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May 04, 2009


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I get upsell at the oil changes places too. THey frequently find something they claim NEEDs doing so they can try and charge me another $20-$100 above the plain oil change. I think most of the services those places push are unnecessary and just trying to pad their profits.

I honestly can't stand the upsell approach Jiffy Lube and other oil changers take with their customers. Don't they know that they are destroying their customer loyalty and nullifying their creditability?

I went to Goodyear once about 20 years ago. I was 19 years old and went in with a coupon for a $24.95 alignment. They of course called me with the addt'l services needed. Not knowing any better I agreed and ended up with a bill for $400 for a tie rod end and brakes. The brakes were $300 of the total.

I have never stepped foot inside a Goodyear since. After that experience I did learn to do my own oil changes, brakes and basic maintenance myself.

In a way they did me a favor. I can't begin to calculate how much money I have saved over the years maintaining my own cars and motorcycles.

Thanks Goodyear!!

Heres a question for FMF: Why are you still supporting Goodyear (who you know is dishonest) by giving them your oil-change business?

I stopped going to Goodyear after realizing that they were ripping me off with false "needs". Firestone did the same thing. I also had a case where Toyota dealer assured me I needed a new head gasket plus other work for a total of $2200. Since the car was only worth about $2000, I decided to sell it, but then decided to first get a quote from an honest independent mechanic in case it was cheaper. Instead of a quote, he diagnosed the problem correctly, and replaced a defective spark plug wire, for which he charged me $20, and did the job while I waited.

Now I take my car to the non-dealer independent mechanic for everything. I would rather pay the slight extra for the oil change and get an honest assessment of my other "needs".

So - you need not just honest sales people, but also competent experts.

In the car world they are difficult to find. The three independents I have used over the years all came via references, and two of the three were hidden away in nondescript warehouse-type facilities. (The Toyota dealer, on the other hand had a giant sign next to a freeway, a beautiful clean shop, and a flat-screen TV in the waiting room.)

Mark --

Laziness, convenience, and cheap prices. Yep, I need to change...

The last time I had my oil changed, I asked to get my spark plugs changed as well. The guy came out halfway during and said that I needed to change my transmission fluid.

Except that very same guy had changed my transmission fluid 3500 miles before.

I think all car places try to upsell you, but I figure you just have to be wary. It doesn't bother me that much.

So the choices come down to
a: Get upsold at cheap places like goodyear
b: Overpay by a lot at the dealership with the potential to get upsold
c: Get REALLY lucky and find someone who does neither

This really doesn't help anything. Is there a sure place you can go to get the RIGHT answer?

Our Jiffy Lube is honest. They rarely find anything. If they do we check with our honest mechanic, and they've never lied to us. I still wouldn't take those places word for it, but out experience has been good.

I had to giggle about the dealership being honest. You found a nice guy. They usually tell you that you need a TON of crap done that you don't. Plus they charge more. I would never go to a dealership for car repair work.

Angie - I like option c but it's not that lucky. Ask around - it's not that hard to find a good mechanic.

My local Firestone is pretty good. I used to have my oil changes done at the local quick change places but they are pretty shady. When my car reached about 30,000 miles they decided to tell me my transmission fluid was dirty and I needed a flush. They showed me "some" fluid and I thought it looked fine. I declined the service of course and told them to note it on my paper for my records. Afterwords I looked under the hood and saw by the transmission area that it said it doesn't require changes or something to that effect. So they tried to sell me a service I didn't need which resulted in me switching.

Now for my dealership experience.
I was in an accident where a large suv decided to merge into my front driver wheel area because the person in front of them was making a left turn and I guess they didn't want to wait. It was ruled the suv's fault very quickly by the young girl's insurance company. I had my car serviced and the cost was ~$1000 of their money. I asked the dealership if I needed an alignment because my tire was involved in the accident. The person said the impact wasn't enough to warrant even putting it up on the rack. A few months later I got into another accident where an older lady decided to make a left turn yield in front of me causing me to hit her head on. This again wasn't my fault and sent my car back to the body shop and me to the hospital. This time my repair cost was ~$10,000 and it took 3 weeks to complete. They did an great job in restoring my car, enough that the insurance company complimented my choice and said the tech working on my car was the most knowledgeable they had seen with my car model.

Before picking up my car I asked them to have my state mandated safety and emission testing done as I needed it to renew my plates in 2 weeks. The testing place was part of the same dealership network as the body shop but was across the street. The person testing my cars safety said I needed an alignment badly. I told him that my car was just serviced at the body shop and he said they need to fix that. I called the body shop and told them the news and they said I don't need an alignment. I told them the name of the tech that said I did and they said they would take care of it. I got a call back from the safety place and they told me my safety passed and my car was ready to be picked up at the body shop. It turns out the body shop won the battle and they didn't give me an alignment.

