Will I Get Bad Service at My Local Dealer Because I Bought My Car Elsewhere?

Image:DePaula Chevrolet
Image:DePaula Chevrolet

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are talking about local dealer service, manufacturer determined discounts and the risks of buying a used BMW.

First up: will you ever get “second-tier service” from a dealer if you didn’t buy the car there?

Is there any practical downside to buying a car from a dealer other than the local one from which you will go to get all of your routine maintenance and warranty service?

I know that if I bought a say, a Chevy from a dealer 100 or 1000 miles away I am still entitled to service at the local Chevy dealer. But if you take your vehicle in for service to a dealer other than the one you bought the car from, does the dealer have the right to deny you a loaner, put your repair lower in the queue, or do anything to disadvantage you relative to customers who bought their cars there?

I doubt any dealer would have such a policy officially, but it seems like the kind of thing a busy service department would resort to when resources like loaner vehicles or techs are in short supply.

I’d the past, I’ve toyed with the idea of shopping multiple dealers to maximize savings on the purchase, but ultimately I’ve always gone with the local dealer because I figured if I didn’t I’d always be a second-tier customer when it came to service.

Is there any truth to this, or is it all in my head?

So this is one of those myths that continue to get perpetuated, and there are rare stories of local stores being crappy to service customers that bought elsewhere. However, the service department generally doesn’t care where you bought your car.


Would a local customer possibly get some more “perks” like a loaner or something? Perhaps. But the likelihood doing a terrible a job on your warranty work because you bought elsewhere is slim. Remember, those service departments are just as bound to those customer surveys as the sales floor—and your money’s as good as anyone else’s—so it’s in their interest to keep you happy. If you do have a bad experience you can kick your complaint up the chain to corporate.

When you shop for a car I always recommend spreading the net wide to find the best deal. If you get a number from far away, give your local store an opportunity to match or beat that price. If they come close, perhaps within a few hundred bucks, maybe it’s worth staying local if you’re going to save a significant amount of money by traveling do it.


Was doing some shopping and price comparisons between Hyundai dealerships. I get an OTD price from one and contact a competing dealership to see if they’ll beat it. I’m told that the cars on his lot are “M Plan Pricing” and are the lowest any dealership is allowed to sell in Michigan (also there must be something wrong with the one I have been given the OTD price to for it to be so low). Do manufacturers set the price or the dealership? I was under the impression the dealership owns the car and can sell it for whatever they’d like, hence the term Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price.


You are absolutely correct: the automaker does not dictate the sale price of the car. Dealers can sell a car for way over sticker, as we have seen with hot commodities like Ford Focus RS-es and Dodge Demons, or dealers can sell things for way below their invoice cost, and even take a “loss” on a car to move a unit.

Now some stores that move a lot of volume can “afford” to take a deeper hit on a car to get their unit numbers in while smaller stores need to make money on the cars themselves. In this case, it seems like it’s a low volume store that cannot compete with the higher volume places.


What else? Let’s continue:

I’m interested in spending about $15,000 -$20,000 on a BMW 2 or 3 series coupe.

Based on my budget for the total price of the car, I have found a handful of options. How much could I expect to pay in maintenance for say a 2015 BMW coupe that has 45,000 miles or so? The general idea says that the upfront cost of German luxury cars isn’t what gets you, but the long-term ones in the form of oil changes etc...


So it’s practically impossible to say how much a used German car will cost you in the long run because there are so many factors to consider, such as your usage of the vehicle, your regular maintenance and the overall reliability of that specific model and trim.

While a three- or four-year-old modern BMW is probably less likely to bleed you dry than a much older model, it all comes down to how its past owner or owner maintained it. The key here is to get this car inspected before you buy so that you can spot any major red flags that indicate expensive problems down the road.


I also recommend you check the forums and other user resources where people are reporting their ownership experience with these cars and see what pops up regularly as a problem spot.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)

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I’ve seen it first hand (I work for one of the domestic three and deal with service personnel weekly). Small town car Dealers are the worst for treating customers poorly if they didn’t buy from them, they seem to take it personally that the Customer chose to go elsewhere to purchase, then come local for service. I try to explain to them, “What will generate more revenue from the Customer? that one time purchase, or repeated service visits - both in and out of warranty?” They will not their heads in agreement, but still continue to treat non-purchasing customers like crap.  Small town, small minds.