For as long as I can remember, my father took my cars into the repair shop for me. When I was 16, I assumed that he took the car in because he was the one footing the bill. When I was 18, I figured he was taking the car in for me because he wasn’t ready to let go of me being his little girl. When I was in my early 20s, I figured he was bringing the car in to help me with my busy schedule. It wasn’t until I got married that I finally found out why my father insisted on taking my car into the shop for me:
My father didn’t want me to get fleeced at the repair shop
It turns out that my father’s worries weren’t unwarranted.
As recently exposed during a shocking report done by ABC News called Undercover Mechanic, and recently illustrated in a study conducted by Northwestern University, women are typically overcharged for necessary repairs and forced into unnecessary repairs at an alarmingly high rate as compared to their male counterparts.
In other words: Yes, women are more likely to be taken advantage of at the mechanic.
In the ABC News piece below, two women enter a repair shop with a vehicle that is in need of repair. Unbeknownst to the mechanics, the brunette is an actual auto mechanic and the blonde is a television reporter. What they uncover might shock some of you, but others will find yourselves unsurprised but disturbingly validated.
video source: deziking – “News reporter catches auto repair shops!”
The Northwestern University study concluded the same, that gender does play an important role in price gouging as well as potential unnecessary repairs being administered. Overall, the study found that clients who appeared to be knowledgeable about automobiles and car repair tended to receive lower repair costs, leaving clients who appeared less educated about cars to be charged higher rates. While the study suggested that a major factor in price discrepancy between identical jobs was the client’s perceived level of knowledge and education on the repairs needed, gender continued to play a role. According to Meghan Busse, associate professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, “Women who call up and say they have no idea what the price ought to be are quoted higher prices than men who call up and say, ‘I have no idea what the price ought to be.’”
How to avoid being scammed
All hope, however, is not lost. While the bias and the risk is inherent in auto repair, there are things that women can do in order to ensure the best repair rates and limit the risk of being overcharged for their car repairs.
- Be Strong – Never, ever, ever display any level of ignorance or intimidation. While it might seem tempting to tell your mechanic that you are completely overwhelmed and stumped by the problems at hand, don’t. It is this naivety that some less than honorable mechanics feed off of. Be confident and be educated. Which brings us to number 2.
- Be Aware – Do your research ahead of time. With the Internet at your disposal and tools such as carmd.com available, there is no reason for you to walk into any auto repair shop with no idea of what the problem could be. Educate yourself.
- Be Willing to Walk – If you get a bad feeling, walk away. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, walk away. If you get a quote that you’re not entirely happy with, tell them so, and walk away.
- Be Willing to Shop Around – We often forget that we are the consumers in this scenario. Be upfront with the mechanic that you’ll be taking the car around for other quotes. Let the mechanic know that you’re doing your research and seeking out the best deal. Make the mechanic work for your business.
- Be Able to Ask Questions – It has happened to me before, and I’m sure it has happened to you. You find a mechanic, you get a quote, and you think you’re all set. Then you get the call from the mechanic telling you that they have found other problems that they have to fix. Be ready to ask them why, and be ready to demand an answer. Also be ready to fact check their answer on a variety of websites such as carcare.org or repairpal.com
Women do statistically get scammed at a higher rate than their male counterparts when it comes to auto repair, but with some knowledge, some chutzpah, and some confidence, we can leave our men at home and take care of business all on our own.