Consumer Reports: Should you turn to dealers, mechanics or DIY for car repairs?

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Posted at 12:18 PM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 13:18:41-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF) — Both new and used car prices are higher than ever due to the increased demand and supply shortages. So more people are trying to keep their current car on the road longer.

But who should you trust to keep your car going strong?

You've got a couple of options. You can take it to the dealer or an independent mechanic or if you're handy, you can do it yourself. While there are some things you can try to do yourself, there are times when it's best to go to a pro.

When it comes to keeping his classic car beautiful and road-ready, Ian Karr says it is all about proper maintenance.

"Classic cars are like classic people. The older we get the more maintenance we need. The nice thing about classic cars is that maintenance is fun. Maybe even more fun than working out and the stuff you need to do for yourself," said Karr.

Of course, even modern vehicles need proper maintenance and the occasional repair.

Many people feel married to one mechanic for the life of their car, but to save some money, Consumer Reports says it’s a good idea to strategize the best repair option for each job.

If your vehicle is still under warranty, always take it to the dealer for a covered repair, because the dealer will have the most up-to-date tools and training.

"You should always bring your car to a dealer for recall work and any issue with the safety systems, including airbag and seat belt repair. This is because of the ever-increasing complexity of the hardware and software,” said Ryan Pszczolkowski, Consumer Reports car expert.

You’ll also want them to tackle anything to do with the infotainment system.

But for less complex repairs, like brakes, suspension, spark plugs, even an alternator, you can save some money by going to an independent mechanic. That’s because independent shops usually have a lower labor rate and can keep costs down by using aftermarket parts.

If you’re like Karr and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves, you can save even more.

"Some repairs are really easy to do, changing out air filters, wiper blades, even headlights. The parts are inexpensive and readily available," said Pszczolkowski.

"With a car, it’s basically you got it right, or you didn’t. The headlight goes on, or it doesn't go on. How many things in life are that black and white? And you get the bonus of saving money at the same time," said Karr.

If you don’t usually change your oil at home, Consumer Reports recommends going to the dealership. While it might be more expensive than a chain oil-change shop, Consumer Reports' experts say it can be worth it for the higher quality oil and getting a filter that's specifically made for your vehicle.