To the growing list of business sectors in which neutral studies demonstrate independent businesses provide superior value, we now can add auto repair and maintenance. The February 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine presented results from a survey of 40,000 subscribers about their service experiences with independent auto service shops, nearly 20 manufacturer-branded facilities, and 15 chain or franchised facilities. (Though many franchises are owned locally, the survey grouped these entities together).
Customers graded service received based on timeliness, price, quality of work and their treatment. Independent repair shops left most of the competition in the dust with an average score of 90, while chain repair shops’ grades ranged from 79 to 88, and dealer repair centers ranged from 75 to 83. To ensure apples-to-apples comparisons, the survey asked people for their experiences only with non-warranty repairs.
Lexus and Volvo tied for the top score among dealers at 83, while Goodyear and Jiffy Lube topped the ratings of chain and franchised service outlets at 88. Consumer Reports offers the detailed score breakdown (not available online as of writing).
About 70% of auto repairs are performed at independent providers, according to Tony Molla, Vice President of the Automotive Service Association. Molla says the Consumer Reports survey aligns with private Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) surveys over the years. “The strength of the independent repair community has always been the personal connections they make with their customers,” said Molla.
Along with the personal attention local owners are more likely to offer, Molla credits the value of independents to their investments in training employees and lower employee turnover.
When asked about national warranties, the only reason many people sometimes opt to visit chain repair shops, Molla notes that nationwide warranties are offered by many ASA member businesses. He suggests inquiring first about warranty terms if you often drive far from home.
One caveat on the Consumer Reports story: their chart plots NAPA and AAA certified repair centers as though they are chains, but these are almost all independent businesses that choose to associate to gain branding power and associated benefits. While those shops scored well (87 for each, they were slightly lower-rated than unaffiliated independent repair shops. Many auto dealerships also are locally-owned franchises.
Tip: When sharing this post on your social media, tag a few of the best independent service shops in your area!