readily available. First, ascertain the type of tires you require, then request the shop to procure them. Most shops will comply.” Cost: $169-$240 (per tire).

Wheel alignment: Aligning the vehicle should be done when acquiring new tires (or replacing suspension parts). Cost: $138-$174.

Chain shops are less suitable for:

More intricate repair tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What type of repair facility is best for newer vehicles?

Dealerships are typically recommended for newer vehicles, especially for warranty-covered repairs.

2. What are independent repair shops ideal for?

Independent repair shops are great for routine maintenance tasks, suspension repairs, and major engine overhauls.

3. When should chain repair shops be considered?

Chain repair shops are suitable for basic services like tire replacements and wheel alignments at reasonable prices.


Maintaining your vehicle is crucial in prolonging its lifespan and ensuring optimal performance. By choosing the right repair facility that suits your vehicle’s needs and your preferences, you can protect your investment and enjoy a safe and reliable driving experience for years to come.

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