Monday, August 2, 2010

Hidden Fees

This past weekend, I had to take my car in for repairs, specifically the air conditioning has been acting up. I took my car to the dealership service shop rather than our local mechanic, because I needed the car fixed on Saturday as I was traveling for work on Monday (can't really be driving around in South Florida in a car with no a/c in August).

The dealership called and told me that the repair, a new a/c compressor, would run $800. Ugh! Well, I have no idea how much this part plus the labor should cost, nor does my husband (although he has more car knowledge since he has an antique car that he is always tinkering with). So, we called our neighbor, who is a mechanic, and he was kind enough to assist us with the research. He gave us part information, key questions to ask (so the dealer would know we really had talked to a mechanic) and a hard quote of $600 which included replacing a companion part.** Mr. Sam calls the dealer back and talked them down to $700 with the companion part included (which was not part of the original quote), plus we also had a couple of belts replaced and the oil changed. Before Mr. Sam hung up with the dealer he reviewed the hard quote with the representative, wrote it down and confirmed that the only addition to the hard quote would be sales tax.

I'm sure you can figure out where this is going. When we reviewed the invoice the numbers didn't quite add up. Mr. Sam and I sat down with the invoice, reviewed his notes, calculated the tax and there was a $30 extra charge on the bill that did not jive. I can't remember exactly what it said, but it was something like "garage fee." Dealer rep informs us that they charge everyone a "garage fee" although he couldn't explain what we got for that fee. In the end, recognizing that the "garage fee" was not part of the agree hard quote he took it off the bill.

Bottom line, don't be afraid to negotiate the costs with a service provider and watch out for hidden fees. Think about how many people had their cars serviced at this shop during the course of a week, think about how many of them were charged a $30 "garage fee", how many of them paid that fee without blinking and that the fee is simply pure profit for the dealer.

**We would have had our neighbor make this repair, he normally takes care of our cars, but he doesn't work on the weekends and I was traveling on Monday so the repair had to be completed before Monday.

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