Is This Repair Worth It? Four Questions To Ask

March 24, 2011

The worst part of dropping off your car for repairs is the call for approval. The repair facility has found something wrong and now they need your okay so you can get it back that evening. You sort of trust the place, but you’re not quite ready to invite them to your home for a pool party.

So how do you handle the bad news in a way that makes you feel comfortable with your decision?

You only need to answer a few questions:

Is this a surprise? If you directed the shop to look at a certain issue like a noise when making turns, it wouldn’t be unusual to get a call saying that you need an axle shaft. On the other hand, if you went in for a tire rotation and the caller was telling you that you needed a $1000 brake job, you could have fallen victim to what the industry calls the upsell. If the safety card is played and they suggest that the car should not be driven, ask them to note on the invoice that they recommend towing the car away from their shop. Make a note of their reaction.

Is the price reasonable? You may think that your only options are saying yes or no, but actually there is time for some informed consent. Get all the details about your car problem and respectfully ask if it’s okay to call back shortly. Your options now include calling another shop for a price, logging on to your library and pricing out the job with their auto repair database, or using RepairPal as an online tool to find a benchmark price.

What are the consequences of not acting now? The first is the cost of the diagnosis which you may see as wasted money if you delay the repair. But actually it may be an opportunity to escape a lot of aggravation and possibly expense if the price proves to be exorbitant or based on fraud.  The shop’s reaction to your decision to wait may also be an indication of whether you want to deal with them. Having to return may seem like a waste of your valuable time, but the peace of mind that it provides by being able to make a confident decision may be justify it.

Is this car worth it? Think long term. Is this the tipping point for this vehicle? What is the repair history of this car and is the cost of this repair another drop in a bucket that is quickly becoming a bottomless pit? Now may be the time to say that enough is enough, but you will only be able to get to that place if you allow yourself time to make an informed, stress-free decision.

Deciding about car repairs is never easy because it involves money and inconvenience. Once you allow yourself some time to consider some alternatives you can be comfortable with your course of action.
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