YONKERS, N.Y.Odds are consumers will be more satisfied with an independent repair shop than with a franchised new-car dealership, according to a new Consumer Reports (CR) readership survey.
The annual survey found that independent shops outscored dealership service, again, in overall satisfaction, price, quality, courteousness of the staff and work being completed when promised.
The only auto manufacturer that outscored the independent shops was the electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc., which earned high praise from the magazine for its on-time repairs, courtesy, price, quality and overall satisfaction.
But CR surmised that part of Tesla's success might be due to the company's being new to the market with a relatively small number of customers to satisfy compared with the established luxury brands.
The survey, conducted by the Yon-kers-based Consumer Reports National Research Center, was based on subscriber satisfaction with repairs on more than 121,000 vehicles80,000 of which were repaired at franchised dealerships and more than 41,000 at independent shops.
Luxury and upscale brands topped the chart among franchised new-car dealerships, with Buick, Lincoln, Cadillac, Lexus, Porsche and Acura slotting in behind Tesla, in that order, CR said.
The biggest gripe against the luxury car dealerships was the cost of parts and labor. Mercedes-Benz drivers, in particular, were much more satisfied with the price they paid at independent shops, according to the survey.
Buick dealerships garnered the highest marks in overall service satisfaction for dealerships.
CR noted that haggling can pay off. Although only a small fraction of its survey respondents tried that option, those who did said they frequently saved money.
Fewer than 20 percent of respondents tried to negotiate over repair work, but among those who did, 60 to 82 percent were able to save some cash at dealerships, depending on the brand. Haggling success was even better with independent shops, with 71 to 84 percent of negotiators receiving discounts.
How much was saved varied among brands. The median worked out to $120 for repairs at dealerships and $94 at independents, according to the survey.
Some luxury-car dealers were accommodating, with BMW dealerships knocking off a median of $187 from contested repair orders. Mercedes-Benz dealerships discounted $180 from successful hagglers' final bills. Among mainstream brands, haggling knocked off a median of $152 for Subaru dealership repairs, $135 at Volkswagen and $133 at Chevrolet.
The magazine suggested that by getting a second opinion on a repair, consumers can pit repair shops against each other in a bidding war for their business.
CR also suggested consumers ask for an itemized estimate up front to avoid inflated chargesand dealerships will often lower their price to ensure a return visit.