Part IV in our series on Auto Repair Shops and You is going to deal with pricing, and how an estimate for repairs comes to be and why we will look over a vehicle completely whenever possible before calling with an estimate. In addition, I’ll be touching on why different shops quote different prices and see different things that are needed and recommended. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump in!
Once we take a look at your vehicle for the issue you brought it into us for, we generally look over the vehicle for any other red flags or potential problems that may happen in the near future. Unless there is a reason not to, (major safety concern, or in a case where the vehicle is brought in not running) we try to test drive every car and truck. We all know the stigma of auto repair shop visits when you just want your a/c charged, and then you are presented with a list of items that “need” to be replaced. I know it; I’ve had it happen personally when taking a new car with under 30k miles in for warranty work. Thankfully if you take a little time, ask a few questions, you can see the reason why and see the level of severity. If someone tells you that you need brakes RIGHT NOW, ask to see it for yourself. If they tell you that you need tires, or you have a component leaking, ask to see it. If you’re not at the shop, have them text or email pictures of the issue(s). If they can’t show you the reasons why, you don’t want them doing the work anyway.
I know you’ve wondered why one shop might tell you that you need something fixed or replaced immediately and when you take the same car on the same day to another shop they will mention it but tell you that you have time or that it’s nothing to be concerned about. Shops are in business to make money, and the majority of shops pay employees on commission. It’s been this way for a long time, and it gives the employees more control over how much money they can make. This means the more the service writer sells or the more labor hours the technician can produce, the more money they make. This is something we’ve never believed in at Pro-Tech. The main reason is while you hope that all your employees are honest, the allure of making more money can lead to over-exaggeration on what is “needed” and what is actually a safety concern. This also gets into selling “novelty services” that don’t really do anything for the car, yet can be presented as VERY IMPORTANT. These types of services are seldom more than snake oil, do nothing to really benefit your vehicle.
On the other side of the wall, commission pay for technicians can lead to things like rushing to diagnose the initial problem, missing something that is an actual safety concern, and not doing a job properly because of trying to move on to the next job. We pay techs hourly simply because don’t want them to have any reason to rush, any reason to try and sell a job that isn’t needed, and to ensure they are afforded the time needed to get the repair done the way it should without fear of losing pay by taking too long. Does this mean that all commission pay shops are dishonest? No. It’s just one of the things we do here to avoid the possibility of something like this. Keep this in mind when you see 2 VERY different estimates from shops on the same vehicle.
Earlier I explained that we try to drive every vehicle whenever possible. There are a few important reasons for this:
- When we give an estimate to repair a vehicle, many times we are asked if we saw anything else wrong. Some of this goes back to that misnomer that you can just plug the car in and the scanner tells you everything about every system. Unfortunately that’s not how cars work. We have no way to know how long an engine, transmission, radiator, etc. will last. No one does, no one could. All we can go on is what we see and hear.
- People want to know that they are making the right choice in repairing the vehicle. While spending hard earned money to put the car back to the way it “was” doesn’t feel like you are getting much for your money, we also don’t want any customer to invest money into a vehicle whose value just isn’t worth it. Sometimes it’s time to let it go and replace it.
- Other surprises that need to be addressed in addition to the initial concern. If we tell you that you need a transmission replaced, and don’t check out the rest of the vehicle, we might miss the rust on the front frame that is a major safety concern. Maybe we didn’t notice that the engine is making a lot of noise and is smoking. Trust me; no one here wants to make the call right after a customer has spent $4000 on a major repair to tell them the vehicle is going to need an additional $3000 to make it safe.
We feel the best service we can do for our customers is to let them know everything we can about their vehicle so they can see the entire picture. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell them everything. If a vehicle comes in and the fuel pump is out, we can’t drive it to let them know that the transmission has major issues and will need to be replaced very soon. Overall we just want the customer to have as much information as possible to make the best decision for themselves and their family.
The pricing difference:
If you go to 3 different shops and ask for a quote on the same job, it’s very likely you will get 3 different estimates. There are plenty of reasons for this. Different businesses operate on different principles. I’ll explain more about the way we try to deal with different jobs and the specific reasons why, in part V of this series, but for now, here is an overview.
Some shops want the quick and easy sale. Do the bare minimum; get the vehicle in and out as fast as possible. They don’t care if an extra $50 this time, could’ve prevented an additional $500 repair a month down the road.
Some shops will use the cheapest cost parts. Initially customers love this. They can get their car fixed for $80 cheaper than what another shop quoted. This might seem great up front, but if you don’t balance the cost savings with the potential for unreliability in the parts you install, you might end up with a lot of unhappy customers when their new parts start failing.
Other shops will opt to do the best possible job they can for their customer because they don’t want to risk addition issues, parts failures, etc. This usually means always using O.E.M. parts or only the “best” aftermarket parts. This can cost more, but it also lessens the chance of a comeback.
We do our best to balance cost and reliability. We are always happy to explain the entire picture, and potential outcomes of why we use a certain part, type, and brand for a job. We know what works, what our customers can count on, and what to avoid from years of trial and error.
There are times when the brand or type of a part we prefer to use is unavailable, be it to time constraints, back order, or discontinuation of an item. We do our best to use the next best possible part that fits the same balance of cost and reliability for our customers.
While we are all human, and none of us are perfect, we always try to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes and treat them how we would want to be treated.