With rare exception, dealers cost more than a good independent shop. I
really hate going to a dealer for service and only use them for warranty
work or the occasional deal they may offer on oil changes. Of course, once
they get you in there they want to sell other services.
As a forinstance: Dealer I bought my last two cars from says you should get
the fuel injector cleaning every year @ $129. Two cars would cost me $258 a
year. I've never had an injector problem in many years of driving so I'm
thousands of dollars ahead of taking their advice.
I've never had what I consider to be a good experience with a dealer
service department. Multiple do-overs on simple work, wall jobs for
recalls, having to leave it all day for stuff other places do while I
wait, attempted up-sells, high prices for labor and parts, 'waiting on
parts' while they did high-profit jobs instead, and in one case they
broke my windshield and denied they did it. And this is multiple
dealers in several states over 30+ years.
I avoid them if at ALL possible.
had an EXTREMELY high retention rate for the 10 years I was service
manager because I DID NOT allow that kind of thing to occur.
My service department was the ONLY dealer service department in the
Waterloo/Wellington area that was NOT a flat rate shop. All my guys
were paid straight time. No incentives. No Flat Rate Bonuses.
I paid them enough to make it worth while coming in to work in the
morning - and they got paid the same if they were fixing a customers
car, a company used car, or the hoists/workbenches etc, or cleaning
the place, etc.
They were ALWAYS busy.
And both our absorption rate and retention rate were the envy of
every dealership around - big or small.
You guys who know about such things - how does 130% retention rate
over 3 years sound??
Yup - we serviced, at leazt 3 times a year, 30% more (of our
brand)cars than we had sold over the last 3 years. Plus the used cars
we sold, and other customers who brought their off-brand cars in for
my guys to service.
This WAS over 20 years ago - but even THEN, it was good.
I don't know anything about "Flat Rate Bonuses", but what's wrong with
flat rate? It's the time a factory thinks it should take a competent
mechanic with the proper tools to do a specific job. If the mechanic
is better, he will do the job quicker than the "flat rate" and can do
more in a given time and will earn the business more money. Plus, the
customer is charged a fair rate according to what it SHOULD take a
competent mechanic to complete the job, not the time some slacker or
novice will take. I once worked as a mechanic at flat rate. I was
slower when I began and became quicker as I gained experience. Seems
like a fair way to do things.
Many years later, I was shocked when I asked the flat rate on changing
a hydraulic steering line on my car and the service mgr said there is
no longer any such thing as flat rate and if it took 6 hrs, that's
what I'd be charged. I told him to jam it up his ass and did it
myself in 1.5 hrs, having no previous experience on said car.
All other things being equal, take your car to the dealership with the
largest parts department.
Mechanics want to get your car fixed and rolled out of thier service bay so
they can work on another. If they need a part that has to come from another
dealership, they get a lot of down time. Therefore the BEST mechanics tend
to gravitate to the dealerships with more part numbers in stock. If they can
get the part they need, they can get your car fixed sooner.
Not sure what this has to do with flat rate, but OK, I'll respond.
Many dealerships have been actively divesting themselves of parts
inventories. Overhead, I reckon. I went to my local Mopar dealership
to get a part. They no longer carried it. So, went to my local Napa
dealer, who did have it. While waiting for them to ring it up, I
groused about how the Chrysler dealership was going down the tubes.
While bitching, I turned around and discovered the parts man from the
Chrysler dealership was standing in line at the Napa parts counter.
He smiled, sheepishly.
I've been a mechanic my whole life, too, but I got out of that facet
of it early, moving on to high tech engineering and R&D. I've found
exactly two auto mechanics I actually trust, in my entire life, which
is why I do my own work.
Simple. It entices the mechanic to cheat and take short cuts , and to
sell work that isn't required.
The customer was charged by the flat rate.
A LOT of flat rate mechanics make more money with their pencil than
with their tools - and I've seen BOXES of parts under mechanic's
benches that were NOT replaced, that should have been replaced as part
of the job, and the customer (or warranty) paid both for the parts and
The flat rate pay system encourages cheating. I don't like it. I've
worked it. And yes, under flat rate, I could have made a LOT of money
(when things were busy).. Straight time guarantees the paycheque, even
when things are slow. Some guys like that.
Flat rate does NOT apply to older vehicles, where rust and other crap
can cause major problems. It also does NOT cover diagnostics. For MANY
jobs, diagnostics can be well over half the time spent on a job - and
it is "clock time". It does not cover "extenuating circumstances" If
an exhaust stud breaks off in a manifold, it is "clock time" untill
the stud is replaced - unless the mechanic gets creative and adds "r &
R manifold" to the flat rate job - and THEN goes to clock time to
remove the stud - then adds "replace stud" to the flat rate job -
which means he gets paid twice for over half the job.
