How to Improve Bargaining Position at Car Repair Shop

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    • 1). Ask about the shop supplies charge. Most shops have a charge based on a percentage of parts or labor (possibly both). Sometimes it is called an environmental charge; it covers the use of things that are not itemized on the invoice like shop rags, grease, latex gloves or disposal of spent fluids. This is okay. By asking about it you're indicating that you actually read the bill and you might not see the charge the next time.

    • 2). Ask if the installer will be using new or rebuilt parts. In the case of new parts, as if they will they be OEM and in the case of rebuilt ones, as if they are factory remanufactured or aftermarket. This is a distinction between parts supplied through your vehicle's original manufacturer like Ford, GM or Toyota or an aftermarket auto parts network like NAPA or Carquest. Both sources are good and should carry warranties. What your showing is a higher level of interest than the average auto repair consumer.

    • 3). Ask if the shop supplies a written warranty. It may be that they have a general policy that all their work is guaranteed for six months and 6,000 miles and have incorporated it into their invoice. Or you may find that the rebuilt starter you just purchased has a three year warranty that entitles you to free towing. Regardless, it's good to know the policy upfront.

    • 4). Ask for the shop's hourly rate and the time requirement for each labor operation. This is preferable to receiving a broad statement like "This job is going to cost you $365 including parts and labor." Your inquiry will set the tone of the call.

    • 5). Sound knowledgeable. Talk in terms of the car's systems like exhaust, cooling, suspension and emissions for example. Don't be afraid to use some buzz words like a "driveability" problem or a "no start" condition. Be descriptive--brakes grind, fade, pull or lock up, the engine cranks but won't start or it just clicks. Not only will this signal a higher level comfort with car repairs but it will also facilitate the repair process.

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