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Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes #4849036 08/23/18 07:20 PM
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pezzy669 Online Content OP
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So ever since I started dabbling in the MB ownership experience the common mantra on the MB forums is 'find a good independent - you will save tons of $$'. I unfortunately live in a condo complex so doing work myself short of small items (air filters, battery replacement, wiper blades, etc.) is not possible and don't have any car friends with houses that could loan me a driveway or garage - I have been at the mercy of dealers or independents since I moved to Atlanta 6+ years ago.

Anyhow - most recent quote for engine mounts and transmission mounts from 1 dealer and 2 well rated independents is the 3rd time that the independents don't really come in much less than the well known dealership. The price disparity is typically 3-4% in the favor of the independents so its not the complete windfall it is made out to be. Here are the 3 examples of non-routine work that I have had quoted where the benefits of the dealership.

EIS/ESL lock on C300

Dealer $1600+tax
Indy 1 $1500+tax (only got one indy quote on this one)

Spark Plug change on C300

Dealer $426+tax
Indy 1 $380+tax + $125 to reset misfire CEL

Engine and Trans mounts on E350 4Matic

Dealer $2300+tax
Indy 2 $2200+tax
Indy 3 $2150+tax

Indy shop downsides

Pretty much none of them provide a loaner.
All 20-30 minute drive each way from where I am at - Uber/Lyft cost back and forth.
Some are complete holes in the wall with cars just stacked up all over their tiny lots.
Sometimes no car wash or interior vacuum.

I just wanted to quickly point out that independents are not always all they are cracked up to be in certain cases. I don't know if the market here in Atlanta is just odd where dealers are matching indy prices or vice versa, I can see the case if I lived closer to some of these independent shops but my local MB dealership is 5 minutes away and typically provides a loaner for any B services or above. Independent I would have to take 20-30 minutes each way to drive to and from then find transportation while my car was being serviced, all to save maybe $100. I guess I might just be lucky.

Your results may vary.



Last edited by pezzy669; 08/23/18 07:24 PM.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 69k - Castrol Edge Professional LL03 5W30
2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 49k - Castrol Edge Professional LL03 5W30
Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849043 08/23/18 07:26 PM
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walterjay Offline
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Ask your dealer if they can give you a better price. They may drop up to 10%

Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: walterjay] #4849049 08/23/18 07:41 PM
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pezzy669 Online Content OP
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Originally Posted By: walterjay
Ask your dealer if they can give you a better price. They may drop up to 10%


This is excellent to know, I will definitely give it a whirl! I have a great relationship with my service advisor at my local dealer and she tries to look out for me and my car so hoping she might be able to give the price a little haircut.


2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 69k - Castrol Edge Professional LL03 5W30
2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI - 49k - Castrol Edge Professional LL03 5W30
Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849062 08/23/18 07:49 PM
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Wolf359 Offline
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Or check the other MB dealers in the area for service coupons. Lots of dealers say they'll honor coupons from other nearby dealers.

Also I think you haven't found the right indy, some indys in my area charge as much as the regular dealer. The trick there is that they claim they're MB specialist. For regular work, I just go to a normal indy and the price is about half and they don't claim MB specialist but I check with them to see if they know how to do the job. The motor mounts are tricky and expensive because you're supposed to drop the exhaust. For MB parts, you can buy them for about 25-30% off online. Surprisingly, some MB dealers will install MB parts that you bring to them. Others will just price match the online price. If you really want to get into it, you can get a copy of the WIS/EPC (service manual/parts catalog) dvd on eBay for about $10.

Anyway, hope you didn't do all that yet, MB is running another promotion where it's $125 off $250+ in service. They seem to do this twice a year lately.

https://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/service_special/endofsummer2018

Don't get me wrong, I like going to the MB dealer too, plenty of free drinks (stocked like a convenience store), snacks and the one I go to even has a free breakfast/lunch bar. But the indys I find are way cheaper.

Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849068 08/23/18 07:56 PM
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Chris142 Online Content
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Do shops where you are offer loaners and car washes with regular services?


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Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849069 08/23/18 07:58 PM
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maxdustington Offline
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Originally Posted By: pezzy669
This is excellent to know, I will definitely give it a whirl! I have a great relationship with my service advisor at my local dealer and she tries to look out for me and my car so hoping she might be able to give the price a little haircut.

You should try to seduce her for discounted service!

Those prices are insane, there has to be a way to arrange a repair area that would be worth it! $500 for spark plugs?!


97 GMC RCLB K2500LD L30/4L60
Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849078 08/23/18 08:06 PM
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donnyj08 Offline
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My company has a fleet of MB sprinter vans and we always use the dealer. Its usually not any more expensive than when we have our GM vans maintained at Chevrolet.

The MB dealer also provides loaner vehicles without question.

I like our Sprinters. They are worlds better than the GM and Transit vans in our fleet. We are phasing all of our vans and service body's to sprinters.

Last edited by donnyj08; 08/23/18 08:09 PM.

2008 Silverado Z71 LT 98k Maxlife FS 5w30
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2016 Tucson Limited 1.6T AWD 26K A5/B5 5w30; Hyundai Filter.
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Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: maxdustington] #4849081 08/23/18 08:13 PM
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hallstevenson Online Content
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Originally Posted By: maxdustington
Those prices are insane, there has to be a way to arrange a repair area that would be worth it! $500 for spark plugs?!


My first thought was maybe spark plugs for MBs are more expensive than normal. RockAuto has ~10 choices with the most expensive being $8-9 each !

Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849093 08/23/18 08:24 PM
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hallstevenson Online Content
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Originally Posted By: pezzy669
Anyhow - most recent quote for engine mounts and transmission mounts from 1 dealer and 2 well rated independents is the 3rd time that the independents don't really come in much less than the well known dealership. The price disparity is typically 3-4% in the favor of the independents so its not the complete windfall it is made out to be. Here are the 3 examples of non-routine work that I have had quoted where the benefits of the dealership.

Indy shop downsides

Pretty much none of them provide a loaner.
All 20-30 minute drive each way from where I am at - Uber/Lyft cost back and forth.
Some are complete holes in the wall with cars just stacked up all over their tiny lots.
Sometimes no car wash or interior vacuum.


Sounds like you're picking some pretty bad independent shops. To think they'll provide a loaner or wash/vacuum your vehicle like a dealer will is silly. Just about every independent shop employs (2) types of workers - a service advisor and mechanics. One that I've used and like doesn't even have a service advisor. You talk to the mechanics. They write up your estimate, call you with the diagnosis, and collect your money when you pay. For those same reasons, they ain't got time to wash and vacuum. How could a shop provide loaners ? How many should they have available ? They're not "free" either.

As for the cost, I'm suspecting that they're charging you a "special" hourly rate because your vehicle is a Mercedes. The typical hourly rate around here for dealer work is $140+ per hour. Most independent shops are around $100/hour. The one I referred to above was $80/hour, as I recall (or they gave me a discount on the hourly rate).

Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849095 08/23/18 08:26 PM
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MCompact Offline
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My BMW dealer's prices are roughly equivalent to the indie shops, as they give me a 20% discount on parts and labor for being a BMW CCA member. My service advisor is also in the clum and has an E36 M3 that he takes to track events. He always gives me an entertaining loaner, like a 440i Gram Coupe with the M Performance Power and Sound kit.


Mine:
2014 M235i
2009 Cooper Clubman
1999 Wrangler Sahara
1995 318ti Club Sport

Wife's:
2015 X1 xDrive28i M Sport


Son's
2009 328i

Buy what makes you smile...
Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: pezzy669] #4849139 08/23/18 09:01 PM
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Nick1994 Offline
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$426 for spark plugs? If grab my tools, put them in the trunk, and change them in the back of a Walmart parking lot and save $375.


2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.4L 103k STP Synthetic HM 10w30 & OEM
2000 Toyota Camry 2.2L 235k Mobil Super HM 10w40 & Fram Ultra
1996 Jeep Cherokee 4.0L 149k Mobil 1 HM 10w40 & Fram Ultra
Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: MCompact] #4849151 08/23/18 09:09 PM
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user52165 Offline
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The real issue should be, why are these expensive repairs (not plugs) necessary? What kind of QC causes them to fail?

Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: user52165] #4849185 08/23/18 09:39 PM
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Wolf359 Offline
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Originally Posted By: user52165
The real issue should be, why are these expensive repairs (not plugs) necessary? What kind of QC causes them to fail?


EIS is electronic ignition system. There's a few other ways to fix them, you could also send them out to get fixed. There's a few companies on eBay that advertise EIS repair. MB uses it in pretty much every model for a while. Not a super common fault though.

The motor mounts are liquid filled so you get a buttery smooth engine instead of rubber mounts you'd find on other cars. Unfortunately, those mounts eventually break and the fluid leaks out so they need to be replaced in the 60-80k range, maybe more if you're lucky.

As for the plugs, yeah that's way too high for the M272 engine, that's somewhat simple. The M276 engine you had to take the intake manifold off in order to change the plugs because they went from a 90 degree block to a 60 degree block. I had an indy do mine, NGK laser plugs were $9.40 each on rockauto and I think I just paid him $50 to do it, did a bunch of other stuff at the same time like air filters etc. I was just being lazy at the time, could have done it myself but he was there doing a bunch of other stuff so had him throw them in while he was there.

Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: user52165] #4849186 08/23/18 09:40 PM
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maxdustington Offline
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Originally Posted By: user52165
The real issue should be, why are these expensive repairs (not plugs) necessary? What kind of QC causes them to fail?
OP's cars are no spring chickens, probably right where you would stop going to the dealership for service and either DIY or find a specialist.


97 GMC RCLB K2500LD L30/4L60
Re: Independents not always cheaper - unusual case - Mercedes [Re: Wolf359] #4849298 08/24/18 12:22 AM
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user52165 Offline
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Originally Posted By: Wolf359
Originally Posted By: user52165
The real issue should be, why are these expensive repairs (not plugs) necessary? What kind of QC causes them to fail?


EIS is electronic ignition system. There's a few other ways to fix them, you could also send them out to get fixed. There's a few companies on eBay that advertise EIS repair. MB uses it in pretty much every model for a while. Not a super common fault though.

The motor mounts are liquid filled so you get a buttery smooth engine instead of rubber mounts you'd find on other cars. Unfortunately, those mounts eventually break and the fluid leaks out so they need to be replaced in the 60-80k range, maybe more if you're lucky.

As for the plugs, yeah that's way too high for the M272 engine, that's somewhat simple. The M276 engine you had to take the intake manifold off in order to change the plugs because they went from a 90 degree block to a 60 degree block. I had an indy do mine, NGK laser plugs were $9.40 each on rockauto and I think I just paid him $50 to do it, did a bunch of other stuff at the same time like air filters etc. I was just being lazy at the time, could have done it myself but he was there doing a bunch of other stuff so had him throw them in while he was there.


Nothing unique about liquid filled motor mounts - lots of cars in all price ranges have used them for many years. I recall first seeing them on Honda Accords 25 - 30 years ago.

If there is a way to make it more expensive, complicated, or more difficult to replace, MB, BMW, or Audi will surely find a way.

To bad the OP did not break down the parts and labor separately. Curious what it would be.

Last edited by user52165; 08/24/18 12:46 AM.
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