Women watch out!
Despite living in an age where female CEOs can make more than their male counterparts and female soldiers can enter combat, some believe that the car industry is still very much “a man’s world.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been advised to take a man with me when visiting auto repair shops or car dealerships — and I know I’m not alone. Women getting worked over or even ripped off seems to be a common concern in the automotive industry.
For example, there was the time my husband asked me to get the oil changed in our passenger van. No big deal, right? Well, I drove the van to the place where I usually got it done, and the guy informed me they could no longer change the oil in my van because it was “too heavy” for their lift. (Although there was a very large truck already on the lift behind him. It looked every bit as big as my van.) So, I left and decided to go to a little “mom and pop” auto repair shop. The huge sign outside said “Oil Change: $39.95.” Great! I figured it would probably be a little more, but when they showed me the total, I wanted to cry: $109.95. The invoice was full of things I never asked for, and charges that I didn’t understand. I have no doubt they ripped me off, and most likely because I’m a woman and they thought they could get away with it. Now, I warn everyone I can about that shop, and refuse to set foot back in such an unprofessional place of business.
I recently partnered with RepairPal (the auto repair estimator site) to share with you some of the data behind this very real issue. They released their RepairPal Institute Gender Bias Study, which found that uncertified shops routinely charge women more than men for auto repairs—sometimes by as much as 73%. (See my story above! It happens!)
>> Nationwide, women are overcharged by an average of 8% compared to men.
>> In big cities like LA, San Francisco and New York, women are overcharged by a whopping average of 66%.
>> In smaller cities, women are overcharged by a lower amount (average of around 3%), but it’s still significant. (We are definitely a smaller city, and I’m sad that I was overcharged so much.)
>> The greater New York area is the worst, with women overcharged by an average of 73%.
The most likely scenario is that shops are taking advantage of what they believe to be a general lack of automotive knowledge among women. It’s stereotypical and unfair, to say the least.
Luckily, RepairPal has given us some helpful strategies to help women get a fair price and avoid falling into the overpriced trap set by uncertified shops:
* STRATEGY #1: GET A VISUAL
A picture is worth 1,000 words, so ask your technicians to show you the problem area on your car or give you before-and-after photos as a great way to educate yourself.
* STRATEGY #2: USE AN ESTIMATOR
After getting the problem professionally diagnosed, use an online estimator tool like the RepairPal Estimator to get an accurate idea of what a fair price should be.
* STRATEGY #3: THE MANUAL IS YOUR FRIEND
Blow the dust off your owner’s manual and start to familiarize yourself with it. Understanding what warning lights correspond with what systems puts you at an automatic advantage. (If your battery light is on and the mechanic starts talking about motor oil, you’ll know something’s fishy.)
For even more tips on how to make sure you’re getting a fair price and using a trusted, certified mechanic, please visit http://www.repairpal.com
. They have information about why you should choose certified repair shops and where to find one in your area.
I’d love to hear if you’ve ever visited an auto repair shop and got overcharged or if you’ve been to a RepairPal shop and was impressed by the fair price! Tell me what you’ve experienced in the comments below.