No flat rate for replacing rusted fuel lines, brake lines or
transmission cooling lines. Not for rusted power steering lines
Factory flat rate is "warranty time" - the time a reasonably adept
mechanic should take to replace the part on a reasonably new car - set
by the factory - for warranty purposes.
Many manufacturers pay a different hourly rate for warranty repairs
too. Generally less than retail door rate
Then there's "Chilton time" and several other versions of "Flat Rate"
used mostly by general repair shops. Generally about 20% more than
I spent half my working life as a mechanic - both flat rate and
straight time - including 10 years as service manager - so I got to
see both sides of the problem.
Total nonsense. An honest mechanic does not become unscrupulous just
because a flat rate system is in place. I was an honest mechanic and
the customer got full measure of what he paid for, regardless of how
long it took me, whether I was quick or slow. OTOH, scumbags need no
encouragement to be unscrupulous. They'll cheat you, flat rate or no.
I can inderstand how certain repair circumstances create problems.
BTDT. OTOH, the training of an unexperienced new mechanic should not
be the responibility of and/or be paid for by the customer. Let more
experienced mechanics do the diagnostics. Besides, who does free
diagnostics, anymore? Sure, flat rate applies to newer warranty work,
and that's what we applied it to.
How many shops survive working on clapped out rusting hulks, unless
it's their specialty and they have the set-up and priceing structure
for it. Even if it is warranty or fairly new car work, sometimes you
get a job that's a loss. That's a std part of business. You can't
start hosing all customers just cuz you lose money on occassion. Oh
wait!! ....apparently, you can! I know it's damn sure become SOP to
you hose the customer they don't come back, and you do not maintain
high retention and absorbtion that way.
For "normal" work, on reasonably new cars - the work usually seen at
a dealership, the customer pays by flat rate, plus the appropriate
diagnostic charges and extras that are not covered by flat rate -
while the mechanic is paid straight time. Certain jobs need to be
quoted as "time and material" right from the get-go - and others are
quoted from experience - "that job, on that car, at that age and
condition, is going to run you about 6.5 hours, plus parts" and "When
we get to this point, we'll call you and let you know if it's as bad
as we suspect, better, or worse - and you can decide if you want to
fix it -".
Sometimes you need to give the customer the choice, after you get to
the point you know EXACTLY how bad it is, whether he wants to repair
or replace the major assembly (engine, transmission, etc) or replace
the vehicle. Often those choices cannot be made without getting into
If a customer asked for a price,I often gave a range - "if we are
lucky,and nothing goes wrong, we can fix it for $1300 - if it goes as
I expect, more likely $1400 - if it's really bad it could be $1750 or
more, and it's my recommendation that we do (this much work) and
reassess at that point. If it is worse than (whatever) I'd recommend
you not spend the money - cut your losses and replace the vehicle
instead" Sometimes they'd say, forget it, and replace the vehicle
right away, without even starting on the job - othertimes they'd say
go ahead and when we knew exactly where we stood, they'd say continue,
or no. And sometimes they'd say fix it, even when my recommendation
was not to. Customer's choice - but NO SURPRISES - for them, or for
If a customer demanded a firm price on this type of job, I generally
quoted the highest I expected it could possibly go - figuring it might
discourage the customer from fixing what really should not be fixed,
or convince him to accept that it is sometimes difficult to know how
bad the vehicle might be and that sometimes a bit of uncertainty is
worth more than a "sure bet"
And I ALWAYS tried to do as little as necessary, cost-wise - to find
out what was required. Several times we "ate" the dissassembly charge
when the customer decided not to go ahead. It was a case of keeping
the customer happy - and keeping the customer.
A lot of little jobs went out without any charge or paperwork. If it
wasn't worth a $25 charge, it wasn't worth processing a work order.
Not being on flat rate, I could ask a mechanic to go out and install a
wiper blade, wiper arm, headlight, bulb, etc for a customer and it
didn't cost the mechanic anything. I could lube a sticky lock and say
"no charge". Made the customer feel good about the dealership, and
saved me money in not having to process all the paperwork (remember -
this was before computerization).
