Avoid Car Repair Upsells
Don't get taken for a ride when taking your car for service.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: October 2nd, 2012
Sometimes unscrupulous shops upsell recommended maintenance before its needed.
ealerships generally profit more from their service departments than their sales departments, and one way in which they do so is by upselling repair and maintenance work. While the work itself is legitimate, it may not be necessary, at least not at that time.
Sometimes unscrupulous shops upsell recommended maintenance before its needed, or double-sell work (generally preventive maintenance jobs) that may have already been performed. There are ways that consumers can guard against this.
One way is to keep meticulous service records. This will prevent work—particularly preventative maintenance work like fluid flushes—from being accidentally performed twice. Although many dealerships and shops keep maintenance records, these shops don't generally communicate with each other. Since some fluid flushes are sold based on mileage, a service advisor or mechanic might try to sell a flush that has just been performed. Keeping solid records is a good way to avoid this.
Using a little bit of common sense never hurts, either. It's not unusual for techs to suggest replacing a dirty engine air filter or cabin air filter before the car reaches the recommended mileage, as suggested by the manufacturer. That's because filters get dirty while doing their jobs, and techs can show off a dirty filter in order to sell a clean one, even though the filter is supposed to be dirty—it's just not dirty enough to be replaced yet. Being able to do some of your own work never hurts, either—sometimes replacing an air filter is extremely simple job. You can save money by doing it yourself, if you're mechanically inclined.
Perhaps the best way to avoid unnecessary upsells is to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for when preventive maintenance should be performed, and what kind of work should be done. New-car dealerships are supposed to follow these, too, and when they don't, it can be a red flag. But the recommendations are there for a reason--the manufacturer knows its cars.
A second opinion can also help. If a suggested maintenance or service seems fishy to you, take the car to another shop (or perhaps two) for a second look. It also helps to do a little bit of research, perhaps using consumer-friendly review sites online or owner's forums. Not only our unscrupulous shops sometimes outed by other consumers, but knowledgeable owners can offer advice. In some cases, jobs that should be combined are sold and charged separately by shady techs, and knowing what work should be performed at the same time can be helpful.
We're not suggesting that all of the services themselves are unnecessary. Many of these maintenance services are important, but some are sold too early. In other cases, such as when a car is being used lightly, these services may not be required or can be postponed. Some technicians will suggest that flushes aren't necessary, while others will say they are (again, we'd go with what the owner's manual says), but no matter who's right, there are some simple ways that you can avoid being duped.