It's true. We don't like to give quotes over the phone. It's really risky because there are so many variables to consider that we really do need the car. We need to know if parts are damaged, if parts are rusted or corroded together. Sometimes there are 3 or 4 variations of a part that we need to see so we can quote the right part. Writing an estimate is not a simple task. It takes years of experience and we still need to see the car to do it correctly. Plus, we want to stick to our estimate so you don't have surprises. We can't do that if we can't write it correctly. So if you need an estimate please stop by and we'll get you an accurate estimate that we can both live with. Then you'll leave a happy customer and we'll be a happy shop. Everyone wins!
I've been saying this for years, telling my customers for years and using it for years but it's always nice to see someone else mention it. Buying 10 year old cars and maintaining them is the cheapest way to own and operate a car. Look at the graph from Reddit, especially the black dots:
The reason for this is that depreciation, interest, license tabs and insurance costs are silent killers. They add up to thousands of dollars per year and you don't even notice it.
Now, I would go one step further and say that buying a mint condition 12 year old car from the original owner who has all the maintenance records, is going to be by far the cheapest option, but 10 year old cars aren't bad either.
Continued from fluid myths
Fourth, you need to understand needed vs good.
Everybody has a different version of what is needed to repair their car. One person may have had a tie rod separate and send their car out of control. For them, a tie rod is needed and an emergency. For someone else bald tires are not needed even though they are illegal. Because everyone is different I can't make my recommendations based on what is needed because everybody has a different idea and will disagree with me.
So, we make recommendations based on what is good. It is good to maintain your fluids. It is better than not maintaining them. It is good to fix things before they break because they are often more expensive to fix after then break. It is good to have an inspection and know the state of your car. It is good to change your oil on schedule.
You see, while I benefit from what is good, you do to. And, so does your car and ultimately your pocketbook.
Apparently, it is fantastic click bait to write articles and blog posts about how auto repair shops rip people off. I see these articles everywhere and it drives me crazy! I'm here to 1) fix your car when it breaks; and 2) to help you prevent it from breaking. Yes, it is going to cost money to do both of those, but it doesn't mean it's a rip off.
First, let's define ripoff: When you don't get what you paid for. You can't be ripped off if you got more than you paid for.
Next, let's define repairs and maintenance:
- Repairs - When I fix something that is broken
- Maintenance - When I fix something that isn't broken so it doesn't break something else in the future
Good, now we can chat.
The first myth is the fluid myth. Fluids need to be changed. They wear out and stop doing what they were designed to do. Sometimes they still look new which is very deceiving. However, they can cause expensive repairs if they are not changed. Below are some of the trouble they cause:
Coolant - loses it's rust inhibitors and begins rusting out your engine from the inside
Brake Fluid - loses it's corrosion inhibitors and eats your brake lines from the inside out
Transmission Fluid - picks up metallic dust from the gears in your transmission and turns the fluid into liquid sandpaper which grinds down your gears and bearings
Differential & Transfer Case Fluid - picks up metallic dust from the gears in your diff and turns the fluid into liquid sandpaper which grinds down your gears and bearings
Oil - picks up dirt and soot from combustion and gums up screens, filters and oil passages. I have see bad oil crack pistons and engine blocks because the grime causes it to lose it's lubricating property
Now do you see why fluids need to be replaced every so often? It is much cheaper to do that than to replace an engine or transmission. Even brake lines are much more expensive than an infrequent brake flush. This is maintenance. You take care of the fluids before they break something.
Second myth, extra parts being added to pad the bill.
I understand where this myth comes from but you have to understand, cars work in systems. One broken part can fail because a part earlier in the system is failing. If you don't fix the root of the problem then the new part will break too. We take a system approach here, to make sure your repair lasts. That's also why we can warranty our work for 3 years and 36,000 miles. Nobody does that!
Third, we recommend fixing parts that don't "need" to be fixed.
This is tough because sometimes we see symptoms of a part beginning to fail. However, nobody knows when that part will fail. In reality, you can only repair a part before it breaks or after it breaks. But there are 2 important things to consider if you are thinking of delaying a repair for a part that is showing wear:
1) It is always cheaper or the same to fix it before it breaks. It is never more expensive to fix it early. Sometimes broken parts require expensive tow trucks or they break other things along the way if you wait too long.
2) A part that is showing wear is only going to get worse and not even Nostradamus can predict the day it will actually break.
This is also maintenance and it is typically much cheaper than a repair.
