Independent garages beat franchised dealers in satisfaction survey

New study suggest independents score better for overall satisfaction, even though franchised dealers offer better customer service

Words By Steve Huntingford

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Independent garages are more convenient than main dealers for after-sales work, and consequently score better for overall customer satisfaction, a new study suggests.

The research, commissioned by the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), found that 87% of people were satisfied with their experience of using an independent garage, compared with 80% who felt the same way about their experience of franchised dealers.

At the same time, 65% of respondents said they found independents convenient – 10% more than the figure for franchised dealers.

In both cases, national high street chains performed worst, scoring 72% for overall satisfaction and 45% for convenience.

There were, however, plenty of areas where franchised dealers were rated highest, including professionalism, knowledge and customer service. And while independents were well ahead when it came to value for money, the NFDA claims this has more to do with perception than reality.

Chairman Mark Squires said: β€œPart of the problem is that when you put a franchised dealer and an independent side by side, you’re comparing apples with oranges, but we haven’t been effective enough at communicating this to consumers.

β€œIf you visit a franchised dealer you ensure that an expert looks after your car and that it gets the latest software updates, whereas there are no such guarantees if you leave the dealer network.”

Stuart James, director of the independent garage association, countered: β€œBecause they work on a wider range of vehicles and don’t just specialise in cars that are one to three years old, independents have to be better from a diagnostic point of view. Lots of our members actually support franchised dealers when they’re struggling to diagnose problems.”

James continued: β€œIndependents are part of their community and bring a personal touch that will never be beaten. It’s very reassuring that a survey commissioned by the NFDA reflects this.”

The NFDA findings were based on a nationwide survey of 1000 people, 51% male and 49% female.

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