“Hi, I’m a single mother. I need help with car repairs!” I get this a lot. Single moms, not knowing who to trust, often write to me describing the most elaborate and time-consuming auto repair scenarios they’ve had to undergo to avoid getting ripped off. It’s a sad reality, and it’s not just for single moms.
The short, two-part conversation below (edited for readability) speaks to all car repair customers.
I am a divorced mother. Being on a budget, I have to plan for car maintenance repairs. I truly appreciate your web site for anyone who may not be mechanically savvy to know when to believe or trust car repair estimates.
I received a quote for $425 plus tax to replace front brakes and rotors for a 2001 Honda Accord – I was glad that the information you provided put me at ease about the expense.
This same shop, however, now wants to charge me $110 to replace rattling converter shields. I did manage to print out a 10% coupon.
My question now is: should I stay with the dealer or can another popular repair shop be just as good, but for less money.
Thank you in advance for your help.
Thank you for your kind remarks. I’m glad you are finding RepairTrust helpful.
Converter shields are generally just removed, or repaired – rarely replaced.
Did you receive an itemized estimate with a break down of the charges?
It sounds like they are charging you $110 (or one hour) to remove the shields – that’s steep. $55 (.5 hours) is more reasonable.
In terms of a popular repair shop – if you mean a franchise-type auto repair chain, I’d advise against.
There are some good independent repair shops, but they’re hard to find, and they’re not necessarily less expensive. Moreover, local shops have little oversight or regulation – so a lot depends on trust – something for which the auto repair industry is not noted.
Having said that, your car is better off with a dealer – usually. But read the following article that gets into more detail on this subject: Car Dealers v.s. Local Repair shops
This same mom writes to us again, highlighting the great lengths that she goes through on a regular basis to not get ripped-off. (RepairTrust comments in parenthesis)
When I need repairs, I always get a dealer’s estimate first. Then I search for a local shop. The local shops are usually lower by $30-$50.
(Most local shops will be cheaper because the labor rate is less, not because you’re getting a better deal)
I select repair shops when I see a police cruiser or a government vehicle waiting to be serviced in the lot. I then make a note for future business. That’s how I usually do it – before I found your web site.
(Shops that perform repairs to government vehicles are usually more qualified, but not necessarily more ethical)
I know that dealers do not always use genuine parts and that is why I scout around for a shop that will do the repairs in less time – dealers like to keep your car all day. Waiting until the end of the day is risky. My ride may need to leave work early or stay later. Then I risk getting stuck, as I wait for a call to tell me if my car is ready, or not.
You’ve probably heard more than you wanted, but I view things from a woman’s point of view.
(It is rare that a dealer doesn’t use genuine OEM parts, and yes, dealers suck at efficiency and often require keeping your vehicle all day, or longer)
This struggling mom describes perfectly the sad state of the auto repair industry, as well as the suffering that so many auto repair customers endure on a daily basis.
Despite repeated complaints, little has changed in the car industry. It remains at the top of consumer complaint lists every year, and it is responsible for billions of dollars in excess charges – every year.
In sum, the auto repair customer remains at the mercy of an industry that has little oversight or pricing regulation. It will continue to force the auto repair customer to go to extreme lengths to ensure a fair deal.