The biggest problem in flat rate shops is when one guy, who is really
good at a particular job, is seen to be getting all the "gravy"
because he always beats flat rate, while the other guy never or seldom
beats flat rate - and never gets those jobs. They'll cry like babies
- untill you give the complainer the "gravy job" and he loses his
shirt. Then the crybaby hides a tool or screws around with something
to make sure the guy who's been "getting all the gravy" can't do his
job as well. I've seen minor wars break out in shops over this. I've
seen mechanics fired in order to restore peace in the shop. Sometimes
several at once.
One mechanic complained the alignment guy got all the gravy - untill
he got a twin I Beam ford front end to align when the "alignment guy"
was off. The regular alignment guy could make flat rate on them MOST
of the time - the complainer lost his shirt in a big way and that shut
him up for a few months.
Another problem in a flat rate shop is nobody wants to help the other
guy learn. In a straight time shop, if John is having a problem with a
job that George is very proficient at, George will go and spend some
time with John, showing him how to do it properly -while in a flat
rate shop George keeps fumbling along because it would "cost George
too much" to show John how to do the job - and it's not in George's
best interest to have another guy in the shop be as good at that job
Happens all the time
Which is why I was never a proponent of "flat rate" shops
The dealer where I lived before was run by a best friend, so no one ever
up-sold me. ;-) I'd get a loaner whenever the cars were in for service, too.
After I moved here, I had no idea who to go to, so continued going to the
dealer. I've now found someone else I can trust (and even more convenient),
so don't go back to the dealer. I'll probably take my wife's car back there
for tires in a couple of weeks, though.
Yeah, I don't buy any of that crap either. I do have the transmissions
serviced on the schedule, though.
Buying a new car is *never* a financially sound decision, rebate or no. The
only thing that makes financial sense is to buy used, at least three or four
years old. Let someone else pay the depreciation.
You want to talk about discounts from list price? After our second child was
born, in 1991, we bought a 1984 Buick LeSabre for $4200; the original window
sticker was still in the glove box, showing a list price of about $14K. The
car had 54K miles on it when we bought it, and it was still running when we
sold it ten years later at 211K.
Not only that, but it was proven and time tested. New anything is a
crap shoot. A used car in mint shape with all service records is a
sound bet. Have it professionally inspected, though. Get a 3rd
parties expert opinion. A good used car is usually close to
indistructable. I bought a Honda with 120K miles on it. Sold it
with 120K more (250K) hard commute miles on it. Engine still purred.
Not true. As another poster pointed out, there are times when the
price difference between a late-model used vehicle and the same one
brand new is so minor, it makes no sense to buy used. That's how I
ended up buying my first new car - after shopping around and
discovering the difference between my buying the particular model new
versus two years old with 25K on it was only a few hundred bucks, I
(to my amazement) bought new. Market forces worked in my favor that
time. It may apply in some cases now, too. Low demand for new and high
demand for used may once again make the used vs. new price difference
on certain models negligible - in which case you might as well buy new.
In the example I gave above, the price difference between the vehicle
new and two years old with approx 25K on it ended up running between
$500-600. So, 25K fewer miles and two more years on the warranty for a
few hundred more? Sold.
If the financing on a new vehicle is more favorable than on a used
vehicle, and the buyer intends to finance, that's another factor to
take into account.
Yes, it is. Do the math. You get killed on depreciation. Let someone *else*
buy the car new, and pay all the depreciation.
You both drew the wrong conclusion. The correct conclusion is that if a new
car, and the same thing used, one year old, are basically the same price --
then they are *both* a bad deal.
Total cost of ownership is *always* lower buying a used car -- *if* you use
your head. Buying a one year old used car that's the same price as a new one
is obviously stupid. But that doesn't mean that buying new is smart, only that
buying new is (in that case) less stupid than buying the one year old used
car. Buy three years old, or five years old.
No, they didn't. Your eagerness to buy a new car worked in the car dealer's
favor that time.
How much could you have saved by getting one four years old, with 50K on it?
Did you even check?
It obviously makes more sense to buy new than one year old used at the same
price -- but it makes still more sense, much more, to buy three, four, five
years old used.
And I bet you never even looked at the same thing, four years old, with 40 or
50K miles on it. The price difference would have been thousands.
No, it's not. It's *never* a financially sound decision to buy a new car. It
may be less unsound, in some circumstances, to buy new vs. one year old, but
that does *not* make buying new a smart thing to do.
Considering that it was a high demand vehicle because of fuel economy he
did well. Often sticker is the best you can get in that situation
because if you don't buy it someone is standing behind you who will.
Now if it were some giant stupid fluffed up truck with 16 cup holders
and 4 DVD players 50% off wouldn't have been enough.
Looked at used car prices recently? That truism you mentioned is now
null and void.
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