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Indie repair shops take dealer market share in auto sector, IMR data finds

Jan. 17, 2024
In the past decade, more vehicle owners are choosing aftermarket shops over dealerships for auto maintenance and repair, market research from IMR found.

When it comes to automotive maintenance, consumers are opting for aftermarket repair shops over dealership service centers earlier in their vehicles’ life cycles than before, according to market research from IMR Automotive Research.

IMR’s data found that over the past decade, dealership service centers have been losing ground to independent repair shops, tire dealers with service bays, and others. In 2013, about a quarter of consumers chose dealership service centers, while 10 years later that number declined to about 20%.

“Aftermarket outlets have been increasing in share for vehicle repairs and services in younger model vehicles (new to three years old) over new car dealerships over the last 10 years, mainly due to convenient location and price,” said Barlo Hardin, senior analyst at IMR, which conducts syndicated and proprietary market research studies that focus on the automotive industry including the automotive aftermarket, heavy-duty, and fleet segments. “While trust in the dealerships has stayed consistent, where we have seen the most growth is in non-warranty part service and repairs.”

This trend seems to only affect U.S.- and European-made vehicles.

“Aftermarket share for domestic and European vehicle maintainers has been growing while Asian vehicle maintainers have been going to new car dealerships more consistently over the last 10 years,” Hardin noted.

Even for newer vehicles, those under three years old, the numbers have dwindled. In 2013, more than half of consumers went to the dealership to service their new cars, and now that’s down to 35.8%. 

Tire dealers have an 11.1% share of repairs and indie shops are at 7.2%. Quick lube shops, parts retailers, national repair chains, and repair specialists comprise the rest of the aftermarket share, IMR’s data found.

As federal Right to Repair legislations efforts ramp up, which would provide more access to OEM vehicle repair data, it is likely the aftermarket would gain even more ground.

It’s unclear if market conditions are pushing commercial vehicle maintenance in the same direction, but according to RepairAct.com, customers spend 36% more for repairs at the dealer. While contending with a freight recession, it wouldn’t be surprising if more fleets did opt more frequently for the cheaper alternative.

In respect to aftermarket vs. OE parts, the road less costly is not always the best route, experts in the space recently told us. The gist is that higher cost usually leads to higher quality, and thus less frequent replacement and better performance.

Assume that at your own risk, though. OEM dealers typically have better tools and more OEM training, but a great technician can be found anywhere, from a shiny new dealership to an oil-soaked backwater garage. And when it comes to a speedy and accurate repair, the person using the tool is what matters most.

There’s a lot to consider here, and Fleet Maintenance will investigate the topic further in the coming months with IMR, which is also a division of Endeavor Business Media. If you manage a commercial fleet and have switched from the dealer model to aftermarket repair and would like to discuss why (on or off the record), send us an email at [email protected]. Same goes if you want to talk about why you’ll never leave your trusted dealer.