With inflation raging in America, it is hard to know how much to pay for anything. Go into Subway for a sandwich that was $5 just a few years ago, and you walk out having paid $12. Auto repair prices have always been ridiculously hard to predict, but one thing has remained true all along - you always pay more at the dealer. So why did we just drop $735 for a front brake rotor and pad change at a local Mazda dealer? After all, we are the folks who warn owners about overpaying for Mazda service.
A Little Background On Mazda Maintenance
My wife is the driver of our MazdaCX-5. You may remember her guest story here at Torque News about why she switched from BMW to buy a Mazda. We have had nothing but great service from the two Mazda dealers we use in Metro Boston. However, when we were in for a recent oil change at 50K miles, the dealer quoted us $650 for front brakes. Just pads and rotors, not calipers. That seemed high to us, and we decided to phone local shops for estimates. Two that we called gave us a $400 estimate without seeing the car. We tried the one with the highest ratings first.
Reason #1 We Paid $735 For Mazda Brakes
The first reason we paid so much for brakes at a local Mazda dealer was that we tried to get them done at a highly-rated local shop and failed. We called ahead by five days, had a scheduled appointment, and I drove early morning with my wife to drop her CX-5 off. Then we both headed off to work in my car. Around 3 pm, not having heard back from the shop, I phoned. “Is our CX-5 all set,” we asked? “I’m sorry, but we could not get the parts,” was the answer. Since we didn’t get a call telling us that, I was a bit miffed. We picked the car up, and the plan at that moment was to return a few days later. After the bad experience, we nixed that idea and called another shop, who suggested we come in a few days later. Same low price.
Researching Brake Parts Shortages
After the bad experience, I decided to call some of my trusted shops. I work for Car Talk as well as at Torque News, and I maintain a referral network of shops known to offer quality work at affordable prices. Unfortunately for us, none are near our new home.
The news was almost shocking. My most trusted mechanic, who has owned his own shop for three decades, said, “Yeah, right now, I can’t get brakes for a few different brands.” He named the brands he could not get any parts for. At all. None. Not even from the local dealership’s parts counter. The list included one American brand that builds most of its vehicles in the United States. As opposed to Mazda, which builds its CX-5 in Hiroshima.
Even more surprising was my mechanic saying, “I happened to be going over to a Toyota dealer recently, and they had pallets of brake pads and rotors stacked up. They knew the problem was coming, and they took action to get parts ahead of time.” So this problem was not one that was limited to Mazda in any way. Nor did it catch every brand by surprise.
Second Reason We Paid a Dealer $735 For Mazda Brakes
The reason we opted not to continue trying local shops was logistical. My wife is a physician who works 10 to 12-hour days. She starts before our daughter goes off to school, and she doesn’t get out of work some hights until after 7 pm. That makes it very difficult for us to head out, drop off one car, then come back later to get it. Logistically, it is hard for us.
By contrast, our two local Mazda dealers both offer free loaner cars for service if you call ahead and make an appointment. And both are open well after 5 pm for pickup. That means my wife can simply stop in on the way to work, hop in the loaner, go to work, and then bring it back after she is finished at work. It is super simple. No wasted time. So, the second reason we paid $735 for Mazda brakes was that the dealer makes it very easy to work with them.
So the owner can be assured of the work performed, our Mazda dealer creates a video showing the work underway and when completed.
Reason Three We Paid a Mazda Dealer $735 For Brakes
The third reason we opted to go back to the dealer was concern that if anything went sideways with the brake job, say a surprise frozen lug nut, a seized caliper, or a broken part during the job, we had no confidence the local shop would be able to resolve that issue that same day. So we would be without the car for multiple days. If it takes a week to find the pads and rotors, imagine how long a caliper might take to find. So, fearing that the local shops could no longer be trusted to get parts, we went with the predictable outcome.
The Easy Mazda Dealer Experience
Contrasting our surprise with the local shop, our Mazda dealer had a loaner car ready to go (a new CX-50 Premium) and finished the brake job before lunch. My wife got a call that the car was ready, and she could come by any time she liked to drop the loaner and pay. She opted to do so at lunch. Great service, great communication, and, as we had expected, a predictable outcome. They even washed the car.
Past Experience With Mazda Dealer Pricing
We have always felt as if our Mazda dealer's prices were competitive with local shops before this brake job. In fact, we have compared the costs to maintain a Mazda with other bands and found Mazda can cost much less.
The Mazda Dealer Bonus
If we can name one thing we feel the Mazda dealer does better with regard to the actual work, it is that Mazda’s dealer used genuine Mazda parts. Had we gone with a local shop, the parts would have been aftermarket. Which we are certainly not opposed to, but using genuine parts is never a bad thing.
Your Thoughts On Using a Dealer For Brakes
We welcome your thoughts on paying a dealer $735 for brakes when it may be possible (or may not be) to pay much less to a local shop. Swapping them myself is not in my interest in winter without a garage in which to work, a back unhappy with bending and twisting, and - no parts! What would you have done in our situation? Tell us in the comments below.
John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his ten years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and TikTok @ToknCars, and view his credentials at Linkedin
Image of Mazda vehicles being serviced by John Goreham.