Confessions of a Car Dealership Service Manager
Nissan, Ford and Mitsubishi, and has also served as a warranty administrator and customer relations manager for multiple dealerships.
Q: What's a good reason to take your car to the dealer for routine maintenance, rather than to the guy with two bays and a private shop?
MORE AT POPULAR MECHANICS
Q: So it's not necessarily more expensive, and they know more about your car. Any other reason?
A: Often times at Jiffy Lube or wherever they're paid by the hour, and they're not necessarily trained to know your vehicle. And that can cost you your engine. If I could get half of what I've charged customers to replace engines that were screwed up by Jiffy Lube and Walmart, for such things as not enough oil, too much oil, the wrong weight of oil, wrong filter, loose filter or any combination of the above, I could have retired a long time ago. There's no point to spending $30,000 to $40,000 on a new vehicle and then trying to go cheap on the maintenance.
Q: What's an example of a common tactic by dealers to pad the bill?
A: So-called shop supplies. That is, and always has been, the biggest crock of crap I've ever seen, and it's been going on for years! It is essentially similar to going to a nice restaurant, getting your check and finding you've been billed for napkins and silverware, which are necessary costs of the food service business. Shop supplies include, but are not limited to, shop rags, lubricants — this isn't the motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and steering fluid they might put in your car — and the cost of disposing of used oil. These are just some of the necessary costs of doing the auto repair business. Some dealers do not charge for them, but most do, and what is considered shop supplies is at the discretion of each individual dealer. I've seen a customer get billed for $30 in shop supplies—on top of their estimate — for the use of three shop rags! For that price, I can buy 20 rolls of shop towels at Auto Zone.
Q: If you got a bill that had shop supplies on it, what would you do?
A: Ask to see exactly what that means. Ask to see the precise items they actually used. Challenge them on it. You might not get them to knock it off your bill, but you should try.