from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

My Grandmother was always concerned about the character of the people I hung with. She used to say “remember young man if you sleep with dogs you wake up with fleas.” That sounded pretty silly at the time but through the years I’ve gained an understanding of what she really meant.

Although from another century that saying is right on target for what many of you are doing with your cars today. You look for the cheapest place you can find then bitch like crazy when things don’t work out. Yeah, I know money’s tight but paying a cheap price for something that doesn’t fix your problem is wasting not saving money. Especially after you pay for a second, or as one poor guy did a ninth failed attempt.

Fact is all shops get their technicians from the same employee pool and they all buy parts from competitive suppliers so how do the shops that claim such low prices do it? Actually they don’t because they really can’t. There is absolutely no reason for highly skilled and certified technicians without issues to work in a cheapest guy in town shop earning a fraction of the pay. Especially considering there are thousands of high paying technician openings that need to be filled. Also good techs are proud of their abilities and knowledge and don’t want the blemish of working in a low class, hard sell shop on their resume’. So maybe it’s through buying power. Not likely! High quality costs almost the same no matter how much you buy.

Yet these places advertise prices that are often half what dealerships and quality independent shops charge. Truth is they’re usually cheaper because they do what I and my peers refuse to do, buy cheap offshore parts, employ entry level techs and up-sell from the advertised price like crazy. By the time the deal is done it often costs a lot more than it would have for a quality job using quality parts performed by a high end tech.

Another old saying is you get what you pay for and that’s really true when getting your car fixed. Although high prices don’t guarantee high quality ridiculously low prices always guarantee compromise. That compromise could mean second-class parts or maybe second-class workmanship or both. Sure you want a good price but not by sacrificing safety or quality and not by exposing yourself to a lot of intimidating high pressure up-selling. So, what can you look for?

Look for a fair price instead of the absolute lowest price! You want to deal with a clean shop with no derelict cars or old parts sitting around that has a clean comfortable waiting area and clean restrooms. Always ask for a tour of the shop and if they say no leave. During your tour look for offensive pictures and calendars or anything else disrespectful to women, men, religions, etc. You also want a shop that has ASE Certified technicians and preferably a shop that is ASE Blue Seal Certified.

Next do some homework. Contact the local consumer agencies to see how the shop fares on complaints and remember all businesses have some complaints so you’re just looking for a disproportionate number of them. Also ask friends relatives and trusted acquaintances if they’ve heard anything good or bad about the shop.

Here’s a trade secret just a few dollars spent on your future with a subscription to Alldata will allow you to look up bulletins. That way you don’t have to pay to solve a problem that has already been solved. Plus you can verify estimates using the Alldata parts and labor guide and learn the terms you’ll encounter at a shop. Alldata could save you a ton of money as your car ages. Invest a little time, invest a few dollars, use common sense and you’ll be more empowered and better able to cope with your auto repairs. Caveat emptor: always avoid fleas — don’t sleep with dogs!