How to Be a Kick-Ass Female Customer at an Auto Repair Shop
I got a text from a friend last week regarding her Volkswagen Jetta: “Why is my oil change going to cost me $98?!”
My reply: “Look it up."
I never did find out why my friend's Jetta was quoted for a $98 oil change, but her surprise at the high quote did remind me of an article I read in The Atlantic a few months ago. This article touched on a study that showed women are sometimes overcharged by auto repair shops. Apparently, most repair shops believe women know less about cars and repairs and, if they are not proven wrong (by the female customer), they will charge the lady more.
Was my friend getting ripped off because she was female? Perhaps--but also, maybe not.
Obviously, not all repair shops overcharge (women OR men), so don’t get me wrong that I'm hating on my buddies at Pennzoil. However, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re being treated fairly whenever you’re out and about—and especially when you’re taking care of an expensive purchase like a car. It pays to be informed and to be bold -- literally.
Here are some tips:
Own that Auto Shop
Women who defy stereotype come out ahead. -- The Atlantic
You’re the customer and you’re in charge of the transaction. If you don’t like what Business X is telling you, you have the option of leaving and trying your luck someplace else. When you walk into that waiting room or pull into that garage bay, own it. You’re here because you want to tune up your car. Don’t act meek. You’re in charge. Be friendly and strike up a conversation with your attendant. It doesn’t hurt to make the transaction personal. If you’re relaxed and friendly, they’re more likely to like you—and probably less likely to tack on an additional $15 to your bill because of your gender or lack of know-how.
Case in point: Whenever I go to into a Jiffy Lube or Pennzoil, I always like to hang out in the garage while they do the tune-up or oil change. (Not only do I get to see exactly what they are doing--I find it interesting--but I also like chatting.) The workers don't usually mind--and I think they like giving me the blow-by-blow account of my car's tune-up. By being engaged, I come off as informed and less likely to fall for any suggested, unnecessary repairs/parts replacement.
Knowledge Is Power
Women who gather information about the repair's market rate, tell the repair shop they've done their research, and ask for a discount will likely get one. -- The Atlantic
Most people have access to the internet. Use it. Look up the repair you need so you know exactly what is going to happen and what parts will be required. This way, you'll know if they're trying to lump in unnecessary parts and repairs that have nothing to do with what you need. Even if you go into the shop not knowing what’s wrong with your vehicle, you can leave (without getting service) and do some research at home before committing to the repair.
It also doesn't hurt to become acquainted with the parts that are replaced/rotated the most often on your vehicle. That way, you'll know when to say no to "suggest repairs." I suggest knowing how old your wiper blades, air filter, and tires are--and also being aware of the last time your tires were rotated and your oil was changed.
Case in point: If a mechanic asks to replace your air filter (which looks fine) after only half of the recommended time between replacements has passed, you'll know to say "no."
When women request a lower price, they receive a price cut from the repair shop more often than men do—35 percent of the time compared with 25 percent for men. -- The Atlantic
Getting something expensive replaced like a timing belt or a water pump? Call around. Start with the dealer and move on down the line to local mechanics. Don’t tell them the quotes that you’re getting from other places, but preface that you’re looking for the best deal, and then give them one shot to give you a price. If it’s outrageous, tell them you’ve found a better deal somewhere else and that they’ve lost your business. The smart ones will try and win you back with a lower quote. It’s your call if you want to haggle or play the automotive version of “The Price Is Right.” Most likely, they’ll realize you’re a savvy shopper and that it’s in their best interest to give you the most honest quote. Also, always write down the name of the person on the phone and the quote they give you, otherwise there is no guarantee the shop will honor it.
Case in point: I saw a deal for an oil change at Business X. I went to Business Y and asked if they would change my oil for the price advertised by Business X ($10 cheaper). It was a gamble but they agreed to match the price of Business X.
If you have the guts, you'll reap the glory.
Come on ladies, we got this.