This is why I change my own engine oil. Oh, and why I change my car’s cabin filter myself.
Let me brush you up on some details as I know some of you don’t follow me every day. We bought a 2005 MINI Cooper (used) back in 2007 for Stacie’s daily driver. We got it with 30,000 miles on the odometer. The MINI comes with a factory maintenance plan for 3 years or 36k miles, and includes everything from scheduled oil changes to unscheduled brake pad replacements. It’s a really nice bonus you get for paying a premium on this small car (As a note, I wrote about which car companies offer free maintenance on their cars).
We got the first oil change at around 34,000 miles, which meant we only had 2,000 more miles left on the free maintenance. That also means we would have to pay out of pocket for all other oil changes (and other maintenance). That was almost a year ago (MINI only requires oil changes every 10,000-15,000 miles, thanks to the synthetic oil). Well, it came time to get another oil change at 45,000 miles.
Since we’re still under the 4 year or 50k mile factory warranty (don’t confuse this with the maintenance plan), I wanted to get them to check out some items like the transmission computer and fan belt. I also decided to get the dealer to change the oil and also rotate/balance the tires. I knew I was in for a ripoff. I didn’t know how bad it would be until we dropped it off though.
Why I pay for dealer services
While I do change my vehicles’ oil and perform other simple maintenance myself, there are a number of reasons to send your car to a dealer for work, even though it seems they’re required, by law, to rip you off:
1. Create good will with dealer: If you take your car into the dealer for all scheduled maintenance, the dealer will more often than not consider you a “good customer”. Because of that, if something happens to your car outside of the warranty period, they’ll be more willing to fix it for free, or offer a big discount. There isn’t a dealer “code of honor” behind this, just numerous real-life examples. Getting your car into their system is also good for when you sell the car and need to show maintenance records.
2. I can get other problems checked out and get a loaner car: I’m a complainer when it comes to creaks and squeaks with my cars, and if it’s still under warranty then you better be sure I’m going to try to get them fixed for free! But oftentimes the dealer “can’t reproduce the problem” and I have to return in defeat (and the problem inevitably returns on the ride home). Whether out of guilt or clever strategy, I’ll pay for small maintenance items like tire rotations that the car needs anyway simply to get a loaner car.
But once the warranty runs out, you won’t see me at the dealer again. I’ll be doing ALL maintenance myself, or using lower cost alternatives like the local mechanic to replace brake pads, etc. (I won’t touch the brakes).
Getting *&$*^$ in the **&# by MINI Service
Ok, that heading is a bit harsh (depending on what words you insert), but I really got ripped off by the dealer. I know exactly how much it costs me to change the oil in my vehicles, although I haven’t worked on the MINI yet (as it’s under warranty, as mentioned). Here’s the breakdown of the oil service, which includes topping off fluids and replacing the cabin filter:
- Windshield washer fluid: $4.19 (I JUST topped this off last week. And I thought a $2 gallon of fluid was pricey)
- Oil Filter: $14.03 (I can get these for $5-8, depending on the quality)
- Synthetic Motor Oil: $46.90. (I get this for $5-6 per quart at Sam’s Club, and the MINI at most takes 5 quarts)
- Microfilter: $65.26 (I get these for $20-30 at Advanced Auto)
- Labor: $122 (wow. Just wow.)
Total Cost: $252
Compared with the $27 I normally spend for changing my own oil, and $20 for changing the cabin filter, this is ridiculous. I’m waiting for Dark Helmet to throw the lever to Ludicrous Speed. They basically charged double on all materials, and charged a full hour of labor for something that takes 15 minutes or less. But I expected this, and just bit the bullet, knowing this would be the last time. The MINI maintenance costs are on par for the scheduled maintenances with my Acura, but at least MINI doesn’t require one every 7,500 miles.
But that’s not all! Recall I also got the MINI’s tires rotated. Cost: $50. Again, double what a local tire shop would charge, if not more.
And alas that wasn’t the final charge. The dealer also decided to tack on two other charges. One for an environmental fee of $6. Another for “shop supplies/hazardous materials” for $17.20. Like gouging me on materials already wasn’t enough. They’re all bogus fees. It costs me nothing to take my used oil to the recycling center, except some gas. I would bet they actually make some money from recycling that oil.
So in total, our day with MINI cost an astounding $332, just for an oil change, cabin filter and tire rotation. But at least I got the transmission computer reset (stupid CVT transmission) and the brakes and fan belt checked. The brakes are still in good shape (half left) and the belt is showing some signs of wear, but not enough to replace yet. And they washed the car, which it really needed. Oh, and I balked at the $200 price for a wheel alignment since that’s also double what the chain shops charge.
Do you still use the dealer for all of your car’s maintenance?
Let me know your dealer experiences in the comments. If you stil go to the dealer, have you thought about getting the service elsewhere, like NTB, Merchants, Jiffy Lube (oh I hate them) or the local mechanic? What’s preventing you from saving some dough? Do you agree with either of my reasons for using the dealer?
Comment below and let me know!
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