A local consumers' group evaluated more than 520 D.C.-area auto repair shops for quality and price. See how dealerships compare with independent auto-repair shops — and find out which are closest to you.
WASHINGTON — Taking your car to a highly regarded repair shop doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll pay higher-than-average prices for the work, according to a local consumers’ group that’s evaluated more than 520 D.C.-area auto repair shops for quality and price.
“If they do great work, they’re just as likely to charge you a low price as a high price. You really do have to shop around,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org.
Dealers vs. independents
Dealers typically aren’t rated as highly as independent shops and routinely charge more, Brasler said.
Percentage of surveyed customers who rated shops “superior” for overall quality
Dealers: 61 percent
Independents: 84 percent
Average hourly labor rate
Average price comparison
(Scores here are based on prices quoted by shops for several jobs and indicate how each shop’s prices compared with the average prices quoted for the same jobs. So $120, for instance, indicates the shop’s prices are 20 percent higher than average; $90 indicates the shop’s prices are 10 percent lower than average.)
“Unless your car is still under warranty, there’s really no reason to use a dealership,” Brasler said. “There’s kind of a myth out there that dealerships have better equipment and mechanics and training than independents, and that’s just not true.”
Get this in writing
What to get in writing before a repair shop works on your vehicle:
An estimate for repair costs
What’s covered and for how long by a warranty
Whether repair parts are dealer, after-market or used
If you’re not comfortable with the price you’re quoted for repairs, Brasler said, go to another shop. Even if your car isn’t driveable, he said, you’re better off paying $75 for a tow to another place to do the work versus potentially paying hundreds of dollars more for the work.
“AAA will actually tow you to that second shop for free,” Brasler noted. “It’s a good member benefit to have.”
Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices for more than 40 years.
Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.