Buy your own parts to save money on car repairs
July 26, 2013
So let's talk about getting what you pay for. You go to the grocery store and you want a half-pound of sliced cheese, but you have to pay for a pound of it. Then the store can sell the other half-pound to the next customer. Or maybe you buy 5 gallons of gas but have to pay for 7 gallons. Again, the other 2 gallons can then be resold to the next customer. Something wrong with this picture, you say?
Well, this is the procedure used by some mechanics. They may charge you based on some arbitrary manual that says it will take 1 1/2 hours to change out the left side CV axle. If it only takes an hour, guess what? You still pay for the 1 1/2 hours. Then, in some shops, mechanics are given efficiency bonuses. Meaning that if they work eight hours and bill the customers for 10 hours, they are 120 percent efficient.
Most mechanics are upfront about this system. And consumers seem to be OK with it. Makes me wonder how smart we really are.
There are also some shops that will only install parts you purchase from them. They label it as a quality control code. But if you buy a part from NAPA, and they buy that same part from NAPA, the only difference is the price. Yes, they will charge you more.
The last way some mechanics like to make more than their fair share — double charging for labor. Let's say you need a front axle seal on your front-wheel drive car. They charge you labor for putting it on. But they discover that you need a CV axle as well. They charge you more labor. They probably won’t charge you the full amount for installing the new CV axle, but there would be a labor charge. Even though they had the axle out to put in the seal, and they would have had to put an axle in regardless because they are installing a new axle, it costs you more.
So if this is normal, then what is the point of this particular column? Search for and find the right mechanic. Find an honest mechanic who charges you for the time he spends and lets you buy your own parts. It could save you thousands of dollars.