I get phone calls nearly every day from customers desperately trying to save money on their car repairs. The thing that saddens me the most is that they don’t listen to professionals that are genuinely out there to take the best care of their customers possible. There is a saying:
“There will always be someone who can make something a little worse and sell it a little cheaper, and those who consider price alone are this man’s lawful prey.” This saying holds true in auto repair more than most industries. Allow me to explain why:
For the last 25 or so years, a large percentage of our youth have shifted their focus from tinker toys, legos, fort building and hot rodding to video-gaming, mine-crafting, and other less mechanical pursuits. The percentage of the population that has the skills and inclination to handle complex auto repair has rapidly decreased. Also, cars are more reliable than ever before, and our customers are driving them for more miles, and keeping them for longer. This has yielded a large increase in the demand for tires, oil changes and maintenance. The “easy stuff”, if you will. The vast majority of shops out there will just focus on the easy stuff. They run “loss leaders” advertising specials (buy 3 tires get one free!) to attract a large number of customers, then they run them through, sell everything they can to every one of them, ever pursuing sales goals and profits.
There’s a problem here: Their goal was never to FIX your car, or CARE for your needs. Why build relationships when you just run another sale to fill your bays? That cheap price on those tires or that oil change? You gave it back on the upsale items that you bought. Did you really need that alignment? Were those tie-rods actually bad? The seller that gives away those tires MUST make upsells to stay in business. They have the biggest incentive ever to high pressure sell, and err on the side of selling a new part, because if they don’t they lose bonuses, their jobs, their paychecks. Feeding their families requires that they turn those coupons into profitable jobs.
To make it worse (yes there’s more!) the upsale items you’ll buy are usually lower quality for more $$!! Every parts store has multiple part lines. You can get the good ball joints or the cheap ones. The good alternator or the cheap one, etc, etc. A pro can look up the part numbers and tell you what you bought. Regardless of warranty, why pay more for the cheap stuff than the good stuff?
Consider the cheap alternator. Sure, you’ll get a one-year warranty on it, amybe even more. It will still cost several hundred dollars, and guess what- if it fails, where will you be? I bet you won’t be just happily running a meaningless errand and have plenty of time to drop by the shop to wait for 4 hours to get it changed again. You’ll be ticked, and you should be. Why? Because even “cheap” auto repair is really expensive! It’s really aggravating when your day or week is ruined by dealing with repairing an item that you already repaired! This is the biggest reason why customers are unqualified to select the parts used on their cars. They simply do not have access to the information to allow them to determine which parts have the best value- balancing price and a very low failure percentage.
We install hundreds of parts each week- we KNOW which ones are good and which ones have unacceptable quality issues. We select parts that allow us to do a job we can be proud of, fixed right and not likely to fail again. Yes, there is a markup on parts we sell. That markup is what you pay for a pro to select, find, install and warranty a part for your car. Usually customers perceive the markup to be higher than it is, because they select the CHEAPEST part they can find from anywhere (usually a Chinese web-site) and use the base number without accounting for shipping or taxes, and try to compare that with the part that is high-quality, and in stock right here, plus sold by an installer- not a retailer. Even if you were installing the part yourself, can really wait two days to get it? Then if it fails, you have to ship it back, and wait again.
Now factor in labor. If the part you select fails, you have no warranty at all on labor. You’ll have to pay for any troubleshooting time, pay to pull it off, get to the shop, get to UPS to ship it back, receive the new one, then wait while the tech installs it (on your $). So you’ll have waited 3 days and paid again for a job that you already paid for once. You’ll probably have spent more than you would have if you just bought a good quality part the first time, AND you’ll have been car-less for days. Where is the value in that?
When I saw all of these things emerging in our industry, I was appalled. I feel that we as service professionals are more akin to doctors and dentists than fast food employees. I hate the “don’t you want fries, an apple pie, and a go-large with that”? I resolved to try to deliver the best bang for the buck that I could manage. Here’s how we do that:
- We charge you for what you need. Since we’re not giving it away, we don’t have to sell you stuff or face losing money on the job. We still have very competitive prices. Our oil & filter changes are cheaper than most, but not all ($35), State Inspections are regulated by the State Police at $16, our tire prices are high value (we have access to over 30 brands), and our alignments are $69.99. We’re not expensive, but we’re not couponing either. It’s a nice balance.
- We make a plan for you. If you need anything, and I mean anything, we’ll tell you the “W’s. What it is and why you need it and when you need it. If you have a large number of needed items we will prioritize them for you. No BS, no high pressure sales tactics. If your car is not worth investing money in, we’ll tell you that, too. Our goal is to be your auto-repair adviser. If we make you a long term customer we don’t have to run expensive advertising to stay busy.
- We stand behind our work. If you have a problem with our work, or questions about it, we WANT to hear from you. We offer the NAPA Peace of Mind Warranty. which covers most repairs for 2 years, 24000 miles Nationwide. We’re here to do the job, do it right, and do it at a good price.
- We customize our recommendations to your needs. If you have a 16 year old Chevy Cavalier, and you need transportation as cheap as possible, we’ll tailor our recommendations to that need, and explain what and how we’re doing it. If you have 2 year old 40,000$ SUV, we’ll tell you what fluids or maintenance items you should use to best protect your long term investment, including what options provide you the best value.
- By all means get a competing estimate. Make sure it’s from a reputable repair facility, with certified, experienced techs, and has the part numbers on it for what you’re buying so that we can compare “apples-to-apples”, and we’ll show ou what’s different and why. We’re nearly always better value, and we’re usually very close or cheaper in price.
We can do this because we have access to manufacturer’s service information for ALL cars, and we have 60 years combined experience in our technicians alone. We’re here to earn your business by providing car care, customer care, and integrity at a good price. We’ve been doing it for nearly 10 years, and it’s been a great success! See you soon!