Benefits of a Full-Service Automotive Shop

Chances are, you’ve probably taken a vehicle or two for a quick oil change at a chain auto repair shop in between major services, or used a national chain for brake or other specific repair work.

While many of these shops may be reliable and honest, their limited service menus and low pricing may compromise overall car care. Their mechanics may not be as seasoned as those in independently owned, full service shops. They may recommend more frequent servicing than necessary for low-cost jobs like oil changes, and use a cheaper, off-brand oil that might not be the best for your car.

Primary Care for Your Car

Mechanics in a full-service auto shop are sort of like primary care physicians: they see the entire car, and not just the brakes or engine. Full-service auto mechanic shops have lower employee turnover than the corporate shops, which are notorious for high turnover. At a full-service shop, mechanics are exposed to more cars, models, and technologies and are aware of performance issues that customers bring in along with their solutions.

Independent automotive shop employees receive more training about new car specs as well as services needed by older cars. They understand the impact of a particular climate on vehicle maintenance (for example, oil changes should be more frequent in extreme hot or cold climates) and can advise customers about what they can do on their own to prolong their vehicles’ life-cycle and efficiency.

Do Full Service Shops Charge More?

In general, you will get the most reasonable charges at a full-service shop and individualized serviced. Independent full-service shops charge a flat rate for their work, which are often lower than dealership charges because of lower overhead. (They are not, after all, paying for extra space used to showcase new or used cars, which are very sensitive to greater market influences.) Mechanics and technicians at independent shops are paid by the hour or receive a salary based upon their skills and job performance, just like most businesses. This frees staff from pressure to maximize the number of repairs they do and the temptation to cut corners.

More Attention to Customer Service?

Independent shops live and die by good customer relations. A good word from a customer to friends and neighbors or placed on Google is essential for an independent shop to thrive.

As with any service-oriented business, customer service can make a huge difference. Independent shops understand that customers value trust and work to build relationships with their customers. They will, for example, be more likely to get customers in a routine to bundle repairs, such as oil changes (at proper intervals) with tire rotation and balancing, which can save time and money.

Surveys Show: Independent Shops Preferred to Dealerships

Consumer Reports asks car owners each year about how satisfied they are with repairs they had over the past 12 months. The most recent data from 2012 follows a long-term trend that shows overall preference for independent shops over dealerships. Not surprisingly, dealership customers complained about high prices more than customers of independent shops, 42% to 32%.

Who prefers independent shops the most? An even mix of owners of mid-range and high-end cars and include Chrysler, Dodge, Jaguar, Jeep, Nissan, Mercedes, and Volvo owners. Dealership fans tend to be owners of the most expensive cars including Porsche.

Source: Car repair shops buying guide. Consumer Reports, June 2014.

Car Washing is Mandatory

We are not saying that you need to be an expert auto mechanic or a genius with automotive trivia, but there are some things that are non-negotiable with cars and one of them is a car wash (and no, waiting until it rains does not count, especially in California). A thorough and comprehensive car wash/detailing is as essential for the body of your car as an oil change is for your engine.

Really? Or Are You Just Being A Drama Queen?

Really. First of all, we need to look at the purpose of paint. This goes beyond “it’s my favorite color”, “it matches my personality”, or “it’s British racing green”. Paint protects the body of your car. The body is made out of metal, and metal rusts and weakens when exposed to the elements (moisture, in particular), and will eventually compromise the structural integrity of your car. This, plainly and simply, is a safety hazard and absolutely dangerous.

When dust and dirt is left unhindered, it acts like sandpaper. The paint starts to weaken, crack, and chip away. You may think you’re in the clear if it rains, but rain mixed with dirt, dust, and other pollutants can act even faster in terms of damaging your paint job. Now, let’s say you live on a nice tree lined street and park under the tree nearest your house or building. You may avoid sun damage with the regular shade, but what happens when the tree drops sap, or when birds drop… other things? These all accelerate the rate of damage.

