The following is a guest post from my very own sister. She had to get her car repaired recently and learned a valuable lesson on how not to get ripped off when getting your car fixed. Leave some comments and show her some love!
I got into an incredibly minor accident recently in which the curb was left unscathed, but my driver-side front tire was left most decidedly scathed. Luckily the curb run-in happened about a mile from a Pep Boys, and so I drove the car there. Slowly. The wheel was wobbling and the alignment was off, and who knows what other devilry was afoot under there.
Pep Boys has this neat thing where you can leave your car there during the night, fill out this form, put it in the drop box, and the next morning they’ll fix it up for you and call you to tell you it’s done. For this particular situation, I wasn’t so sure though that they could fix it because they aren’t exactly a full-scale garage but it was late and I had nowhere else to bring it.
So how did I avoid getting ripped off with this repair? And how can you avoid getting ripped off with repairs in the future?
- Get the 1st Estimate
Pep Boys called in the morning and said that I needed to have the lower control arm, lower ball joint, and tire rim replaced. And the alignment on the car needed to be fixed. Those parts plus labor was estimated to be $749.
- Call in Another Car Repair Shop to Get Estimate #2
Not knowing jack about jack when it comes to this kind of thing, I called a different repair shop, the Sears Auto Center. I told the guy what things needed to be replaced and about the alignment. He gave me an estimate for parts and labor of $384.
??!! Sounds like Pep Boys is ripping me off by about half!!
- Pit the Car Repair Shops Against Eachother
My car was already at Pep Boys, I wanted it back fixed ASAP, and I didn’t want to go through the trouble of having it towed to Sears Auto Center. So I called Pep Boys back and told them that a different repair shop gave me an estimate of $384 for the same parts/labor.
The guy at Pep Boys was strangely quiet and kept saying, “Hmmmm.” And then he said that he needed to “check on things” and he’d call me back.
And he did call me back. He gave me some story about being confused about parts and that actually it would all come out to $425. And that he could give me a “10 or 15% discount, too.”
And so I told him, “$425 with a 15% discount sounds great, when should I expect it to be done?”
- End Result
Although the original repair shop (Pep Boys) gave me the inflated price of $749 for parts and labor, a simple call to a second shop (Sears Auto) who quoted me a far lower price of $384 made the original place bring down their price. By an astronomical amount. If you haven’t done the math, I got Pep Boys to fix my car for a grand total of $361.
And if you’re even more interested in the mathematicals here, Pep Boys brought the price down by over half simply because I got an estimate from somewhere else.
Getting more than one estimate and figuring out the best option took me about half an hour. And it was on a Sunday. I got my car back a few hours later all fixed up. Pitting repair shops against eachother to keep your business is the way to go for the cheapest auto repair price!
Sidebar for Women or Shy Men: Don’t Worry About Hurting a Mechanic’s Feelings – Hopefully this sidebar doesn’t insult anyone too much (although what’s a good blog post without a little controversy? ). Being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean that blue collar fix-it type men will try to rip you off, but chances are that many will (sorry brother, but it’s often true!). And I suspect that they probably try to rip off many men, too. And they often get away with it because (A) many women (and men) don’t know enough about cars to know that they’re getting taken for a ride, and (B) many women are too timid, shy, unsure of themselves, or sympathetic to say, “Really? That’s a lot. I’m calling somewhere else for another estimate.” To say that is ballsy. It implies that you’re calling someone a liar. It brings someone’s integrity into question. It’s not nice. And even though we live in 2013 now, women are still often raised to “be nice.” But in the case of your pocket book, don’t be nice. Be realistic. Be practical. Take a deep breath and say, “I’m calling somewhere else, hold off on work until I call you back.” And if they give you guff, have the balls to say, “Yes you most certainly will wait for me to call back, and no you will not raise the price on me when I do call back. So take a smoke break and wait for my call.” One mechanic many years ago had the anger-inducing audacity to say to me, “Little girl, you can call around if you want, but it’s a waste of time, I’m giving you the best price.” Turns out, he wasn’t giving me the best price. Don’t let them demean you, condescend to you, intimidate you, or make you feel bad. Be practical. Be realistic. And don’t worry about hurting peoples’ feelings. Just get that second estimate. You won’t be sorry.