VW offers 3 years free service on 2009 models in U.S.Enlarge Photo
Shane Evangelist, the president of AutoMD, suggests that the vulnerable position of the customer is part of the issue. "If you look at the body repair industry, insurance companies really regulate the business," said Evangelist, and new cars are covered very specifically under warranty through dealerships. But when people bring their vehicle to an independent shop, a franchise shop, or even a dealership for non-warranty repair work, he explains, "you get a situation with the seller knowing much more than the buyer."
Some of the variance you'll see from the time of the initial estimate through to the end of the repair is typically based on parts availability, Evangelist concedes, but he said that isn't a good excuse. "It's very easy to come up with a job cost," he said, which is why they chose such a common repair as a benchmark to show that this is happening."We've all kind of known it went on but we didn't have the data to support it until now," Evangelist said, pointing out that AutoMD had recently found that 88 percent of vehicle owners felt overcharged at the repair shop.
Evangelist suggested that some shops give labor discounts some days (mid-week, for instance) and surcharges on others (before holiday weekends) that you're not likely to be able to see on your receipt. Ultimately with more up-to-the-minute repair info, what services like AutoMD hope to achieve in the long run is a live comparison-shopping or bidding process for auto repair—if at least for routine tasks like a brake job.