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August 22, 2013

Consumer Reports: Car owners prefer independent shops

A common misconception is that you have to take your car to a dealer for maintenance and repair work to keep its warranty valid.

In fact, not only can you take your car to an independent mechanic, but most car owners say they prefer those shops for repairs, often because they're less expensive than dealers.

That's what Consumer Reports found in its latest service satisfaction survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, and those results are consistent with its survey findings in recent years. The results are based on subscribers' experience with 145,000 vehicles that were taken to a dealer or independent shop over the previous 12 months for a repair.

Overall, Consumer Reports surveyed owners of 32 brands, including makers of moderately priced models and luxury nameplates. Regardless of brand, the repair cost was often a significant factor in the higher scores for independent shops. Hyundai and Kia dealers received the highest rating for price, and Mercedes-Benz owners rated their dealers the lowest.

Consumer Reports found relatively little difference in satisfaction among the brands, although Acura, Buick, Cadillac, Lexus, Lincoln and Porsche owners were among the more satisfied. Owners of Jeep, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Volkswagen models were less satisfied. Generally, the lower a brand scored for dealership repairs, the greater the difference between satisfaction scores for dealers and independent shops.

INSPECTING A USED CAR

Finding a trouble-free used car has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with applying good research and investigative skills. Knowing how to spot potential problems and determining how reliable a used vehicle is can save you from expensive automotive headaches down the road.

Consumer Reports offers the following advice to help you to avoid a lemon and find a good value.

Homework. To reduce the risk of purchasing a trouble-prone vehicle, identify models with a good reliability record before you begin shopping. If the car you're interested in is known to have certain trouble spots, you know to pay special attention to those components during inspection.

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