The most basic service and perhaps the most important service interval is the good old oil change. The best insurance you can buy is this basic service. The value, however, varies greatly with the provider of the service. The speed of the completion does not represent the completeness or thoroughness of the inspection. Common sense says that if something takes very little time there could not be much to do.
We should look first at the outlets where theses services are available. You can get an oil change from any independant garage or service station. You can visit a quick lube. You can get one while you are buying your tires at a tire store or franchise. You can get one at the dealership. You can get one on special at an automotive merchandiser.(Sears, Wards, etc.)
Wherever you go, ask yourself this question. Who is going to work on my car? A simple question with many different answers. Again use common sense. If the price of the service is low this usually means the individual performing the service is not a mechanic. This may or may not concern you but, it is very valuable to have a trained eye involved in any inspection of your car. Also it helps to know the different and sensitive parts of high tech automobiles. Some sensors and computer accuators are sensitive to rough treatment and chemical spills.(coolant, oils, etc.) Many of the emission components can be broken without you even detecting it by how the vehicle performs. It will show up in you smog check though! So knowing what you are touching is very important.
I would prefer a ASE Certified Master Technician with 10 years experience. I would also like to see this technician at church on sundays. He should also be a family man with good credit, and a good communicator. A homeowner and a community activist......... Wait a minute!!! I just got a little carried away!!! Forgive me. Do you get my drift? Who touches your car is very important.
I must let you make up you own mind, with the tools God gave you, on this subject. I believe only a experienced mechanic should work on cars........period. So do I have a vendetta against quick lubes? Do I hate merchandisers and tire stores? Do I think the dealer is way over priced? Can you really get what you pay for? Every time!!!!
The fact is that you ALWAYS get what you pay for. If you think that a price is too high you have to consider the price in terms of value. If you get a lube service at a real bargain there will be something that will suffer in terms of value. I am not saying that there are no good deals in auto repair. I am just saying the best deal is to have your car serviced by the best possible person. The most risky thing you can do is to search for the cheapest price for any automotive service. The best repair facilities I know of always have fair prices for most services offered.
The independent garage has the most competition and probably is the best value. Remember that depends on the caliber of human that is allowed to work on your car! Be discriminitive. Demand excellence. Build yourself a relationship with whoever you spend your money with. Since I believe the oil change interval is the most important and the most frequent, this is a good place to begin.
Merchandisers can be a good value if their stucture allows you to build your relationship with their service writer. They can also be very convenient since most are located in shopping areas. They offer a good variety of services which can make your auto needs a one stop affair. The big concern is still the human doing the job.
Dealerships are probably the last place you will look for an oil change, but recently they are getting into the quick lube business. You can be less concerned with competance, but I still cannot see the ability to build a relationship. Most dealerships are very structured and you will deal with many people none of which are the person touching your car. In general, the bigger the facility the harder it will be to build your relationship.
Tire stores sell tires and wheel services. There can be value seen here if you put these outlets in the catagory of specialized services. Tires as a product are very competitive in pricing and varieties. The best tire prices are usually at tire stores. The profit margin on tires is very low. The large outlets have huge overhead. Something may be observed by this condition. To survive in business, the tire store HAS to sell something else. This bothers me and it should concern you. I think service business should survive on it's own without loss leaders or gimicks.Needless to say, most of us do not look for oil change services at tire stores.
Todays complicated lifestyle has given way to the final and most increasingly popular outlet for this most important service, the quick lube. It always amazes me that people always get what they ask for in the service industries. I compare the quick lube to the fast food restaurants, not much in the way of nutrition, but you can sustain life on it. What is seriously lacking is the trained professional mechanic who can give your vehicle a thorough inspection. In it's place you are given an oil change with what used to be called full service at a service station. I suggest looking for value.
The outlet you choose for the oil change interval should have the ability to point out serious problems along with steering you along the path of good maintenance. This facility should keep good records with the date and mileage recorded for all your visits and what was and was not done at those visits. We all have much more in our daily lives to worry about without worrying when it is time to sevice our vehicle. A record of suggested repairs or needed maintenance is also key to knowing the condition your car. Remember the importance of WHO works on your car. Its's simple, be picky and get what you want.