When it came time for my oil change I went to our local Firestone and they told me my tires were wearing out prematurely. I told the tech I had my tires rotated every other oil change and asked how they could be wearing out so fast and he said that it was most likely caused by an alignment problem. I told him about my two accidents and that the body shop never did an alignment after them and he was shocked. In addition to the alignment I required a new set of tires as the score of them was 1-2 on a scale of 12. I had them do an alignment and replace my tires. They showed me the computer read out of the alignment and sure enough, the front driver side tire was the worst and the rest were minor to moderate. That is the tire the suv hit.

In the end the body shop cost me several hundred dollars in repairs that they should have performed. My suggestion to all would be to find a place that treats you right and has good service. I have free alignment and tire rotation for life now at least.

I think the upselling that they get away with subsidizes the lower costs for those who know what they are talking about. It's kind of like how readers of this blog make lots of money off of cash-back credit cards because other people are paying interest and fees. At this point in my life, I sacrifice a lot of my standards of service for a good deal and spend a lot of time researching everything to try to avoid being ripped off. It's made me very cynical, but also more knowledgeable. Maybe someday my time will be worth more to me than my bottom line and I won't have a problem paying extra to someone I can trust.

Are there any recommendations for a few online resources to help you find these trustworthy repair shops? That would probably be more helpful than the "hope to get lucky". I'm new in the area so I have no clue how to go about doing that.

The best way to find a trustworthy mechanic isn't online. It's person-to-person research. Look around for someone who grew up in your city. Even better if their parents did too. Ask a bunch of these people, especially those with long-out-of-warranty cars, where they go. I bet one or two names pop up over and over.

You will not have seen or heard of these places because they are not on the main drag with the chain stores. They are likely not sending you coupons in the bulk mail (although they might if you become a customer). They'll have a comparatively small, probably faded sign, might be in an old building (often added on to several times), and will be in an older industrial or even semi-residential area (mine was a 2-bay full service neighborhood gas station 30 years ago).

These places will likely be cheaper than the dealer, but more expensive than the lube chain. They charge the real price so they don't have to up sell to make up for the loss leader. A $50 charge for an oil change isn't unusual (so do it yourself, or use the chain and ignore their up sell attempts like FMF does). It might be a day or two before they can get you in. THIS is the place you want to be going.

Mechanics are like doctors - if they're cheap, can get you in right away, and had a coupon in the Sunday paper they're likely not at the top of their field with an established reputation. The best ones have all the (largely repeat) business they can handle. A place that can keep the old timers coming back for decades/generations and has all the work they can take even though they're not the cheapest is probably pretty capable and honest.

At least that's what's worked for me.

To Andy: The way I look at it, I am NOT paying more to someone I trust. I am paying less! I may pay a little more for the specific item, but it is more than made up for by the competence and honesty. Kinda like going for surgery - I think I would pay more to the guy who knew which leg to amputate, and consider it money saved.

The way I see it, if you don't want the upsell then you shouldn't go to a quick lube joint. They all do it, it's standard and routine, and we all know it. So you deal with that fact and decide whether it's worth the hassle and money for you.

Many dealerships are as bad or worse than the quick lubes. So I learned just a few things about car maintenance and try to do the relatively simple stuff (oil, filters, breaks, tire rotations, fluids) on my own. Because I don't know everything, I take it to a pro now and then for an inspection and any less routine maintenance.

I save a lot of money by doing this, and the work itself I enjoy. I work in academia so working on a car now and then helps me keep my man card. ;-)

Pfft. "Brakes." Spelling be damned.

Hmmm...I think your story illustrates the importance of an honest car mechanic that you trust more than anything else. Although being knowledgeable and fair helps!

My DH took his car to one place to get the radiator flushed. When we went back to pick up the car, he took the radiator cap off and had a look -- they hadn't done the job! He went and got the manager, who immediately took the car back in for service .. with us watching.
We've never gone back ...

About the upsell .. I've always wondered if I got that because I was a woman. Guess they trip to rip everyone off.

Last time I went to a Mr. Tire for an oil change they told me I needed new brakes. I asked them to show me.

My indicators were well above the 4/32 mark. WELL above. 4 months later and I am still going fine.


Thanks, FMF, as a knowledgeable and fair sales person, I appreciate the acknowledgement that we're not all sleazy.

Car has good recommendations for mechanics. I found a few good ones in my area by word of mouth and when I checked car talk, the same ones showed up there. They aren't the major dealerships or chain places that you hear of, but they do good work.

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