Car Pro Advice: Buying At One Dealership, Servicing Elsewhere

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A nice Los Angeles listener called us wanting to use my car buying system, but it was quite a distance in heavy traffic. She didnít mind the drive to get a new car, but servicing was going to be a real problem. Besides helping people with auto advice on Car Pro Radio Show, I also recommend good dealerships from which to purchase. I handpick these, and I only have one or two dealers per brand, per market. That means that often, my listeners have to drive to get a great deal and have a good experience.

The truth is that dealers make a lot of money servicing vehicles. In fact, their service departments are way more profitable than their new vehicle departments in a huge majority of dealerships. Dealers donít advertise their service departments often, commissions and salaries are much less than sales commissions, and overall, the expenses in a service department are much lower than on the sales side. That means that for every dollar of sales in service, or in warranty revenue, much more of the sales dollar goes to the bottom line of the dealership.

What does this mean for the consumer? It means that a dealer has a lot of incentive to keep you coming back for service. Think about it, a dealer could see you dozens of times for service, but maybe once every five to ten years to purchase a vehicle.

Make no mistake, dealers are paid handsomely for doing warranty work. The factory usually pays the dealership its customary retail labor rate for performing warranty services, and also gives it a nice markup on any needed parts. The dealership is on your side when you take your car in for warranty work since in some markets, it is being paid $150 per labor hour to perform the work.

Smart dealers also know that if they take care of you on service, there is a chance they might sell you your next car. Dealership service departments are usually busy places, and most pay no attention to where you bought your car, they just want to take care of you and see you again. They also want to make sure that if you are sent a survey from the factory, you can honestly give them good scores.

Savvy dealerships realize that if they take really good care of you while doing warranty work, you will keep coming to them for routine maintenance. Today, dealers know what their competition is charging for routine services, like oil changes and tire rotations, and they strive to be competitive in both price and time spent at the facility.

I think it goes without saying that most dealerships would love to sell you a car and service it too, but more and more these days, people do one or the other. Over my years in the auto industry, I have seen great dealerships to buy from that had lousy service departments, and the complete opposite is true, too.

In summary, buying a car is a huge decision and a big investment. You want to purchase from an honest dealership that does not play games with you. Sometimes you have to drive a ways to do that. If this ends up being the case, have no fear of using a different dealerís service department, it will most likely work out just fine.

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Dois Loftis
Jerry, I want to take a moment to let you know about my experience with the only Car Pro recommended dealership in the Lubbock, Texas area - Smith South Plains Ford and Lincoln in Levelland.

It was great! Except for picking up the vehicle, we did the entire transaction via email and texts. Dakota Holder and everyone involved exceeded my expectations. They worked to meet my budget requirements and I got a great interest rate on a great deal including a 48 month extended warranty.

Now, I consider Smith South Plains my dealership for sales and service.
The Car Pro
Good to hear! The Owner there has been a friend for a long time and she runs a wonderful dealership. I am glad you were so well cared for!

Jerry Reynolds
Our local Toyota dealer offers a strong incentive to buy here and service here. If your repair or service will take more than 4 hours they give you a free loaner -- but only if you bought the car from them.
The Car Pro
Thanks for sharing. I said that on the air last week, some dealers will only loan you a car if you buy from them, but most will loan you a car no matter what.

Jerry Reynolds
I am looking to purchase a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. In some markets (i.e. the Australian) the vehicle come with wheel shifters. I have them in my Honda Fit and love them. Why aren't they offered in the American market?
The Car Pro
Richard, I never know why any automaker does or doesnít do the things the do. I wish I could help.

Jerry Reynolds
If you buy a new car from say the Ford dealership and they have free oil changes for the 5 years do you have to get the free oil changes from the dealer you bought the car from ? I'm looking at getting a car in South Carolina and I live in North Carolina
The Car Pro
I canít answer you with certainty since I donít know the dealership, but iíd assume they would require you to do it with them. That way they can do it at their cost. Youíll need to ask the dealership.

Jerry Reynolds
Hi Jerry,
I bought a brand new 2020 Chevy Colorado Trail runner, after washing over the weekend, I noticed some flaws in the paint I took it back to the dealership to show them.
In an attempt to repair one of the spots they stripped the paint down to base coat. At that point they took it in the body and found 24 pieces of what they refer to as "trash" in the paint and now want to repaint hood 2 possibly 3 doors bed both sides and make a repair on the roof of cab. I feel this would certainly have a diminished value after such extensive body work.
GM is involved but I am getting nowhere. Any thoughts?
The Car Pro
Mike, I would let them make the repairs, if the job is done properly and is undetectable, I will not hurt the value of the vehicle, and there will not be anything on the history reports. When you get it back, I would look at it under florescent lights, it will show any defects better.

Good luck.

Jerry Reynolds
Hi Jerry,

My almost-one-year-old Honda (2019 CR-V) is soon due for its very first oil change / maintenance service. I did not purchase any of those prepaid service contract when I bought the vehicle, but I do plan to have all of its services to be done at Honda dealer. I do not drive much, maybe 7,000 miles a year. In your opinion, are those prepaid service plans worth the money? Thank you!

The Car Pro
Generally yes, because you are paying for todayís pricing on service, which we know will go up in the future. So I would say it is a good idea.

Jerry Reynolds
If you buy a VW CPO from one dealer in another state and want to service your car at the same VW dealership at another state/city, can you do that? will that be allowed? under the CPO terms?
The Car Pro
Yes you can buy a CPO from one VW dealer and have it serviced at another VW dealer. Here is an article with more guidance on subject. Thanks for emailing!

Jerry Reynolds
Kim Richards
Could you tell me what the best car dealerships for sales and service except Autonation Toyota in Tempe Az? My zip code is 85248. I would like to purchase and do service at the same dealership but if it is more than 20 miles away, I would have to do service closer to my home at a different dealer than where I purchase the car. Any input would be very much appreciated!
The Car Pro
Right Toyota in Phoenix was part of our show for many years and I still send my Toyota requests there, they are great folks. Jason Decker is the General Sales Manager, just tell him I sent you.

Jerry Reynolds
Your advice really helped, thanks!
Thank you for this info. This is exactly what I was looking for