Auto Repair Cost Estimates: 10 Things You JUST NEVER SAY to Your Mechanic

When speaking to your mechanic or service representative, there are many things one should never say. Sad as this is, certain questions and requests can trigger multiple price-gouging tactics from your service center. Following is a list of ten statements in random order. The term “mechanic” may be exchanged for “technician,” “service representative,” “service advisor,” “owner,” “service manager,” or anyone that you deal with when having your vehicle serviced.

1) Do I need a tune-up?

This innocent question seeks to ensure that your vehicle is up-to-speed with its maintenance. However, it reveals that you know nothing about your car’s maintenance and can therefore be “easily” taken advantage of.

What your mechanic is thinking: Putty in my hands!

Instead: ask what services are due for your vehicle given its age and mileage according to your manufacturer guidelines. Also visit the maintenance link at the end of this article for an overview of today’s maintenance needs.

2) Do I need tires?

Essentially what you’re asking is whether or not your tires are safe, and if they are wearing normally given the current mileage.

What your mechanic is thinking: Cha-Ching!

Instead: ask that your tires be checked to ensure that they are “wearing normally given the current mileage.” You should be provided with tread-depth measurements, and any other notable conditions such as cupping, abnormal wear, sidewall damage, bubbles, dry-rot–cracks or splits in the rubber–and any other pertinent information.

3) I’m taking a trip.

This comment is a safety concern. It’s great that you’re taking a trip–have a nice time–but your mechanic doesn’t need to know this.

What your mechanic is thinking: This guy’s nervous about his car making the trip. I can sell him anything! You may even see a reflection of $$$$ signs flash in his eyes.

Instead: tell your mechanic to ensure that your vehicle is in sound condition. You want to ensure it is “operating as designed.” If you are following a factory maintenance schedule with a decent service center, they should be keeping you up-to-date with your vehicle’s condition and needs. If not, find another shop.

4) My son’s going off to college.

Congratulations, but your mechanic doesn’t need to know this either. You’re concern is with your vehicle’s integrity in order to protect your child.

What your mechanic is thinking: Daddy can foot the college bill…Cha-Ching!

Instead: ask that your vehicle be checked over to determine that it’s in sound operating condition, as you would like to keep it for a few years (hopefully four). Request a list of anything your vehicle may need in the order of priority–safety being the most important factor.

5) I know it’s probably something bad.

It’ll be bad alright. The service industry is extremely negative. Don’t add to it!

What your mechanic is thinking: Bad for you, anyway.

Instead: keep a positive attitude. If you’re frustrated or nervous about the expense, then say that. In truth, most repairs are simple. If not, find another shop, or get another car.

6) Take all the time you need. I just want it fixed right.

You’re clearly patient, and probably a perfectionist, which is fine. But…

What your mechanic is thinking: Charge all the money I need! Charge all the money I want!

Instead: try saying, “I am particular about my car, and would like it fixed correctly the first time. Please make your best effort to put my vehicle in the hands of the most qualified technician to address my concern(s). And please keep me up-to-date with its progress and any additional costs.”

7) Just do whatever.

You either really don’t care or money is not an issue.

What your mechanic is thinking: Charge whatever!

Instead: take a moment and say, “Please perform all services according to manufacturer guidelines only. If my vehicle needs any further repairs, please notify me in advance with the break down of the costs.”

8) I’m taking a trip to Europe; please drop my car off at the Ritz-Carlton when you’re done.

Drop offs are a common request–although Europe and the Ritz aren’t so common.

What your mechanic is thinking: Actually, in this case, he’s probably singing…I’m in the money…I’m in the money…

Instead: request what services you would like while you’re away, but then provide a contact number to be notified of “any” additional services, recommendations, and costs.

9) Just fix it.

This request generally reflects one who lacks the time or patience to worry about the details, and wants his or her vehicle back as quickly as possible.

What your mechanic is thinking: No Problemo…Mucho Dinero!

Instead: remember that the devil’s in the details. Request to be notified of any additional costs to demonstrate that your wallet is not a free-for-all.

10) Do you want my credit card now?

The motive here may be expediency and efficiency.

What your mechanic is thinking: No problem paying! No problem charging!

Instead: request that you be advised of any costs above and beyond what you agree to at the time of your appointment. Pay after. Always pay after.

All the above comments, requests, and questions, while innocent, are taken advantage of daily in the automotive service industry. These statements “reveal your hand.” You may have a long and trusting relationship with your service center, but for God’s sake, keep your cards in!

There’s a lot of truth in humor.

The truth stings a bit.

The truth EMPOWERS.

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