Women’s Guide to Getting a Fair Deal at the Auto Shop

NW_1212_WomensGuide

Don’t get taken for a ride.

Are you a woman who feels that you’re not getting a fair deal whenever the car needs fixing? It’s a common perception: Nine in 10 women say they’re treated differently than men at auto-repair shops, according to the Car Care Council.

But knowledge is power. So consider these suggestions to cast an informed, assertive presence and avoid getting those condescending looks and remarks—not to mention an out-of-whack repair bill.

Don’t wait. If your ride conks out on the highway and has to be towed, you put yourself in a position of desperation. You’re at the mercy of the mechanic, who can safely assume that you don’t put much stock into preventative maintenance and don’t pay much attention to your automobile. So when you start hearing those odd sounds, don’t ignore them or convince yourself that everything’s normal. “When you hear something unusual, start keeping a log,” says automotive expert LeeAnn Shattuck, aka the Car Chick, who co-hosts the nationally syndicated radio show America’s Garage. “Note if the weather has any effect. Or if it only happens when you turn left, or accelerate after a complete stop. These are things you’ll want to tell a technician.” Educate yourself. You don’t need a crash course in advanced automotive repair. But it helps if you at least can talk the talk with a mechanic, even about just the basics. “Read your owner’s manual,” Shattuck says. “Know what kind of oil and other fluids your car uses. This way, when you bring your car in for service, you’ll understand what the serviceman means when he says you need a power-steering flush.”

Shop around. Do your homework. Go online and seek out local shops that get the better consumer-submitted reviews. Get referrals via family, friends and social-media associates. “Once you’ve made a selection, check it out with the Better Business Bureau,” Shattuck says. “Find out if the company and all of its technicians are Automotive Service Excellence certified. Ask what percentage of the staff are ASE Master certified too.” Appearance counts. You’ll get the best professional services from places that look, well, professional. So check if the customer lobby, bathrooms and other areas are clean. Consider whether the staff is polite, patient and well-spoken. Take charge. Make sure you get an estimate that spells out all required repairs. If costs increase by 10 percent or more, the repair shop has to contact you for approval, Shattuck says. Also, get all warranty information in writing too. And don’t hesitate to ask them to show you that faulty brake part or dirty fluid that has to be replaced. “If you have limited funds, ask the business to prioritize what has to be done now and what can wait,” she says. “Don’t get flustered if you’re getting overwhelmed with jargon or numbers. Remember that even though the mechanic holds the wrench, you hold the checkbook, and he works for you.”

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