Garbage in, Garbage out: Pricing auto repair

Garbage in, Garbage out!

How do you know if your repair shop is charging a fair and honest price?

Many people call around several shops trying to find the cheapest price for auto repairs. They think if it’s the cheapest price, it’s the best deal. Yet, there are many questions besides price that are important in choosing an auto repair shop. Finding one that gives you the cheapest price over the telephone may not lead you to a fair price, an honest shop, much less an accurate and well-performed repair.

People also turn to the internet for auto repair pricing. After all the internet knows all, doesn’t it? There are several web sites that claim to quote prices for repair work on your vehicle, all without seeing the car or being able to verify what is wrong or evaluate the true condition. Even though the internet may be great for pricing many products, it does not work well at pricing auto repair services.

Here are some examples we found in our research. We thought that most shops should be able to accurately quote an oil change on the internet. It is one of the simplest automotive operations, and you would think you could get an accurate quote. We looked online for an oil change for a 2006 BMW X3. The price quoted on several sites was on average $39.95. This was astounding to us. Because this vehicle requires synthetic oil and holds seven quarts. (Most cars hold five.) A great price for just the correct oil alone at PepBoys is $45.0Adolf’s Garage, and then the special BMW filter costs $20.00 (an average filter is $3.00 to $7.00). So think about that! If we go to that shop, are they really able to perform the service at $39.95 when the prices for the parts are over $60.00? If they stick to that price, what will they really be putting into our car?

We also looked at a simple repair. How much does it costs to install an oxygen sensor on a Mercedes-Benz? This is a common repair on a higher mileage vehicle. Average online price at a dealership was $335 and only $120 at an independent shop. Yet the factory part lists for $325 alone! And that’s without labor. So, is the internet a trustworthy source for price shopping auto repair? We think not.

Folks, our advice is don’t trust online estimates or even quotes over the phone. There are too many places that will quote you an awesome unbelievable price and you will bring your car to them and they will do a bait and switch. “Oh, we didn’t know you had a BMW X3. That oil change is $95.00” “Well, we quoted you on one oxygen sensor for your Mercedes and you need two sensors and a catalytic converter.” You will look in the mirror and see if you have SUCKER written on your forehead.

Sucker Forehead Tattoo
Don’t be a sucker and be fooled by internet sites that promise auto repair quotes.

The internet is great for many things, even research about auto repair shops, but to know if your repair shop is charging a fair and honest price, you will have to bring your car to the repair shop and request a written estimate.

To sum up, the only way to get an accurate quote is for a qualified technician to look at the car, test it and find the specific correct parts for the car, provide you a written estimate with a breakdown of specific parts and labor.

The true challenge for the consumer is picking a good honest shop. So rather than shop by price, ask a friend or family member you trust for a referral. Find out if that shop has ASE certified technicians. ASE provides test services to certify technicians in over 10 categories (brakes, engines, air conditioning, electrical, transmission, etc ) and the technician is required to have a minimum of two years of experience and must renew his certifications every three to five years.

Ask if the shop is a AAA of Texas Repair Facility? AAA is very choosy about who they allow into their program. Their shops all maintain a high set of standards including above 93% on customer satisfaction surveys, liability insurance, ASE certifications, etc. Are they members of the Automotive Service Association (ASA)? ASA members agree to abide by a Code of Ethics and are committed to continuous training, upgrading the professionalism of the industry and self-improvement. Are they accredited by the Better Business Bureau? BBB members agree to binding arbitration in the event of a dispute.

Find a good shop and you will be charged a fair honest price for the work and receive a decent warranty.

Just remember without being able to see the car and have all the information, you will be given the wrong answer. Garbage in. Garbage out.