Women are often the caretakers of the family home and finances, and they are increasingly taking on the responsibility of tending to the family car maintenance and repairs. According to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, more than 65 percent of auto repair shop customers are women.
Yet despite the growing number of women handling auto repair decisions, many auto repair shops do not create an environment that is comfortable for women. Many also have a reputation for taking advantage of women by suggesting service and repairs that are not actually necessary.
A survey by the Car Care Council found that nine out of 10 women said they felt they were treated differently by auto repair shops because of their gender.
Finding the right shop is key to getting ethical car repair in Cincinnati or anywhere else in the country, but you can use these other tips to have a better experience and ensure that you always get just the services you need:
Get to Know Your Car
You don’t have to be an automotive expert to be an expert on your own car. Pay attention to the way the car runs and the noises it makes. If the car runs like a dream and isn’t making any noises, it should seem suspicious to you when a mechanic tells you that you have a problem with the exhaust.
Keep track of all your maintenance and repairs. A shady mechanic may tell you that you need a new air filter, but if you have kept records and know that you just replaced the filter two months ago, you can be reasonably confident that someone is trying to take advantage of you. Of course, you can always call the person’s bluff and ask to see the filter for yourself before it’s replaced.
Read your car manual thoroughly to know as much as you can about your car and its needs. Even if you don’t know everything there is to know, you will at least be more knowledgeable when you speak to the mechanic about the repairs. You’ll have a better idea of what he’s talking about, and you’ll be able to ask informed questions that can help you make a better decision. Appearing to be more knowledgeable will also make you a less likely target for shady mechanics.
Do Some Research
You may not be a natural gear head, but you can learn a lot with online articles, books and videos. You don’t have to learn how to make the repairs yourself, but you should learn enough to have a better idea of what the mechanic is telling you when repairs are being recommended. You should be able to ask insightful questions and make a better informed decision outside of what someone else is telling you.
Start your research with information about your own car, and then look at information about common car problems and repairs.
Take a Friend
If you don’t feel confident in your own ability to talk with mechanics about your car or to negotiate for services, take someone with you. This could be your spouse, a family member or a friend. You want to choose someone who is knowledgeable about cars and who is confident speaking up for you.
If you feel like you are targeted because of your gender, you might feel more comfortable taking a man with you. While women are just as competent to make decisions about cars as men are (and many times even more so), having a man with you may counteract the negative perceptions that some unethical mechanics may have.
Ask for Referrals
Research may tell you a lot about a shop, but nothing beats the recommendation of someone who has experience with the shop. Get referrals from other women you know and ask them specifics about their visit.
Ask if they were treated with respect, if they felt they were given fair prices, and if they were given written estimates. The more questions you ask, the more you can learn about how you can expect to be treated.
Get Written Estimates
Settling on a verbal agreement can leave you vulnerable. The mechanic tells you that the repair will only cost $300, but then you get a bill for $400 when you pick up the car. Without a written estimate, all you have is your word against his.
A written estimate should break down the repair into all the parts and labor involved. You can use the estimate to research the repair and make sure you’ve been given a fair price. You can also use the estimate to get a second opinion.
If you do get the repair, you can compare the written estimate to your final bill to make sure that you got what you were quoted.
Ask for the Parts
The proof is in the pudding. When your mechanic replaces a part, ask for the old one. If the mechanic told you the manifold was cracked, it should be very easy to see the damage for yourself, for example. By letting your mechanic know ahead of time that you would like the old parts, you will help to keep him honest.
Getting the old parts will also help you to verify that the work was actually completed. Unfortunately, there have been many stories of shady mechanics who charge for work that they never actually do.
Get a Warranty
Many reputable mechanics offer a warranty or guarantee for their work or the parts. The warranty may last for a certain number of miles or a certain length of time. With a warranty, you can feel more certain that the work you have performed will be done properly. You’ll have recourse if your car should break down or experience the same problems later.
Make sure you get the guarantee in writing. If you have to return in several months to get work performed, you may need to refer to the document as evidence of the guarantee you were offered.
Finding the right car shop is the best thing you can do to have a good experience when you are in need of repairs. You need one that has a reputation for offering the best car repair; one that takes pride in treating all of our customers with respect.