Have you ever been taken for a ride? I hope not! There are dishonest auto shops in the world, but most of us have your best interest at heart. As a female mechanic and auto shop owner, I get why so many drivers feel concerned. Here’s how to get a fair deal at the mechanic…
Don’t Automatically Assume Every Auto Shop Is Out to “Get You”
It’s ignorant to believe every mechanic is a scam artist. There are more than 700,000 mechanics in the United States (and most of us are professionals who want to do a good job and take care of your car!).
Look at it this way. Maybe you’re a salesperson. How would you feel if people said things like: “Oh… you work in sales? That means you’re selfish and don’t care about anything but making more money.”
Do some salespeople put the bottom-line above doing the right thing? Sure! But they’re not all that way. Smart salespeople know it’s best to treat people with respect, because that’s how you earn trust and repeat business. The same fact applies to the auto industry.
Taking advantage of people is short-sighted. A dishonest auto shop might make a buck off one driver, but then they’ll never see them again. Most shops understand this reality. In our connected world, where online reviews can make or break a business, it’s never been more important to guard your reputation.
Accept Personal Responsibility for the Condition of Your Vehicle
Let’s get real about why drivers have this perception. I’ll use a case study from my own experience.
A customer came to my shop and asked for an oil change. That’s the only thing she wanted, but my crew did a routine safety inspection to make sure nothing else was wrong with her car. This isn’t unusual… we do it for every customer (and so do most other shops).
One of my mechanics discovered her tires were in bad shape. The tread was so thin that a blow-out could happen at anytime. Obviously, that would be a dangerous situation (especially at a high speed!), so we recommended replacing her tires.
My service adviser (PPA) delivered the bad news. She didn’t take it well. “All I wanted was an oil change and now you’re trying to charge me $500 for new tires!”
This reaction is typical. It’s also understandable. It sucks to get stuck with a big repair bill, especially when you weren’t prepared for it.
(Note: This is why I believe every driver needs to have money set aside for the specific purpose of auto repair and maintenance!)
Look at it this way: would you rather know you have a car problem now (while you’re already at the auto shop where it can be solved) or later (when you’re driving to work or taking a road trip)?
The first option sounds a lot better to me. Remember this point the next time you get upset when a mechanic recommends a service besides the one you requested. It might be in your best interest!
The Right Way to Handle Objections to Necessary Auto Repairs
I didn’t argue with this driver. What’s the point? Instead, I offered to show her the problem so she could understand why we made the recommendation.
I walked her to the car and asked her to take a close look at her tires. Next, I showed her a set of new tires so she could see the difference for herself. Ah-ha! While she wasn’t thrilled about spending $500, she felt more comfortable with the investment.
This illustrates the right way to do business. I didn’t start a fight or argument. I didn’t try to intimidate the driver. I didn’t get defensive or ignore her questions. Instead, I chose to educate her. As a result, she calmed down and agreed to the job.
People are more willing to spend money on repair and maintenance when they understand how it benefits their safety. Expect the same treatment from your auto shop.
If there’s really something wrong with your car, there should be symptoms. That might be a nasty odor, leak, fume, noise, sensation, or visual/auditory/physical indicator of some kind.
In my case, the driver had cracks in her tires, which could only indicate one thing: they needed to be replaced soon. Honest mechanics will be happy to share this evidence with you, because it’s a great way to build trust.
If You’re Unsure about a Repair, Ask to See the Problem
If you want to confirm a mechanic is being 100% honest, ask a simple question: “Will you show me the problem?” Pay close attention to their facial expression and body language. Some nonverbal cues that indicate dishonestly include:
- Touching the mouth
- Avoiding eye contact
- Shuffling feet side-to-side
- Tilting or nodding their head
If a mechanic refuses your request, be leery. There’s no good reason to deny a driver’s right to know exactly what is wrong with their vehicle. It can only build trust and goodwill. Take your business elsewhere, because they’re probably trying to sell you an unnecessary service.
What to Do When You Drop Off Your Vehicle
Asking to see the problem is a powerful tactic, but it’s not appropriate for every situation. What if you have to drop off your car and go back to work before the mechanic completes a diagnosis? Uh-oh! Good luck reading their nonverbal cues in a phone car…
If you must leave your car at the auto shop, ask a service adviser (PPA) to notify you of the cost before any work is completed. This is your right. Exercise it! However, be mindful of the fact that mechanics are busy. If your car is taking up space in the garage, other customers are waiting.
Can’t answer the phone? Call them back ASAP. The auto shop will appreciate you for being so timely. If you want to confirm the mechanic is quoting a fair price, do a Google search for the average cost of that repair while you’re on the phone. RepairPal is a great place to do that!
Note: The price on this website is a weighted average. The true price will depend on variables like the make/model of your car, cost of living in your city, severity of your problem, and other details.
In other words, if there’s a big difference between the quote and average, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being scammed.
What to Do When You Know What’s Wrong
In some cases, you might be aware of what your car needs. Maybe it’s something expensive like a transmission or engine replacement. If this is true, feel free to get price quotes at a few different auto shops before you agree to the service.
That doesn’t mean price is the #1 factor to consider. You’re not paying for this service in isolation. You’re paying for the years of training and development that prepared the mechanic to do this job. Balance it out by asking about qualifications and reading online reviews before you choose a shop.
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