How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off on Car Repairs

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.

Bent tire rim. Not getting ripped off with car repair.

Does this look like $749 worth of damage to you?

So how did I avoid getting ripped off with this repair? And how can you avoid getting ripped off with repairs in the future?

  1. 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.

  1. 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!!

  1. 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?”

  1. 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.


How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off on Car Repairs — 27 Comments

  1. It is sad, but true, that places still try to rip women off. I actually enjoy bringing my car to a shop because I know how to fix most things, if not all, on my vehicles. I bring them to the shop because I don’t have all of the tools. I like when they give me quotes and then I ask them to take me back into the shop to see the car. That is when the real negotiations begin. Shop employees will always inflate the price because they know that some will pay it and that is easy money. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with anyone, especially mechanics.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Be Money Savvy in 2013 – Use Your PPI Repayment to Get Your Finances in OrderMy Profile

    • Well that’s pretty sweet for you! It would be so awesome if I knew more about cars and could go to a shop and check things out and just intrinsically know what things shoudl cost. THat would be wonderful!

  2. You’re right that if they’re willing to rip one gender off they’ll probably try to rip anyone off. Especially over the phone. I had a similar experience happen although the starting price was way lower. I still didn’t like it so called other mechanics in the area and was able to get the price reduced. I also did that between 3 car dealerships when I got my car. Final price was 15% lower.
    John @ Fearless Men recently posted..Valentine’s Day Date-Getting Ahead Planning The Perfect Valentine DateMy Profile

    • I hadn’t thought of looking betwen different car dealerships. I bought a used car from a dealer a few years ago, and definitely haggled on site, but didn’t think to really look other places that much. Well, I looked at CarMax, but they’re deal actually wasn’t any better than the dealership, soo…. It sucks but I also know now that if I want the least hassle I need to have TB or my boyfriend or some other guy call a mechanic for me. Or come with me to get repairs. The presence of a guy seems to lessen their B.S. a little bit.

    • That’s a ton of work! This time around, I didn’t say in the article, but I did google the parts that Pep Boys told me I needed to get a feel for price, before calling the 2nd place. But to also look at how difficult the repari should be? It stinks that we should have to do so much extra work just to make sure that they do their work properly!

    • Oh I know! It’s terrible that the moment somethign goes wrong with my car, I instantly feel dread. Not becuase of the time I’ll have to take off work to get it repaired and not becuase my car just got busted, but because I know I”m going to have to interact with someone who will almost certainly try to rip me off in any way possible. It’s a terrible feeling! When I lived back home, I had TB to help me out and fix things for me, or tell me exactly what should happen when I go to the shop. But living far away, I lost my trusted mechanic brother, haha :-)

  3. Kudos to you for keeping them honest. To be honest, I would have struggled with giving PEP boys any business, but seeing the circumstance, I can understand why you had the repairs done there. Seeing the highly inflated quote they gave you I would have also been highly suspect of the repairs they said were needed. But you should be proud of what you did!
    Jose recently posted..The Challenge – Changing Your Blogs DomainMy Profile

    • Well thanks! Yeah, it is a weird thing to give business to the very company that was trying to rip you off. I”ll know not to go back now, so I”ve learned that. And now you all know that they might rip you off, but even so, you’re righ, it’s odd to give money to the rip-off companies!

      OH, and it’s funny you mentioned being suspect of their repairs because I have been! I’ve been listening really closely to my car and how it feels when I drive. I’m nervous that they were pissed I made them bring down the price so much that they did a half-a$sed job! Only time will tell…

    • But how do you do that when you’re away from home? I guess you could check Yelp or something. Now listen, I’m not TB, so I have no idea what an EGR valve is. Although if it required you to be on your back under a car in a motel parking lot, well, I have some sympathy for you! Must’ve sucked! Being able to fix your own car though must be nice, you can always be sure the mechanic is honest at least 😉

  4. Great article, a while back got my car repaired, timing belt and brakes, 1000€ in total weird thing was labour was only 25€ less than half the usual rate, didn’t understand that till a few years later when I took it in to an “expensive” garage. Discovered they were cheap on labour cause they gouged you on parts. Second time was about half the cost


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  8. I agree that estimates should be made. My husband insists on taking our cars to the same repair shop without shopping around. Every time I have a good feeling that we are being ripped off. Most of the time the cost is well over 500. I always thought when it gets that high it should be something big like a new transmission. Not just routine maintenence . My husband insists that he isn’t ripping us off and he likes him ( the mechanic) because he reminds him of his uncle. This is an endless battle. We’re all here to be successful but why work many more hours just because you like this “mechanic”?

  9. Pep Boys????

    Step 5: If it’s a chain store, RUN AWAY!!!

    Okay, it’s true: you’re mighty lucky if you can find a local mechanic who’s honest and knows what he’s doing. But ask your friends. Get on Angie’s List. Pull strings. And don’t ever take your car to some outfit that has a shop in every city.

    Re the grand old tradition of ripping off women: A male voice is always good (hire one, if you can’t inveigle one!). But the owner of the male voice needs to know something about cars. Otherwise he makes himself just as much a mark as the average owner of the female voice is presumed to be.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Gearing Up for a New SemesterMy Profile

  10. One way to avoid being oversold on service — and perhaps avoiding costly repairs in the first place — is to stick with the car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. “It helps if you plan your maintenance rather than waiting to fix something when it breaks,” Neilson says. “It’s usually cheaper and less traumatic.”

  11. Wow, I can’t believe the Pep Boys quote. I agree, it is always good to check with a couple of places when getting your car fixed, even if it might take a little longer to get your car back. I think I would rather save money instead.

  12. One thing I do is go on or if I know I have a big repair coming up. Some independent mechanics are registered on AutoMD and you can get quotes right online. They also give you the dealership vs shop vs DIY cost so you always know what to expect. A word of advice when using this site…expect the higher end of the estimate. That way if it is equal or less, you aren’t going to experience sticker shock.

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