Here at Integrity you don't need to worry about unneeded repairs. We'll show you what is happening and help you make a great decision about the repair.
Fourth...okay...I'm getting tired.
To be continued...
We get this question all the time. In fact, a good friend of mine just asked me this question a few weeks ago so I'll tell you what I told him...if you consider only the dollars and sense then yes.
I've calculated this a few times over the years and I always get the same answer so I'll share it with you here. It costs about $400 per month for depreciation, interest, maintenance for the first 4 years of an average vehicle's life. It costs about $250 for depreciation, interest, and maintenance for the next 4 years of an average vehicle's life. So, it's about $1800 per year cheaper to maintain and repair a used car than it is to buy a new car. This difference is even more pronounced for trucks because the depreciation is so much higher in the first few years. It is almost always cheaper to fix a truck than replace it.
So, that's how I do it. I buy vehicles with 100-150k miles on them and I fix and maintain them whenever they need attention. When my needs change I buy a new vehicle. Otherwise I just keep fixing them. It's hands down the least expensive option.
The best way to do this is as follows: Find a trusty repair shop. Have your vehicle inspected as soon as you buy it. Update any fluids if you don't know when they've been changed. Fix any belts/pulleys, leaks and suspension parts ASAP and then run it. Do all your oil changes at that shop and fix any items as they appear on an inspection so that a small issue doesn't turn into larger one. Rinse and repeat.
While this advice may seem tilted towards the shop I can assure you that it is by far the cheapest way to buy and maintain a reliable vehicle. We've seen $250 wheel bearings turn into $1300 jobs because customers don't follow this. We've seen $150 differential fluid changes turn into $2500 differential replacements. Keep the monster at bay and feed him small bits frequently. :)
The auto repair industry tends to take a beating when it comes to pricing. You hear people complain that it's "highway robbery" or "they've got you" when a repair seems excessively expensive. Some people even think we just add money to pad the bill. Well, that just isn't true here at Integrity.
For starters, ethics is about choices. When you're being robbed, or strong-armed, or tricked, it is usually because someone has limited your choices. Being robbed with a gun to the head is about limiting your choices. A deceptive sales person will limit your options to trick you into picking their product. So ethics is only about putting all options on the table and letting the customer pick.
Pricing in only one part of those options. The other parts are longevity, convenience, comfort, and quality. For example, I could do $5 oil changes.
Would that be ethical?
Well, it depends on what is included. If I used corn oil from my kitchen then the answer is no. I could also do $200 oil changes.
Would that be ethical?
Well, it depends on what is included. If I used a 200,000 mile oil with a super duper life long reusable oil filter the answer is yes.
So ethics is not pricing. It is what you get and your ability to choose what you get.
Here's what I want you to think about when you are choosing a repair shop to take care of you car or truck; if you pick a shop that doesn't tell you everything that is wrong with your car, then do you actually have all of your choices in front of you? It's hard to choose to fix something you don't know is broken. And, if a repair shop chooses to use cheap parts because they are afraid you might not fix your car due to the expense, then they aren't even giving you the option to use better parts. Once again your choices have been limited. Is that ethical?
Ethical shops give you the truth, that your car is broken and there are some great parts out there than will last for a long time if you fix it. Unethical shops limit your choices to what they want, your money, even if they have to put in chintzy parts and hide known issues from you so they can fix it when it breaks later. Now that's unethical. Don't be confused and substitute prices for ethics.
Can you? Here at Integrity sometimes we get grilled about our estimates. Sometimes customers know of a "guy" who can do it for much less. Well, here's how we look at it.
I know which parts come back for warranties frequently because I track everything. So, I avoid selling those brands, or those parts. For example, we only use original equipment seals. If you have a leaky seal on your Ford we will only install a Ford seal. Why? Because in our experience aftermarket seals leak and Ford seals don't. Sometimes this means it will cost more for a repair here at Integrity. However, I know other part brands that are less expensive that are also better quality. We only install those parts as well. So sometimes we are less expensive. Over time, we are in the middle.
The overall theme is that we install the most reliable parts regardless of cost. Isn't that the right thing to do? To fix it right the first time? I think it's rather shady to put a bad part in a customer's car if you know it's a bad part. It causes my customers headaches because they have to come back for warranty work and it causes me headaches because now I have to fix it again for free. Bad parts are bad for everyone.
So how can you avoid bad parts?
