Everytime I have to get my car serviced, even if it's the smallest of repairs or service, I cringe.
That's because no matter how much my husband prepares me for the encounter, there's always something the service folks throw at me that I wasn't prepared for, even for something that seems as straight-forward as an oil change.
Do I want to change the air filter? I'm sorry, the hub didn't educate me on that particular service, so I don't know if you're trying to rip me off or if it's something that really needs to be done!
There was even one "quickie" oil change place in Norwich that I used to go to — but never will again — where the service techs would actually take you out of the waiting area after bringing your car into the garage and once they had you alone would start a high-pressure sell job on all the little things you should have done to your car along with their $19.95 oil change (new wipers, air filter, etc... ), things that would get your bill up into triple digit territory.
The one and last time I was subjected to that treatment I got the distinct impression I was being cut from the rest of the herd in the waiting room so they could isolate me and pressure me into uneeded and costly repairs.
So the next time you have to bring your car in to the shop here's some helpful tips from automotive expert Barbara Terry. Terry is an off-road race car driver who has been featured in more than 80 publications and has made over 350 television and radio appearances since 2006. To learn more about her visit www.barbaraterry.com.
"For the most part, it can be a daunting task for a women to go by herself to take a car in for repairs," says Terry, author of the new book "How Athletes Roll" (Comfort Publishing, 2010), which showcases athletes and the cars they drive. "It is probably one of the least appealing things for women to do because they fear they are going to be taken advantage of."
Educate yourself. The more you know about your car and the repairs, the better off you will be. Knowledge is power. Get to know your vehicle, so that you are familiar with it and the owner's manual, which will come in handy in understanding basic maintenance needs. You can also Google questions about car repairs and maintenance, so you are well-prepared before walking into the shop.
Follow reputations. Ask around, so you can find a mechanic that has a good reputation. Getting recommendations may help you keep from setting foot in a shady establishment to begin with.
Ask around. If you are told you need costly repairs, seek a second opinion. Ask for a written estimate and use the information to get several other repair estimates either by phone or in person. If possible, have a male friend call around and ask what each place would charge for such a repair.
Maintain your car. Keep current on your vehicle maintenance, as per your owner's manual; this will help to minimize the repairs that may be necessary.
Verify service. Ask the mechanic to show you the part that needs replacing. Also, ask to see it, and the new part, once the work has been completed.
Speak up. If you feel you have been mistreated, overcharged, or otherwise not treated fairly, put in a complaint. You can ask to speak to the manager, write the company headquarters in many cases, and file a complaint with the local Better Business Bureau.
"There are many mechanics out there that give women a fair deal and wouldn't dream of doing otherwise," adds Terry. "But it is your mission to find and stick with them to avoid being taken. The more you know, the better off you can be. And if you can have a male friend or family member go along, you may even want to do that as well."