Top 10 Ways You're Overcharged for Service --

Top 10 Ways You're Overcharged for Service

Save on Repairs and Service by Spotting These Tricks


When you take your car into a dealership for service you become the target of subtle — and sometimes not-so-subtle — sales pitches from the service advisor. Of course you want to keep your car running, but you also want to cut expenses and avoid unnecessary repairs and service. Check the list below and you'll be ready to deflect many of the come-ons and strategies service advisors use to generate extra profit for themselves and the dealership.

  1. 1. "Dealer recommended service schedules."

    When you arrive for even a simple oil change or tire rotation the service advisor is likely to present a "dealer recommended" list. Yes, it's impressive-looking, with many complicated and important-sounding items on it. But is it necessary? Experts emphatically say no. Instead, look for what is necessary in your owner's manual. You'll find only a quarter of the things on the dealer's "recommended" list of items.

  2. 2. The "Complete Inspection" scam.

    "Your car has a lot of miles on it," the service advisor tells you. "It'd be a good idea if we gave it a complete inspection." If you say yes, you've just agreed to pay them to find more work to do on your car. Do you really think the service advisor will call you and say, "Well, we checked everything and it's all perfect." Nope. Not gonna happen.

  3. 3. Too many oil changes.

    Changing your oil every 3,000 miles costs money, which is what oil-change chain stores want. It also puts you at risk for aggressive "upselling" (see next item) and wastes our precious natural resources. Stick to the schedule in the owner's manual or watch the maintenance minder on your dashboard.

  4. 4. Brace yourself for the "upsell."

    For a service advisor, an oil change is never just an oil change — it's just the chance to upsell other services. "It'd be a good idea to take a look at the ______ ." (Fill in the blank with one of the following: brakes, cooling system, transmission, fluids, alignment etc.) Practice saying this handy phrase: "No, thank you. Just an oil change."

  5. 5. Early brake jobs.

    "Your brakes have less than 50 percent of the pads left," the service advisor says with a concerned tone in his voice. Don't fall for this little ploy. Instead, wait until your brakes are down to about 15-20 percent before you schedule your appointment. Or figure how many miles it's been since your last brake job and come back for an inspection when the car has covered that amount.

  6. 6. Having the rotors "turned."

    Often, when you agree to a brake job, the service advisor will say, "The rotors are grooved — it'd be a good idea to have them turned." On high-end cars this costs $50 per rotor. It's a high-profit item for the dealership and may be completely unnecessary. Consider this: Experts say that new brake pads adapt almost immediately to the surface of the rotor (the shiny disc you can see through your wheels). Furthermore, turning the rotor means cutting off a useful strip of metal; doing so can actually make the brakes more prone to warping due to heat.

  7. 7. Multiple automatic transmission flushes.

    Service advisors will assure you that you need to change your automatic transmission fluid at 12,000 miles, even though the owner's manual says this isn't needed until the car has 80,000 miles on it. Who's right? Well, the owner's manual was written by the people who built your car. Furthermore, the service advisor makes a commission for recommending that you have this $200 job done. Who would you trust?

  8. 8. Spraying oil on the shock absorbers.

    One of many things that mechanics do to convince you something is wrong with your car is to spray oil on the shock absorbers. This makes it look like they are leaking hydraulic fluid. Forewarned is forearmed — keep this scam in the back of your mind on your next trip to the dealership.

  9. 9. Replacement parts markup.

    Dealerships typically charge the highest price for parts. It's convenient to buy from a dealer, but if you want to save money, you can buy the parts from an aftermarket supplier and avoid the huge markup.

  10. 10. Free "check engine light" diagnosis.

    Some companies offer free diagnosis if your car's "check engine" light is illuminated. OK, the "check engine" light diagnosis is free. But the work they find while resetting the engine light isn't. This "free" offer is just another way to get you in the door and sell you more service than you might really need. To avoid this, you can buy a code reader at an auto parts store that might give you insight as to what's really wrong with your vehicle. Or you can take your vehicle to a mechanic you trust, who will diagnose the problem and fix it for a reasonable fee.



  • crown5 crown5 Posts:

    Item # 6 Having brake rotors unecessarily turned. Is very realistic; friend of mine needed brakes on hios 06 Toyota and was told even new rotors needed to be turned down! And get this; he was a licenced mechanic during his working life.

  • ariellw ariellw Posts:

    There are a few that I would avoid. The rotors don't need to be turned unless they're warped from severe heat, or scarred from the pads being installed incorrectly or wearing out (metal on metal, it happened to me). You'll usually know before a mechanic if something liket this is wrong. Never heard of spraying oil on shocks, but I would be really unhappy if someone did that trying to sell me something. A check engine light though is one of those things where multiple things could be wrong with just one code. Things also usually go out in pairs or one and then shortly after the first, the second; like as O2 sensors. Parts at dealerships are getting less expensive because of their reputation for being too expensive and losing business to auto parts stores. Dealers however will usually carry and stock only genuine parts from the manufacturer. A manager at a store that I used to shop at (he retired, so I stopped shopping there) said some of the stuff the store carried or started to carry he wouldn't put on his own car, it was that cheap. It's profit driven, auto parts stores will carry what they can sell, even if a part is better than another one, they won't stock if it doesn't sell. Don't go for the cheap part because it's less expensive as a tow driver told me. "You might be towed once every 2 years with a good part, some things are unavoidable, but you might be towed 3 times a year with the cheaper part". Transmission fluid should be changed approximately every 25,000 miles or once a year. Of course it depends on how you drive, and what kind of vehicle you drive. If the fluid is brown, it needs to be changed (brown=burnt), if it's gettting brown but still somewhat red then you have some time. Unless your are is not moving because of a problem, saying no doesn't hurt anything. Also, your car is a big investment, don't be blind to what it might be trying to tell you such as noises or smells. An unneccessary repair can cost loads of money, but finding out when things on YOUR car should be changed will save you a large sum. Something I learned is if someone says that your car's whatever is squeaking horribly bad but you've heard nothing (and if it's that bad you'll hear something), ask for your keys and for the mechanics not to touch anything else and go for another opinion. There are quite few shady shops that lose business to legitimate ones, I now go to a legitimate one after wasting way too much money at a shady one.

  • stever stever Posts:

    I understand that auto parts stores in California won't do this but in the rest of the US many parts stores will pull the codes for free. The store obviously wants you to buy a sensor or whatever there, and the clerk may not be too car savvy, but the price is right. Once you get the code, you can go to the Edmunds Forums or Edmunds Answers and someone can tell you what the code means and tell you what part may have failed that triggered the check engine light.

  • drknite drknite Posts:

    I used to always go t the dealer to get my brakes and rotors changes because lets face it...cheaping out costs you mroe in the long run. But I recently came across areion brakes. I bought pads and rotors form these guys to my 95 acura integra for $212 all in and couldnt believe it. Totally worth. Opened my eyes lol no more dealerships for moi!

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