are dealership mechanics honest

Are Dealership Mechanics Honest

Dealership mechanics get a bad rap sometimes for being dishonest or trying to upsell unnecessary repairs and services. However, the reality is more nuanced. There are certainly some unscrupulous mechanics out there,

but most dealership technicians are honest professionals trying to do good work. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating the trustworthiness of dealership mechanics:

Reputation and Reviews

Like any business, the best way to judge a dealership’s service department is to check out their reputation and read reviews online. Dealerships live and die by customer satisfaction surveys and reviews on sites like Yelp.

If a dealership’s mechanics have a pattern of dishonest behavior, it will quickly show up in reviews. A dealership that values ethics and transparency will make an effort to respond to negative reviews and fix any systemic issues.

Reputation And Reviews
Reputation and Reviews

Brand Standards & Oversight

Major automotive brands don’t want the liability of having dishonest shops representing their name. Brands like Toyota, GM, and BMW have standards and processes to audit the service quality and ethics of their dealership networks.

While this oversight isn’t bulletproof, it does provide some quality assurance to customers. Dealerships risk losing their manufacturer certification if they develop a pattern of unethical behavior.

Modern Diagnostic Technology

With today’s sophisticated diagnostic scan tools and computerized vehicle systems, it’s much harder for mechanics to fudge a diagnosis without getting caught. Specific trouble codes and measurements from sensors pinpoint problems far more

accurately than guessing based on simple symptoms used to in the past. While it’s still possible for mechanics to lie, the digital diagnostics trail makes it easier to verify whether recommended repairs are appropriate.

Modern Diagnostic Technology
Modern Diagnostic Technology

ASE Certification

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) conducts certification testing for individual auto technicians across 9 specialty areas like engines, transmissions and brakes. ASE certification shows that a mechanic has demonstrated a high level of knowledge

and competence for their field through testing. Dealerships often employ technicians with multiple ASE certifications. This doesn’t guarantee honesty – but it does indicate a certain level of professionalism, qualification and pride in their work.

Focus on Volume vs Quality

Most dealership service departments earn the majority of their revenue from warranty repair work, rather than customer-paid jobs. The car brands set reimbursement rates that don’t leave much room for profit. To stay profitable,

dealership shops need to focus on volume and efficiency. This incentive is aligned more with quality and repeat business, rather than bilking customers on unnecessary work. However, dealerships that focus more on customer-paid work have more incentive to upsell, so buyer beware.

Focus on Volume vs Quality

Junior Technicians vs Master Mechanics

Service departments employ entry-level technicians as well as seasoned veterans with decades of experience as “master technicians.” Like any profession, there is a spectrum of natural talent and integrity.

Typically the rookie technicians are tasked with routine maintenance like oil changes, tire rotations, etc. The complicated diagnostics and repairs tend to be handed to the veteran techs with the expertise to decide what is truly needed.

Independent Shops vs. Dealerships

While the honest of dealership mechanics remains a debatable topic, another repair option exists – independent auto shops. Independent mechanics have more flexibility than dealers in how they structure their businesses and compensate technicians.

Benefits of Independent Shops:

  • Lower hourly labor rates on average than dealers due to reduced overhead. No manufacturer loyalties – can repair any make or model of vehicle.
  • Flat-rate or quote-based billing structure removes commission incentives. More variety – range from small general repair shops to large specialist chains.

Challenges for Independent Shops:

  • Lack manufacturer certifications/training programs for newest models/tech. May not stock full parts inventories or special tools for all brands.
  • No backing of extensive new car warranties offered at dealers. Reputation relies solely on local customer service quality control. One bad apple can sully public perception of entire independent sector.
Independent Shops Vs. Dealerships
Independent Shops vs. Dealerships

Pay Structure & Incentives

Some independent shops pay technicians on a “flat rate” system that incentivizes efficiency and upselling repairs – the more jobs completed per hour, the more the techs get paid. Dealerships more often use an hourly pay structure, especially for warranty work.

This helps align incentives toward quality rather than quantity. Fewer billable hours just means less workload, not less pay. Of course, shops also reward good performance with bonuses and promotions, which could pressure some techs to upsell.

Management Culture & Policies

Service managers set the tone for the entire department. If managers reward unethical practices like deceptive sales tactics or unnecessary repairs, it will permeate the shop. However, management focused on establishing trust and

transparency will cultivate those values at all levels. Written policies and mission statements emphasizing ethics remind employees to stay on track. Dealerships where the technicians act as internal “whistle-blowers” also keep everyone honest.

Management Culture &Amp; Policies
Management Culture & Policies

OEM Parts Profit Motive

Using lower cost aftermarket parts could be one way for an unscrupulous shop to pad the repair bill. However, most dealerships stick to original equipment (OEM) parts from the vehicle brand they represent. These parts are more expensive,

but ensure proper fit and performance. Since OEM parts have lower profit margins, dealership mechanics are less motivated to swap in cheaper off-brand components to jack up their billable parts profit.

