Don’t Get Got! How To Protect Yourself From Shady Auto Mechanics

June 18, 2013  |  


There are many perks to being a women; getting a decent price on auto repair is not one of them.

This according to researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, who according to The Atlantic, have teamed up with AutoMD to find out if there are any differences in how genders are charged for the same auto repair service. Not surprisingly women were quoted more for repairs than men. However, the report reveals that when women requested a lower price, they were more likely get a price reduction than their male counterparts.

Writes The Atlantic: “This “pretty sizeable” difference, the authors say, is not explained by higher initial quotes women sometimes receive. Instead, repair shops are surprised perhaps when a woman customer defies the stereotype that women don’t haggle and negotiate. They think she will walk out the door; hence, she gets a discount.”

My brother Eric is a mechanic, which meant that I never in my life had to pay for car repairs – just parts and he would do the rest. However reading the article, more specifically the conclusions from this study, reminds me of similar conversations I had with my mechanic over the years about my own car maintenance – or lack thereof. I asked Eric his thoughts on the study as well as if he had some tips to help women not get ripped-off by a mechanic. And what I got back was an hour lecture

“What happens is that people – not just women but yeah, yall too – wait until the last minute to pay attention to what is happening with your cars and that is usually when an emergency situation happens and you have little choice. And that’s when the sharks come out.”

By “sharks” he means the dishonest mechanics, who prey on vulnerable people in desperate need of immediate car repair. Like folks, who you see broken down on the side roads with smoke coming from their radiators. Or like myself, who not too long ago in the distant past, blew a tire while driving 80 miles on the highway. It was the most scariest and expensive lesson I learned in my life. “See and I told you before that happened that your tires were bad and you didn’t take it seriously. That’s how most people get in trouble when it comes auto repair. Women, and men too, have to take responsibility for their car maintenance.”

The car maintenance Eric is referring too is the routine stuff that we are supposed to do to ensure our vehicles have long and healthy lives. Eric said that these routine checks are also key to ensuring that people can detect problems on your vehicle before they become major. “I see it all the time. It is general wisdom and basic standards that you are supposed to check your car out every time you get gas. That means more than just walking around the car, checking the tire pressure and fluids; seeing if your windshield wipers need to be replaced. It takes literally a couple of minutes and you can do it while your car is gassing up. However most people just go to the gas station; pay for the gas, sit in the car while it fueling and leave. A routine check is the best prevention you have to paying crazy prices later.”

Actually quick checkups at gas stations are the second best way to familiarize yourself with your vehicle. The first way, he said, is actually reading the owners manual. Eric suspects that the number one way in which women get taken at the shop is because they have no idea about the inner workings of their vehicle. Eric says that it has been his experience that women just want the car fixed and that they don’t care how it is done. However, it is this haste, which often leads them to into walking into a repair shop, complaining of strange sounds or movements and accepting it in the hands of a mechanic, who could tell you anything he wants. He said, while it is unlikely that you will gain the knowledge to identity everything that is wrong with your vehicle, reading the owners manual will give a working knowledge to know if what the mechanic is saying is truthful.

“There are really good mechanics out here. I know I am one of them. And the way to test your mechanic is to ask him to show and tell. Matter of fact, he is says that the problem is your alternator is not charging, ask him to come from behind the desk and walk you outside or to the garage or wherever the car is, and explain everything to you while he is showing you the parts.

A good mechanic will say, ‘this is your alternator; this is your battery; this is your belt drive system, and this is how it is not working. If a mechanic takes time to explain this to you than odds are you have a pretty honest and fair mechanic,”he said.

Eric wanted me to emphasize that this advice is not gender specific and that there are just as many men clueless about vehicles as women. He also wanted to emphasize that if a woman is still not convinced that she is getting a fair price, she can – and should – always shop around. “Don’t be afraid to price check. Just like we did when your tire blew out. We didn’t just go with the first tire place, we went to several different ones to check both prices and quality of tires. You just have to pay attention when I’m showing this stuff.”

About a third of the way through our conversation, it became very evident that this advice directed less at anonymous women, was much more about me.

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