I received a postcard from an auto repair shop that I’ve visited on occasion. It stated that my vehicle needed service. While I was impressed by the professionalism and proactive approach, it made me think. First, how do they know my vehicle needs these services? Second, and more importantly – should I trust an auto repair shop to dictate my car repair – my vehicle’s maintenance?
They do know what’s best – right? While they probably do know what’s best, it’s not in your best interest to let them manage your car.
Think of it this way. If you went to the doctor and did not trust the diagnosis (in that it just didn’t make sense to you for whatever reason) you would (should) pepper the doctor with questions until you are satisfied. Too often we just take mechanics at their word – either because we’re too busy to find out, gullible, or we don’t care. We say things like “$600, that’ll fix it, ah…ok!”
We’re all busy and we can’t be expected to understand the intricacies of today’s automobiles. We can, however, practice some common sense. We can grill our service advisors and technicians with questions. We can get second opinions. We can make a reasonable judgment that Joe’s Garage, filthy and in disarray, may not be the best repair shop for my new Honda, Toyota, Saturn, Porsche…etc.
Why shouldn’t you leave it all in their hands? Studies reveal that as much as 70% of the technicians working on your car are ill-qualified. 98% of repair shops charge excessively in one form or another. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that auto service customers are scammed tens of billions of dollars every year.
Ultimately, the only person you can trust with your car is you. Be your car’s advocate just as you would be for a sick child in the hospital. Be nice with your questions; honest in your explanations of car problems, but maintain shrewdness. Get everything in writing. Make sure your auto repair estimates and invoices are clear and legible. Ask that suggested repairs and services be prioritized in the order of safety or further damage. Finally, always ask for a discount – you’ll be surprised.