Me and Tracy...
Sounds like our Porsche experiences were pretty much identical!! Geez did I hate taking mine ANYWHERE. Dealer just seemed to make up the price according to how much they wanted to make today, and indies had no idea of how to work on the car. Between a rock and a hard place...
With MB's, I find our local dealer techs are used to dealing with newer under-warranty cars, and do diagnosis through part swapping. This can get REALLY expensive when your car is not under warranty.
The other thing I don't like about our dealer techs is that they don't listen to customers, well, not me anyway. I have often suggested a diagnosis, only to have them roll their eyes at me, start in a different direction, and end up where I originally thought. I know that cutomers probably have steered them wrong in the past, but all I ask is that they just listen to me at the outset.
I take the C230 to the dealer, as it's under warranty (Signature Class). The 190E does NOT go to the dealer. They make no attempts to repair anything. Let's face it, the 190 is worth 5, maybe $6,000. Do I really want to spend $1000 everytime it needs a repair? Nope.
There are some exceptions. When we replaced the timing chain, we had it done by the dealer. If the repair went south, I knew the dealer would make it right. We don't have an MB indie large enough here to do that. They're all pretty much small shops, two mechanics at most.
It's not the labout rate difference. I would gladly pay $85 per for someone to diagnose problems and replace parts that NEED replacing. Dealers also offer loaner cars and wash my car for me. That's nice too. I just hate the "throw parts at it and see what works" work that our local dealers practice...
1998 C230 "Black Betty"