Unless you have a motor mechanic as a friend or family, one of the most disempowering things for a consumer to face is an exorbitant car repair quote.
Earlier this week, I sent a 6-year old car in for an issue with a radiator and my heart sank when I received a R9300 quote for replacement and installation of the radiator. Of this amount, R7500 was for the radiator. I started rolling the figure around in my head trying to understand what was involved and by the end of it, I had walked away with the same job being done for R2700…
Here are some considerations:
1. ALWAYS ask for a quote before letting the workshop proceed with any work.
2. When the quote arrives, interrogate it. How much of it is parts and how much of it is labour?
3. If you get an inkling that something is off then go and see if you can find your car / the nearest similar model on the Kinsey Report which allows you to compare service prices.
4. There are typically 3 solutions when it comes to fixing your car:
A) Replace using dealer / original manufacturer parts
B) Replace using after-market / generic parts – for context, the generic equivalent of this radiator is R1780
C) Repair (heaven forbid)
After-market / generic
When I called the service manager pointing out that the after-market part was R1780 I was initially fobbed off with the excuse that they don’t carry the same warranties (not true) and were of lower standard (debatable considering the number of recalls said manufacturer has handled this year). Afterwards he conceded that he can use after-market parts for the car but is obligated to quote using original manufacturer parts. For older cars outside of motor-plans, you should call the dealers on this.
Had this crack in the radiator been a couple of centimetres to the other side, the job could have been a R200 welding job. WTF?!
“But that’s a patch job that might not last and I might break down in the middle of nowhere” I hear you say… Interestingly when we actually got this radiator out of the car, we found that somebody had in fact done a “patch” job on this radiator previously. Bearing in mind that its been to the same dealer for repairs for the last 4 years and the 2 years before we owned it … that’s not bad going.
Ask the service centre why they have to replace instead of do a repair. R9300 vs R200 is pretty significant.
4. Don’t be impressed by flashy workshops
Expensive infrastructure requires high margins to be sustainable and you’ll be surprised how often your car gets checked out to go to a neighbourhood mechanic / specialist for the actual hard graft to be done. I always remember about 12 years ago one of my friends phoned me asking me why I was in such a rush hurtling down William Nicol … I responded saying that would be impossible because my car was in for a service at Ford to which my friend responded “Are you sure?” (the car had a custom numberplate so hard to get it wrong)
I phoned up the service manager and sure enough my car had to go off to an auto electrician offsite.
Similarly if you’re getting radiator work done, you’ll probably find the service manager dialling up the local Silverton Radiators …
5. Get an AA test when you buy a second hand car!
Don’t just take the dealers word for it that the car is in perfect operating nick. The AA will actually do a full independent test of the car for a couple hundred Rand and give you a report. It might take a few days longer but will save you many thousands of Rands down the line.
And make sure they test all parts of the car! In my early days, I used to buy Ford Falcon XR6s and one of my first cars was a second-hand XR6. I had asked for the AA test and it came back “clean” (I didn’t actually read more than the cover page of the booklet they supplied until a couple of days later). 48 hours after driving the car, I was hearing a sound from the suspension which I had previously written off to being a tighter sports suspension. I started investigating and on closer inspection I found that the back right hand door had been re-sprayed … almost as if the car had been in an accident. But that would be impossible because the AA would have flagged it right?
I opened the AA booklet, checked the page detailing that part of the car and found a notation “Do not test” – phoned up the AA and was told that the dealership had said that I as the buyer was aware of the fault and didn’t need them to test it. Needless to say the dealer to the car back and refunded me.
There is a material difference between R9300 and R2800 when it comes to your personal finances. Interrogate everything and hopefully this post puts a bit of the power back in your hands.