1) Find a shop with a great warranty. Our warranty is 3 years 36,000 miles because we know which parts will last and we will only use those parts. Why will some shops only offer a 24 month 24,000 warranty? Well, it probably has to do with the quality of their work.
2) Be wary of inexpensive estimates at shops. Are they using bad parts (usually very cheap)? Will they be able to afford to warranty the part if it fails (they might just blame it on normal wear and tear if they can't afford the warranty) Will they even be in business when you need the warranty (if they don't charge enough they might be gone soon)?
3) Ask the service writer why or how they pick their parts. The answer should be something along the lines of "we've never had trouble with that brand" or "we've had trouble with other brands."
4) Avoid shops who compete on price only. In the auto repair industry, this is a death sentence for the business. It means the business is not attracting customers because of quality so they have to lower their prices to try to snag customers. Why do they do have to do this? Because their quality is bad. Be it cheap parts, poor repairs, grumpy service or short warranties, something is bad. You just won't find out until later.
So yes, the truth is that sometimes auto parts are expensive. And, that's good for me but it's only good for me because it's even better for you. That's why we use good parts. Because it's best for you.
We typically see two types of customers. The first budgets for their repairs and the second does not. The condition of the vehicles between these two groups is striking. People who budget tend to have better maintained vehicles than people who don't budget. I suspect this is because they can afford repairs when they are discovered and therefore avoid a small repair turning into a larger one. Well maintained vehicles also have higher trade in values to people who budget are able to afford lower mileage vehicles. As you can see budgeting is a great way to save money on vehicle expenses. Here are 4 tips to help you budget well and save money on vehicle maintenance.
1) Put $100 in a jar every month until you have $1200. Use that money exclusively for auto repairs and replenish it as necessary.
2) Use a reputable auto repair shop with a solid inspection process. Ask to see what's wrong with your vehicle and if it's broken or worn out, fix it immediately. This will prevent one broken part from wearing out another part in the same system. For example, a bad wheel bearing can crack your brake pads and a bad idler pulley can shred your serpentine belt. Fixing problems soon is a simple way to avoid additional expenses. When looking for a reputable shop remember there are 2 ways to be dishonest: 1) telling a customer to repair something that isn't broken and 2) not telling them about something that is broken. Find a shop that cares about your safety and will share the complete condition of your car on every visit.
3) Follow your maintenance schedule, especially fluids. Old brake fluid can cause seized calipers. Old coolant can eat away at hoses and coolant passages. Fluids are important and are much cheaper to maintain than repairing what they can damage.
4) Consider affordable repairs when you buy a vehicle. Imported vehicles often cost more to repair. Trucks cost more than cars to repair. Tire prices increase dramatically with the size of the rim and the weight of the vehicle. There are many more considerations, but choosing a vehicle that is affordable to maintain can make a massive impact on your ability to actually maintain it well.
Following these tips can save you big dollars. I've see customers literally spend thousands of dollars that were unnecessary because they didn't follow one of these four tips. Following all four tips can save you even more.
We get this question a lot here at the shop. It especially comes up when the cost of a repair approaches the value of a car. The best answer is that it is almost always cheaper to fix a car than it is to buy a different one. Only in very rare circumstances such as a transmission or a motor replacement, does it make sense to replace the entire vehicle and even then it can be cost effective to perform the repair. Here's how the math shakes out:
Including depreciation, interest, repairs, and maintenance a new vehicle costs about $5800 per year to own. The same expenses on a used vehicle add up to $3200 per year. That's a savings of $2600 per year! (I excluded license plates and insurance because it varies so much be inevitably a used car is cheaper here too.) The savings is even greater if you have the vehicle paid off because there is no interest to pay.
However, vehicles are emotional for most people. Many of my customers can't bear the thought of spending $1200 on a $2500 car even if it saves them $2600 that year.
The benefits to repairing a vehicle exceed the cost savings in other ways too. First, you know it has been cared for and who cared for it. Second, you might also know that there are no major hidden problems to surprise you. Third, you position yourself to take advantage of the full value of the repairs you've paid for. Fourth, it's also greener to repair a vehicle than replace one. New cars take many more resources to produce than repairing old vehicles, and scrap yards are not exactly environmentally friendly places.
At some point a vehicle will come to the end of its life but that point is usually much farther along than most people are willing to go. At that point we can help you make that determination. In the meantime, consider the significant cost savings and investment of repairing your vehicle. What would you buy with $2600 extra per year?