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Do you think you can re-sell this?

By Austin C. Davis
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Reader Question: I am on a tight budget, should I tell my mechanic how much I can afford to spend?

Dear concerned car owner,

Do you like to take your car in for repairs? Do you ever feel like you were cheated or taken advantage of by the shop or their mechanics? Do you know it could be what you are saying to the repair shop that could be costing you more? Most auto repair shops are run by honest hard-working people but in some circumstances you may bring out the dark side at some shops.

For instance, never tell the shop how much you are willing to spend without first getting an explanation of what you are going to have done. When you give the shop a “spending limit” they may have a tendency to do as little as possible but will manage to spend up to your limit. For example, a woman came into my shop and told me she had $500 to spend. She did not start off her conversation with "hello", or "can you fix my car", all she said was how much money she wanted to give me.

Now granted, it is nice to have people come into the shop and actually like to pay their bills, but this lady gave me a spending limit before she told me what she wanted to have fixed. She thought she had transmission trouble and assumed that it would cost her a fortune to repair. While on a test drive with her I concluded that the problem was not transmission-related, but that the car probably needed a tune up or something along those lines.

But wait, this person wanted to give me $500! If I was not an honest shop owner, I would have remained quiet on the test drive and taken the money that she was willing to pay. Let's say that I told this customer that I could fix her car because I am a nice guy and since she only had $500 to spend I would try to help her out as much as I could. In reality, the actual repairs needed would have only cost $200.

Because this customer thought she had expensive transmission trouble, she would probably be happy with a bill for $350 and she will also think the shop did her a favor. Her first mistake was to diagnose the problem herself. I wonder if she goes to her dentist and tells her which tooth to pull or if she thinks it is time for another root canal? You take your car to the repair shop to have someone else diagnose and repair your car; so let them do their job. Her second mistake was to tell the shop how much she was willing to spend.

Most of the mechanics and service writers that I know of work on commission, and in the example above, an additional $150 would sure be a nice tip. I see this happen all the time and it is so easy to prevent. Sometimes it is better to simply describe the symptoms to the service writer, remain quiet about your budget dollars and let the shop diagnose the problem with your car and how much it will cost to repair.

If the problem you are having with your car will require a test drive for the mechanic or service writer to hear make sure you ride in the car with them at the time you drop off your car for repairs. If they can't hear it or feel it they can't fix it, and you will probably just get frustrated and discouraged by them not being able to repair the problem you want them to fix. Have you been over-paying your mechanic?


Austin C Davis

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About the Author
Austin Davis comes from a family that has been in the auto repair industry for over 64 years. Austin has written a book “What Your Mechanic Doesn’t Want You To Know”. His book is about how to find an honest mechanic, and the simple steps to keep them honest. Austin points out that it is usually what the customer says or does that can cause them to be taken advantage of by a repair “professional.”


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