Thurston Car Talk – Repair Estimates are Not All Created Equal

bron automotive
Brons Automotive is located in the heart of West Olympia. Photo credit: Bron's Automotive.

Submitted by Bron’s Automotive

When folks have their vehicle in the shop, they sometimes call other shops for a second estimate to compare prices.  While this is fine, I thought I would write this blog to explain some things that might come up to aid your thought process.  While different shops sometimes charge different prices, it’s fair to say that there can also be a big difference in the quality of parts and workmanship, as well as the style of quoting.

First, be aware that if you brought your vehicle into the shop, and testing and diagnosis was needed to determine what part needs to be replaced, there is normally a charge for this testing, which is fair since the shop owner has to pay a technician a wage to make that determination.

An engine overheat condition would be a good example of this. Your question to us will be “why is my car overheating?”  If for example, the technician determines that a defective radiator is the cause of the overheat condition, most shops similar to Brons Automotive, will put together an estimate for replacing the radiator that includes parts, labor, new coolant, and sales tax.  When we call you to tell you how much it will cost to fix your car, we will also include the cost of the original testing, so you have the complete cost of the testing and repair “out the door” including tax and all associated parts needed for a proper and long lasting repair.

If you call another shop and ask, “How much is it to replace my radiator?” the answer will always be less because no testing was required by the second shop to determine the cause of the condition, and therefore testing will not be part of the second shop’s quote. The second shop may or may not include new coolant in the estimate.  Many shops giving a second quote at this point make sure their estimate does not include sales tax, which makes their price seem even lower.  So make sure you know what the original quote includes and what the repair alone costs.  Most shops will fax you a copy of a detailed quote so you can fairly compare.

At times the two quotes will be for a different level of service.  An example of this would be asking for a transmission service on a Honda.  A Honda transmission holds about 12 quarts of transmission fluid, but 7 of those quarts are in the torque convertor, which cannot be drained, only flushed.  A shop that refers to a “drain and fill” as a service will give you a quote for about 5 quarts of fluid and about a half hour of time.  In my book this “service” is not the best course of action.  We prefer to load our transmission flush machine with the full 12 quarts of Honda fluid and put 100% new fluid in your transmission.  It costs a little more but is well worth it when taking care of a transmission. (Why leave 7 quarts of dirty fluid in it?)

There is also a difference in parts quality that different shops use.  Some parts will last as long as or longer than the original, while others of a lesser quality might not last a year.  Closely tied to parts quality is the warranty a shop gives out on their work.  You want to have work done by a shop that stands behind their work, in case of a parts failure. Does the second shop offer 6 months/6,000 miles?  12 months/12,000 miles?

At Brons automotive we will soon be offering a LIFETIME parts and labor warranty on most repairs.  Yes, you heard it, a lifetime parts and labor on repairs!  This will be available by April 1st, 2014.  At Brons automotive we like to repair and maintain vehicles the right way so you have peace of mind on the road.


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