Carla J. Behr is a freelance writer who resides in NW Pennsylvania.
"I Have Some Bad News for You"
I was getting tired of hearing this same line over and over as I attempted to keep my daughter’s late model Ford on the road. When my mechanic would call, I would brace myself and just wait for that line—it always came.
Finally, two mechanics later, I cut my losses and sold the car to salvage. I had no way of knowing whether the repairs to the car (which cost me at least $2,000) were valid and every time we turned around the car was back in the shop, never really fixed and always breaking the bank.
Are Women Tricked Into Spending More Money at Auto Repair Shops?
“Nine in ten women believe they are treated differently at auto repair shops than men are,” says Jessica Anderson, Kiplinger.com. The information is from a national study done by the Car Care Council, an association that encourages consumer education.
According to Danielle Kurtzleben of U.S. News & World Report, three Northwestern researchers wanted to know if women were treated differently based on their gender. Their study showed, “…that shops appear to have an attitude that 'if you're well informed you get the price that we cite to well-informed people, and if you're poorly informed, whether you're a man or woman, we cite you the price that we cite to poorly informed people.'" Apparently, women fall into this category more readily than men.
The Huffington Post shared a story about the Nightline Prime series called “The Lookout” wherein undercover cameras were sent to local mechanics and national chains – their findings, according to Huffington were, “... men were more likely to get only what they came into the shop for, while women were more often lied to and tricked into spending more money. Most of the time, the additional work the women were paying for wasn't even done, as there wasn't a problem to begin with.”
9 in 10 women believe they are treated differently at auto repair shops than men are.
6 Tips to Avoid Being Scammed
In light of my research, not all mechanics will overcharge for repairs. Many are doing an honest job, so this is not an article to 'raise your hackles!' This is an article to assist women in making sure that they know how to negotiate a fair deal. I decided to find out and better prepare myself for the future. Here is some of what was discovered and I've written up six tips to assist you:
- Many experts are pointing to a free app called, Repair Pal. The site offers a free “estimator” that allows you to plug in your vehicle information and then provides you with a close estimate of what the repair should cost in your area.
- Author Lauren Fix also recommends using an ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic. A sign should be posted in a visible location at the shop. The ASE site says, “The non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) works to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and certifying automotive professionals. Today, more than 330,000 professionals hold ASE certifications and work in every part of the automotive service industry. Just look for the blue-and-white ASE insignia.”
- Fix also recommends that you go armed to a mechanic with as much information as possible about the issue your car is having by asking yourself questions such as: What does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? For instance, if a car smells like “rotten eggs”, this information can help a mechanic pinpoint issues easier.
- Audra Fordin is a woman and a mechanic. She offers 10 tips that are worth reading. Tips as simple as “maintain correct tire pressure” and “ask your mechanic to show you the problem” help you know your car better and maintain good upkeep as well as assure you that you aren't getting ripped off.
- Along with showing you the problem, Fran Lostys (Reader’s Digest) says you should, “Always ask for your old parts back." You or someone you know who knows cars needs to inspect the parts for wear or breakage. Don't hesitate to ask your mechanic for a demonstration of what exactly is broken or damaged on the part. "This way," says Lostys, “you’ll know they’ve been changed.”
- Finally, I'll add my own tip. Let your husband deal with car repairs or take a man (boyfriend, brother, cousin, friend) with you if you can. Why? In my personal experience – men listen better to men. And in the world of automobiles, we’ve already seen that mechanics typically assume that women know less than men. When it comes to cars, there’s a certain amount of the “good ole boys” mentality. Take a man with you if you can—you're less apt to get ripped off. I have not proved this theory, but I highly suspect it’s true in some cases. In short, it can't hurt.
AAA Survey on Car Repair
1 in 4
Could not pay for a car repair of $2000
1 in 8
Could not pay for a car repair of $1000
Percentage of American drivers holding onto older vehicles because of financial reasons
Percentage of American drivers neglecting repairs and maintenance due to economic reasons
Percentage of American drivers who would use savings to pay for $2000 car repair bill
Percentage of American drivers who would use a credit card to pay for $2000 car repair bill
A Little Knowledge Goes a Long Way
I’ve learned about this topic the hard way. Hopefully, with these tips and a few tools, women can better navigate the car repair world finding a fair and honest price from mechanics for needed fixes.
NOTE: IF you have a complaint that you cannot settle with an automotive shop manager, different states handle automotive complaints in different ways and you’ll need to do a little research before moving forward.
Anderson, J. (n.d.). How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off for Auto Repairs. Kiplinger. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
Home - ASE. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2013.
Hughes, J. (2013, June 20).
Kurtzleben, D. (2013, June 27). Auto Repair Shops Really Do Charge Women More (Sometimes). US News. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
Lostys, F. (n.d.). 13+ Things Your Car Mechanic Won’t Tell You. Reader's Digest. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
Munoz, K. (2013, May 13).
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.