I'm trying to stay away from the dealership service department as much as possible because of the super high prices. What is your opinion on the quick lube places that you see all around? Is it safe to take my car there? What are they qualified to do?
The big drawback is the people working on your car. Let's face it. They're either kids or unskilled laborers the majority of the time. Although some shops do have a qualified manager/foreman who can do A/C work, tune-ups, inspections, and other miscellaneous items.
Be careful where you go, and if you feel uncomfortable, go elsewhere. Typically you don't want these shops to do much more than change the oil and rotate the tires. There are lots of true stories about stripped drain plugs, double-sealed oil filters, and getting towed in a few miles from the shop with a permanently damaged engine.
But there are pros and cons to everything. The positive factor behind the various Lube Centers is convenience. It enables a typical driver to keep their engine cleaner and running longer because they can get a lube, oil and filter in fifteen minutes or less. The franchises use name brand oil, but I'm sometimes concerned about the quality of the no-name oil filters.