Right now I am driving a Toyota Corolla (2008) and have been taking it to the same Toyota dealership for years for regular servicing.
In the beginning the service was great – open communication, always available appointment times, no upselling and only required work was performed. I took it there because I wanted qualified technicians and high quality parts for the car. I never really considered looking elsewhere for this reason.
That changed recently during the latest servicing. When I dropped the car off I was given the ‘hard sell’ – items that were strongly recommended for the vehicle at an extra cost. They implied that if these items were not done the vehicle would not last as long.
I am all about researching things, so I had contacted Toyota Canada the week before about what work should be done on my car and when. They said anything not listed on the maintenance menu (found online) was likely not required, but that I could consider it.
When I dropped the car off at the dealer I politely declined all extra items and stuck to my original plan – only the regular maintenance, nothing extra. The service advisor sounded defeated but obliged.
Later on that day (while the car was in the shop) I received a call from the service advisor explaining that some extra work was recommended for the car. None of the work was urgent but it was needed to “keep the car in good condition.”
The total of all ‘recommended’ services was about $2,500! This was a shock considering the vehicle itself is worth about $8,000 and the regular maintenance costs about $200.
At that point I knew it was time to start looking elsewhere for vehicle servicing.
I’m not handy when it comes to cars, so finding (and keeping) a good mechanic that can do quality work at an affordable cost is important. I did a bit of research and it turns out there are a few options out there. I am willing to pay a fair price but I also wanted someone who wouldn’t make “recommendations” that weren’t necessary.
Last week I had some regular maintenance done on the car at a mechanic found through searching online.
The work was done on time, the bill was about 40% cheaper than it would have been at the Toyota dealer and it was more convenient because it was located closer to home. I asked the mechanic about this and he said since their shop is much smaller and isn’t part of a national brand, they can charge significantly less than the big guys.
For anyone out there looking for a good mechanic who provides quality work at a low cost, I would recommend the following:
- Research customer ratings of the mechanic/dealer online. Negative comments (especially concerning a dealer’s service department) should be considered a red flag
- Talk to coworkers, friends and family about who they would recommend and how their experiences have been
- Check with the Better Business Bureau on the ratings of the dealer/mechanic. The mechanic we went to had an A+ rating
- Consider using smaller shops. Since we went with a smaller shop we were able to save big because the mechanic wasn’t under a national brand. He also said if any Toyota parts were needed, he could easily get them for the same cost as the dealer
Conclusion: I saved 40% on vehicle maintenance costs through a reputable, affordable and quality mechanic that could charge less because they weren’t under a major national brand.
How do you save on vehicle maintenance?