Auto Repair – Not Getting What We Paid For

Just because you paid less, does not mean your car repair costs were a good deal. It often means something was sacrificed…

Value Versus Price: an experiment…

I recently took my car to a local service facility for an oil change and a transmission service. I knew that the oil change was going to cost $30. I also knew the fair price for a transmission service and what it should include. My transmission fluid would be drained. The lower pan would be removed. A new filter and gasket would be installed and the pan would be cleaned and reinstalled. The transmission would then be filled with fresh fluid and road tested. At least that’s what a “traditional” transmission service includes.

I looked up at the “menu of services” and noticed that the Transmission Service was $149. This was fairly close to what it would cost if performed according to manufacturer recommendations. However, I wanted to ensure that I was getting what I paid for so I asked.

By the puzzled expression on the young mechanics face, I realized very quickly that he was not about to perform a traditional transmission service. He stated confidently that “many transmissions no longer have filters.” This is true, but he failed to notice the vehicle I was driving does indeed have a transmission filter. He went on to say that his hi-tech transmission flushing machine would be all that I needed.

Ignoring his ignorance, I asked how much they would charge for a traditional transmission service. He stated: “Well, it should be about another $100 – give or take…” I politely declined and took my vehicle elsewhere for its car maintenance.

In sum, there are two things that are extremely important  to know about the above “every day” scenario…

  1. When a mechanic says: “it should be about” “ballpark” or “it will cost around,” you’re in trouble. If your shop can’t give you a detailed estimate of what a repair will cost – especially for a straightforward service – find another service center. Ball park estimates leave too much room for error and leave us, the repair customer, without any detailed expectations. If we went to a hotel and asked about room rates and the clerk said “oh about $250 bucks” would we accept that? Of course not!
  2. Find out what your car really needs. Unfortunately, you will need to be your own advocate. Many shops are either ignorant, or have their own ideas about what your car needs, which is often in direct conflict with your manufacturer recommendations.

Hope this helps.

~ Ted Olson

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