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Customer has perception that car repairs shouldn't cost a lot?

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Question for you guys. I've some customers recently with older vehicle (1980's 3 series e30 chassis if you are familiar) and have been a real pain in my ass. The car is old but the market for these cars are still decent. I have a lot of clients that own them and will put a few thousand in repairs without thinking about it. I've had 2 customers recently that have been a real pain in my ass. You present them with a few hundred dollar ticket and they go ballistic. Remember these cars are old and there are tons of problems on older vehicles. Most recent customer is a forum guy and is scrutinizing any estimate for any work he needs. I would love to get rid of him but he had an overheatin issue. We fixed a leaking heater core for him but come to find out his cluster is shorting out his electric fans and his thermostat appears to be stuck closed. What do you guys normally do in these situations, I'd like to just send him down the river.

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some people you just cant please, you know this.


if you want to keep him then you have to explain things. People try that with us too on old cars, its old so it cost less. I explain, its old, less helpful (computer systems), rusty and easy to break stuff, so, it will cost you more to fix it. If you dont want to keep him, explain that your prices are your prices, those people on the internet are not coming down here to fix your car. Auto repair prices are different here in tx as they are in california the same as cost of living and home prices.


it really isnt any different than any other customer, some you have to spend extra time on and others you dont.

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"Minnesota winters are not kind to our vehicles. If your vehicle is more than 15 years old, you may have a small additional labor charge to accommodate the removal of rusted nuts, bolts or parts."


And forum guys, we ask what shop their "forum expert" is out of. There seems to be a lot of guys working at "sumguy" Shop.

Edited by PAPShop
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These are most of my customers in Ohio unfortunately. It is frustrating and I completely understanding wanting to retain the customer.


About a year after I opened my shop I invested in a plastic/nylon fuel line kit. All the fittings, adapters, compression fittings, and sizes of line to cover almost any application.


We have a lot of rusted out gas and brake lines in my area. One day some guy comes in with a car with rotted out gas lines and asks me for a quote on replacing them. I got him off of a craigslist ad I ran (my mistake). I gave him a quote for two new gas lines from the Fuel Pump to the engine for $400. The plastic fuel lines are expensive to make, but are a near permanent fix unless they are cut. The tank had to be lowered to access the lines closest to the pump. Honestly with all the rust, doing these kind of jobs end up taking a half of the day to preserve the gas line brackets, cut out all the nasty line, cut and fit new lines, and button everything back up and clean the bottom of the car. It makes a mess on the floor and the shop stinks for the rest of the day.


The guy acted like he just fell out of his shoes when he told me "Wow I only paid $200 for the car". So because he bought the car cheap, all the repairs on the car should cost less then the car?


After that experience I went on craigslist and removed my ad.

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I have this happen a lot. Being a carburetor shop about half my work is pre-1985 vehicles and most of those customers are great. Never an issue with price, just hand me the keys and see you later. But I do get a lot of newer cars in for service and repairs. a few days ago I had that typical customer come in and start the usual clueless ramblings.


"Wow you have a lot of nice cars in here. Whats your labor rate?"


"75/hr, what seems to be the matter with your car?"


"well my cars running rough, i was told to bring it here but I tried to fix it myself blah blah , internet forums said blah blah, your rate is kind of expensive blah blah"


"my rate is now $85"


"well my friend though he knew..blah blah, my father in law thought blah blah""


"my rate is now $95"


" well what will you charge me. Its an old car(1997) so it should be cheap blah blah, back in my day blah blah, I used to me a mechanic blah blah"


"my rate is now $105, do you want to give me the keys and be at $75 or tell more story and see if I can get to $155"


Being an owner I know sometimes I have to kiss a little ass, but I don't have to take any sh*t. When they start that "why is it so much", its old"...etc. I just give them blunt and honest. Usually they will leave the car, or just leave. Either way I win

Edited by carbtech72
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  • 2 months later...

Every story I just read has happened to me and I assume all of us on a regular basis, its part of dealing with people.

It makes me wonder how much longer do I continue to try and help people out with their car problems?? Glad we are busy and making a profit!

After my 45 years in the car repair business, its the people that drive you more nuts than the cars do!!

The cars we can take a hammer to when no one is looking, do not try that with a customer - even if they are not looking!

Laughing about what customers say is the only way to get through the day some times.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I tell everyone a $500 car is like a free boat, there's a reason its cheap. The reason is usually the cost to repair exceeds the value of the unit. With junk prices being so low we're starting to see them more and more. When a junker comes in I inspect it really well and when I show the customer his rotted out components its easy to dissuade them from wasting money on junk.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
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      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
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