Study: Vehicle Owners Are Becoming Less Satisfied With Independent Repair Shops

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

If you’ve taken a car to the dealer for repairs, you’re probably aware that costs can add up fast. Independent shops are a great way to save money on car repairs, but a new J.D. Power study found that owners are less satisfied with aftermarket service providers than in years past. 

J.D. Power’s 2023 U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study found that satisfaction has fallen in the three areas it covers: quick oil change businesses, full-service maintenance and repair, and tire replacement. Customers ranked their satisfaction with service advisors the lowest, citing long wait times and less courteous interactions.

Satisfaction with the service facilities declined the most, but a couple of areas improved, including ease of scheduling. J.D. Power noted that improving satisfaction with the facilities could be as simple as offering free snacks or installing an EV charger on site. The organization also said that, despite the issues with satisfaction, independents’ net promotor scores (NPS) were on par with dealers. The NPS notes how many customers spread the good word about a business.

The study ranked independent service providers on the scores they received, and Christian Brothers Automotive Group came out on top. They were followed by Meineke Car Care Centers, Goodyear Auto Service, Kwik Kar, and Midas.

[Image: txking via Shutterstock]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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6 of 71 comments
  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on May 05, 2023

    JD Powah Hammah surverys aren't worth the screen real estate they occupy. I wonder how many large franchise dealer networks 'contribute' to JDP.

    Good independents are hard to find, but they are out there.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on May 07, 2023

    When I was a teenager replacing my own front brakes on my first car (four decades ago), I seem to recall paying $30 per side to have the brake rotors turned, plus waiting around at the shop for them to do it, plus the cost of new pads and a trip to the physical store to buy them. Semi-metallic pads were a new thing at the time (so of course that's what I got).

    Yesterday after the conclusion of a 3-day road trip in my spouse's vehicle, decided it was finally time to install the front pads and rotors I ordered last year (mild pedal pulsation not getting any better, big surprise). Full ceramic pads, brand new rotors (turning reduces mass, brakes convert motion to heat, losing mass is bad). Old pads were maybe 40% worn, nice and even wear, old rotors were slightly scuffed. Total cost (including non-California-approved chlorinated brake cleaner) less than a hundred bucks, shipped to my home. (Rockauto not amazon, brand name not generic, let's be smart.)

    What a time to be alive. 🙂

    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on May 07, 2023

      Put the ball-peen hammer away, old man -- don't you remember the screw trick to loosen the stuck rotors? (Yeah, now we do.) And definitely wear the nitrile gloves whilst spraying the carcinogenic brake cleaner.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic 3SpeedAutomatic on May 08, 2023

    Many folks used to work on their own cars. Remember going to Sears for specific auto tools which were better than what was available at the auto parts house. Now, it's either the tire store (PepBoys, Goodyear) for routine maintenance like brakes, shocks, tires, alignments; or the dealer for real specific issues (flashing waring light on the dash).

    Independent shops are overwhelmed by computers; wide variety of makes and models; Domestic, Asian, or Euro; turbo verses naturally aspirated; CVT verses conventional; etc. Those that specialize (A/C, window glass, transmissions, tire jobbers) are the only long term survivors.

    • 2ACL 2ACL on May 08, 2023

      Regional specialists (i.e., Euro, Asian) seem to be doing fine in my parts. Many financially stable folks will drive the same car for 10-20 years, during which they will transition from the dealer to an independent. The hourly rates and the tech/mechanic turnover tend to be more stable with the latter, so quality and value of service are more consistent.

      Agree about general shops, though. In the early 00s, some independents that opened close to me were immediately backlogged by their first clients bringing them MkIV VWs. Many have since folded into larger chains for marketing or resource-sharing purposes. Those unable to establish a customer base were either bought out or shut down. I still see general shops in highly urbanized areas, but they're definitely more selective about their opportunities.

  • LostInTransit LostInTransit on May 16, 2023

    It took us 2 years to locate a shop willing to handle our performance upgrades on a 2020 Connect and we got lucky as they have a contract with the state to handle their fleet of Connect. But both the shop and ourselves are still learning what can and can't be installed on the van. So far our assumptions have bene correct on selecting the correct parts for the van with a 10% failure rate.