Effects of Online Pricing Transparency

The internet has made auto repair pricing and estimates much more transparent to customers. Sites like Repair Pal allow customers to look up average costs for parts and labor. This gives customers a benchmark to better evaluate the reasonableness of dealership repair bills.

While shops can still fudge things a bit, outrageously inflated charges are harder to get away with in today’s era of online price transparency. A dishonest shop risks losing customers once they discover they’ve been overcharged.

Extended Warranties & Service Plans

Dealerships often try to sell extended warranties and prepaid service plans at the point of vehicle purchase. A cynical view is that this incentivizes dealership mechanics to find more problems down the road to maximize the value customers get from their extended warranty.

However, consumers have the right to take a vehicle with an extended warranty or prepaid maintenance plan to any franchise dealership for repair – not just the original selling dealer. This reduces the ability and incentive to fabricate issues later on.

Extended Warranties &Amp; Service Plans
Extended Warranties & Service Plans

Third Party Industry Watchdogs

Several third party companies like AAA and Consumer Reports operate covert “secret shopper” programs to evaluate dealership repair shops across the country. Trained shoppers get repairs done and then fully disassemble the vehicles

afterwards to check the accuracy and necessity of the recommended work. While shops are forewarned that an auditor could come at anytime, it still discourages systemic dishonesty and incompetence.

Repair Cost Misconceptions

Sometimes customers accuse dealership mechanics of ripping them off simply due to sticker shock at the final bill. In reality, specialized tools, OEM parts and highly trained labor at dealerships understandably make repairs more expensive than at independent garages.

Dealership hourly shop rates average $125/hour versus around $85/hour for independent mechanics. This premium pricing can lead to unrealistic expectations from customers about what repairs “should” cost.

Repair Cost Misconceptions
Repair Cost Misconceptions

Effects of Competition in the Marketplace

In most areas, dealership service departments compete head-to-head with other independent shops in the marketplace. This competition motivates dealership mechanics to perform honest, quality work at fair prices. Overcharging relative to

competitors will repel customers and hurt repeat business. Customers burned by a bad experience will often just take their car to another (often cheaper) independent shop next time. Dealerships can’t afford to alienate too many customers without going out of business.


Is it better to go to a local mechanic or dealership?

There are pros and cons to both. Local mechanics often charge less but dealerships have manufacturer-trained technicians who are experts with specific vehicle models. Mechanics work on all makes while dealers focus only on one. Dealerships generally offer warranty repairs but mechanics have more flexibility. Overall, careful research into mechanic qualifications, reputation, diagnostic process transparency, and cost can help determine the best option for each repair need.

What are the weaknesses of a car dealership?

Some potential weaknesses of car dealerships include higher labor rates than independent shops, the possibility of upselling unnecessary repairs or services to hit business targets, lack of expertise on non-manufacturer vehicles, perceptions of prioritizing profits over customer needs, and limited ability to service all domestic or import brands. However, dealership technicians benefit from extensive manufacturer training programs and represent warranty repair coverage as well. Effective communication and a focus on integrity can overcome reputational weaknesses.

What do mechanics say is the most reliable car?

When asked for their views on reliability, many experienced mechanics cite Toyota and Honda as routinely problem-free with little unplanned maintenance needed. Their reputation for efficiency, durability, and affordable repair costs give these brands high reliability ratings according to professionals who routinely service different vehicles. However, even trusted makes can experience isolated issues depending on specific year/model/environmental factors, so long-term reliability ultimately comes down to consistent preventive maintenance no matter the brand.

Is car mechanic accurate?

For diagnoses and repairs to be accurate, mechanics rely on systematic testing procedures and don’t simply guess or speculate about vehicle issues. Proper diagnostics involve replicating complaints, reading trouble codes, performing comprehensive inspections using manufacturers’ service information, and recommending fixes verified to resolve problems as designed. However, some complex issues can elude detection, warranties may influence recommendations, and dishonest mechanics could misrepresent work. Overall, certifications, transparent processes, diagnostic documentation, and a trusted relationship between driver and technician help ensure mechanics provide accurate assessments and solutions.


In summary, the debate around the inherent honesty of dealership mechanics versus independent repair shops remains an open question without a single definitive answer. While some unscrupulous actors exist in both sectors attempting

to exploit customer ignorance, the overwhelming majority of professional automotive technicians across all shop types strive to perform repairs with the utmost integrity.

Consumers play a key role in this dynamic through efforts to properly vet mechanic credentials and certifications, demand transparency in the diagnostic and repair process, and cultivate their own understanding of common vehicle issues.

With open communication as the guiding principle and mutual accountability between shops and clients, automotive repair can function as a collaborative task ensuring safe, dependable transportation for all.

Overall vehicle ownership depends on establishing relationships built on honesty between auto professionals and the drivers they serve.

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