This is a common question new Mercedes car owners have and one we get asked often. “Am I required to take my BMW or Mercedes back to the dealer for service?” “Does an independent repair shop void my warranty if they work on my car?” The list goes on and on. The answer is NO. You are permitted to take your car any place you would like to have it serviced and repaired. The Mercedes dealer would like you to believe that your local European repair facility doesn’t have the tools, correct diagnostic equipment, or skills to work on your vehicle.
The Mercedes dealer has a vested interest in making sure you keep coming back to the dealership and continue to pay the high prices they sometimes charge. Most new car dealers rely heavily on their repair business to survive and often sell new vehicles at break-even prices (or even at a loss) hoping to make it up on your oil changes, new tires, and other regular maintenance and repairs.
It is always a good idea to remember this one very important fact; most independent shops are owned and operated by mechanics that cut their teeth at the dealership. The path of a career German mechanic is very similar from one shop to another; many of us got our start working for a large franchise Mercedes, BMW, Audi, or Porsche dealer. Then after several years, we either move on to an independent shop or venture out on our own.
For myself, I spent many years working for a talented mechanic from Germany who spent years at a Mercedes dealership right here in Chicago. I got to see an entirely different side to the repair business, both good and bad. One thing I quickly learned was how much of a price difference there is between a dealer and your local BMW repair shop. Yes, I understand that a dealer has a large overhead, but it still seems to be outrageous. Automd.com recently released a study and found that the average dealer charges almost 25% more across the board compared to independents.
Let’s look at a few ways dealerships like to make you believe that you can’t take your car any place but them-
We use proprietary oil and fluids that only a dealer can get.
In this day and age, does that even make sense anymore? The dealer likes to tell you that your Porsche takes special oil, and while yes, 0w-40 is not the most common weight, it is still readily available in the real world.
Independent Mechanics do not have specialized diagnostic computers.
At first glance, this may seem like a reasonable claim, but many independent mechanics, including Autobahn Automotive Service, invest heavily in the specialized equipment it takes to correctly diagnose and repair German vehicles. Most manufactures also license their own diagnostic software to repair facilities.
Independent Mechanics do not have the same training.
Here is another claim that is just as false as the rest. I would venture to say that most quality independent shops have higher skilled mechanics than the dealer. Walk into many Mercedes Benz dealerships across the country and the average years of experience are only a fraction of a German Car Specialist. Furthermore, there are factory training classes offered for almost every major vehicle manufactured.
Only the dealer can get factory parts.
This is one of my favorite statements we hear from dealer service managers. There is a huge aftermarket parts distribution network for OEM parts (Original Equipment Manufacturer.) They are available across the country from many sources. In fact, most dealers reach out to the mechanics in their own town to offer replacement parts wholesale for their shops. The benefit goes well beyond using genuine parts; we are able to offer them cheaper than the dealer.
Only the dealer knows the required maintenance.
Does this even make sense? It’s a real line I have heard from customers and on more than just one occasion. News flash: the vehicle service schedule is in every owner’s manual and, at the very least, there’s this thing called Google. This is a troubling comment because it shows the lengths the dealer will go to in order to gain service work. On top of this, “extreme use” is the first trick the dealer will use to increase the service ticket. They say your vehicle needs more maintenance because of how you drive.
Do I Have To Use The Dealer For Service?
After so many years fixing BMW’s, Mercedes, Porsche, and Audi’s, I have heard many horror stories from customers who were coerced into spending more money with the dealer. With their large facilities, fancy furniture, and nice uniforms it’s easy to perceive them as ‘honest experts.’ However, most service writers are paid a commission on the job and services they sell, so how can you always be sure they have your best interest at heart? In addition to their aggressive sales techniques, most dealers have monthly repair or ticket quotas to meet. Again, how can you know you are getting real, unbiased advice about your vehicle when someone is always trying to “hit their numbers?”
Reading this may seem shocking, but before you hand over your credit card on your next oil change, do your research and interview some alternatives to the dealer. Of course you are reading this on our Blog, but it holds true for many shops; when you come to Autobahn, you get to deal directly with the owner. We survive on great reviews and word-of-mouth advertising from our clients. Putting your best interests first and doing an excellent job will make sure we meet our goals!