Don’t panic. Your paint job will not be ruined overnight (unless it is of ridiculously poor quality and something extraordinary happens). Have your car detailed regularly and it will go the distance with you.

Money Talks

Some people stick with a car for decades while others like to get a new one every 50,000 miles or so. It does not matter which category you fall into because not washing/detailing your car regularly will eat away at your wallet one way or the other.

Let’s say you’re a one and done type of person. As long as your car is still running, you’re still driving it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, that’s just the thing… it will break, and you will have to fix it, and fix it, and fix it again. Damage to the body of your car is potentially devastating, and you will need to have it repaired repeatedly so as not to compromise its structural integrity.

Are you ready to sell your car and get a new one? Great! There’s just one problem… the resale value of your car has plummeted due to the fact that it is now an ugly rustbucket. It’s an extreme, but nonetheless true. Whether you’re in true rustbucket territory or your car has some paint and body damage, the resale value of your car will take a hit.

Your car is an investment, one way or the other.

What Makes Car Insurance Companies Think You’re a High Risk Driver?

Do you know the difference between a high risk driver and a good one? Chances are, your opinion is a little different from your car insurance provider’s! The question is, what does your insurer have to say about your driving history?

What Makes a High Risk Driver?

High risk drivers are a major concern for everyone. Most of us think of high risk drivers as people who get on the highways and do 70 in a 35, suffer from extreme road rage, like to have a few drinks before getting behind the wheel or have a tendency to doze off at 65 mph. These drivers definitely pose a greater risk to pedestrians, bikers and other drivers than the person that’s never broken the speed limit in their life, but for a car insurance company it’s not just about the risk they pose to others. It’s also about the risk they pose to their insurer.

Car insurance companies are in the business to pay out claims when their drivers are involved in an accident. Seriously-would any of us be paying our insurance premiums if they didn’t? Insurers aren’t philanthropists, however. They’re in the business to make money, and it’s not good business to pay out more in insurance claims than you draw in through premiums every year. That’s why they have to carefully assess the risk of all of their drivers before issuing a policy and do what they can to tip the scales in their favor.

High risk drivers are those that:

a) Are young and inexperienced. (Newly licensed teens and newly licensed adults are going to be judged using the same tape measure.)

b) Have been convicted of multiple traffic violations.

c) Have already caused an accident at some point in the last five years.

d) Are driving a souped up car that begs them to show off and break the rules a little bit.

e) Have been convicted of a DUI or DWI.

How Do You Know if You’re a High Risk Driver?

Chances are, after reading through the list above you’ve got a pretty good idea of what your insurance company thinks about you. If you’re not sure exactly where you fall on the scale of good, bad and ugly go to your friendly neighborhood DMV and ask them how many points you have on your license.

Car insurance companies depend heavily on DMV points to help them determine how big a risk you are behind the wheel. You earn points for being a good driver for five years or more and for completing a driver education or driver improvement course. You lose points for being convicted of a traffic violation or a DUI/DWI.

Yes, you can have negative points on your license. It happens all the time. Check with the DMV to see where your license is sitting.

How to Change Spots on the Naughty and Nice List

If you’re sick of paying ridiculously high premiums for your car insurance coverage, relax. You’re in good company! It’s easier than you might think to clean up your driving record and get back in the game.

Cleaning up your driving record and putting points back on your license isn’t as simple as just paying a few fines. Most traffic violations come off of your driving record after a maximum period of five years, which is why car insurance companies usually offer a five year good driver discount. All you have to do is keep your nose clean that long!

In the meantime, (voluntarily) sign up to take a driver improvement course. This probably won’t help you much if you’ve been court ordered to complete one after a conviction, but if you haven’t voluntarily doing so can definitely work in your favor. Driver improvement courses are offered in most counties and online, making it easy for you to complete a class wherever you happen to live.

Being a high risk driver is no fun, either for you or for your checkbook, but with a little effort you can clean up your record and be enjoying great car insurance rates and the kind of coverage you deserve. No questions asked.