Sunday, January 15, 2012

Road Trip Preparation: Why I Hate Getting My Car Serviced

With only days away from my big Texas Road Trip, you can already bet that I'm scrambling to get everything in order between squeezing in those last few days of work and packing before hitting the road. Since I'll be trekking in my little 2010 Mazda3 Sedan from NJ to Texas and back, I definitely needed to take my car in for an oil change prior to the trip.

It's bad enough being a woman and taking your car to get serviced, so I usually present myself in a knowledgeable and firm way to avoid getting ripped off. I've been maintaining my own cars since I was 17, so don't assume I am too much of a bargainista leading me to neglect the maintenance and upkeep of my car. In fact, I still have my car from high school - a 2002 Pontiac Sunfire with over 130K miles on it, and it runs like a charm.

My experience I had on Saturday at my car dealership's service center was utterly ridiculous. Before I get into details, allow me provide you with a back story. In August 2010, I treated myself and purchased a brand new car. Fast-forward 18 months, my little Mazda3 has roughly 25,000 miles on it, and I make it a point to take it in to get serviced every 5,000 miles or so since I do a lot of highway driving. My servicing has never cost me more than $50 for a basic oil change/tune-up/tire rotation. However, things were a little different this time around.

On Saturday, I pulled into Mazda's service center and told them that I'd like a routine oil change. All is good so far. I then start chit-chatting with the service manager while my car is on the lift, and somehow I slipped that I'll be driving round trip to Texas this week (mistake). After the conversation dies, I help myself to some tea and a magazine to pass time while waiting.

Fifteen minutes pass and the mechanic comes out to talk to me. He presents me with a list totaling over $650 worth of services I need!! I honestly though it was a joke until he actually starts going over each charge with me. He told me I'd be needing a transmission flush for $200, power-steering fluid, new coolant, new wipers, radiator flush of some sort, and a bunch of other random replacements. There was no way I'd be giving in to this non-sense.

Granted I'm no mechanic, but heck, I'm not an idiot either! Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Listen, my car is a little over a year old with only 25,000 miles on it; I'm shocked that there are all of these things "wrong" with it. I'm happy with just the oil change and air filter for the time being since I have been regularly maintaining it without a problem.
Mechanic: Well, it's extremely necessary that you go ahead and go with the mechanic's recommendations. After all, you are going to Texas. You want to be safe, right?
Me: My car has been running fine, and I've been following the manual as far as scheduled maintenance.
Mechanic: Well your transmission fluid is brown, a flush will remove all of the burnt sediment.
Me: Well you and I already know that my car is new, I find it hard to believe that I'll be needing all of those recommended services at this time, but like I said before, I'll stick to an oil change and new air filter.

What really irked me about this experience is that it happens all the time to [most] women. I can't even count the number of times I've taken my car in for service and have been pressured to spend hundreds of dollars more. However, when I go in with a male friend, somehow "my car is running like new". Hmmm...

To sum up my rant, I'll leave you off with something my friend Sheldon posted on my Facebook status thread regarding this situation: "I have told you and every woman this for years. If you're not related to or sleeping with a mechanic, they will continue to take advantage of you throughout your life."


P.S. On a much happier note, I want to welcome all of my new readers from my recent interview with Million Mile Secrets! Do note that I don't always rant LOL. I look forward to sharing stories of how I have earned points and miles. Stay tuned! :)


  1. They do it to EVERYBODY now - it's kinda sick; inhuman.

  2. Very true, which is why I take the cars in for the repairs. But as the previous commenter said, they do it to everyone now.

    I just tell them, I'll stick to the service spelled out in the manual, not the dealership's "recommended" service!

  3. Sad but true. This is how dealerships make most of their money (more in servicing and add-ons than actual car sales)

    I have pretty high end cars, a Jaguar and Mercedes, and take them both to Jiffy-Lube for a cheap oil change. I obviously pay for good quality oil to be used, but I am not there to subsidize the dealer! My local JL does a great job and they don't try to upsell crap I don't need

  4. You can't really blame the dealers all that much. They are around to make money, like any other business. Do you blame the hospital that charges $1k for an ambulance ride that travels less than a mile? Or how expensive any of their services are...sure they might be their to make sure your healthy and take care of you, but at the end of the day, they only care about $$$. Hell, there are some very specialized doctors that will not operate on a patient if he/she doesnt believe they are getting paid enough for that job.

    So, those mechanics are only doing what mazda trains them to do. Sell services. There are only a few mechanics at these dealers that actually really know about the cars they work on. Most cannot tell you the differences from the models from the outside, just like how most sales people really don't know much about the cars they sell.

    Any car nut who goes to a dealer and listens to a sales person will most likely crack up with the shit the sales person tells a person to help a sale. "Well, you see this car has a cold air intake system, that gives it the 10hp over the model below it." While in actuality, its the fact that the car has a higher compression ratio, which allows it to pump out a little more hp, not the fact that the "cold air intake" which wasnt even a true cold air induction system because the air filter was still located in engine bay, was causing the additional horsepower

    The best thing to do is to just read up a little bit about basic car maintenance; expected oil change intervals, tire rotations, etc. If you are going to be going to a dealer for any services and not listen to some of the services they want to sell you.

  5. @ 1st commenter and Million Miles Secrets: I know, it totally sucks that it happens to everyone... definitely helps bringing someone along who is knowledgeable or going with the manual!

    @Phil: I agree about the dealership making the bulk of their money from servicing. Believe it or not, I only went there for my oil changes because I always had a coupon (of course) for $31.95... guess no coupon could have saved me from my last experience LOL. I swore by jiffy lube & mr good lube in the past... they kept my little pontiac running for 10 years and counting!

    @anon: I definitely understand the business aspect here, don't get me wrong, but there's a time when the consumer has the right to decide how their money is spent. Unless you're a blind consumer who doesn't question where your dollar goes, I'm sure most would agree that that we'd expect fair treatment when deciding to do business with you. Customer service has a higher value than cash nowadays, in my opinion. I definitely agree that education about your car is key that way you have an idea of what to expect as far as scheduled maintenance as time passes. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. you're first problem is that you went to a dealership to get your car service. =P go to a local mechanic and find one that is honest, then you won't have these problems next time. :) i found a local mechanic that is awesome and never rips me off. you can always get your oil changed at jiffy lube and it will be a lot cheaper than the dealer. just don't let them sell you all the other services either.

  7. @oneeyejack: Totally agree!! LOL never getting serviced at the dealership again... I used to go to a fantastic local mechanic that my family has used for 15+ years, but he retired 2 years ago and closed his shop. so I guess it's jiffylube type places until I find another honest mechanic in my area. If anyone knows of a great mechanic in northern NJ.. send him my way :)

  8. God, yes. My husband finally witnessed this for himself recently when I had him call a mechanic after I was told in no uncertain terms (complete with the veiled threats you mention) that my car needed a bunch of repairs, and he saw how badly said mechanic had attempted to rip me off -- this was a mechanic with whom he had never had a similar experience. We just accept it as an unavoidable inequity that he has to take either of our cars in to be serviced now.

    Sexism is alive and well. I can't believe people think the feminist fight is over.