Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Dealership charges

My wife loves her vw bug but everytime we go to the dealership for inspections, oil changes etc. They just nickel and dime me…once it was $4 for windshield washer fluid which the claim was “It won’t freeze”…Duh and the second time was $20 to replace the windshield wipers because the minimum was .2 hours on each item they work on…even though it took him 2 minutes which one of them was taking them out of the box… Now, Is this Fair??

Life is not fair…Ignorance is not bliss…

Perhaps we need to change our educational system so that college graduates (and high school) leave school with some PRACTICAL knowledge like how to change wiper blades and flat tires…

If you rely on professionals to service your car from bumper to bumper, you should be prepared to make THEIR boat payments right along with yours…

I save a LOT of money on my Mercedes and Honda by NEVER going to a dealership (unless it’s for a recall.)

No, it is not fair, but you have to bear in mind that this type of practice varies from one dealership to another.

When I take my car to the dealership for an oil change, if the WW fluid reservoir is low, they will refill it at no extra charge, along with all of the other fluids. Yes, I know that the cost is actually built into their oil change charge, but since they charge less than Quicky Lube and less than many private garages, I don’t think that I am really paying a premium for the added fluids. And, if I have an oil change coming up in a few weeks, I intentionally let the WW fluid run very low so that they refill it for me at no extra charge.

I have also been amazed at their prices for replacement wiper blades. Once or twice they replaced my blades without asking, but when I saw that they charged less than Pep Boys or Autozone, and since the blades really were in need of replacement, I did not object.

Yes, you are being overcharged, but just because your dealership is doing that, don’t assume that they are all like that.

You don’t have to pay the dealer for this stuff. You can add your own washer fluid, change your own wiper blades, and take the car to an independent mechanic for routine maintenance you don’t want to do yourself.

As long as you keep records, and can prove the maintenance was performed on time, you don’t have to take the car to a dealer to keep the warranty in force.

Personally, I avoid dealers like the plague. I only take my cars to the dealer for recalls. Everything else gets done by me or my independent mechanic. This has saved me a LOT of money over the years, and has not caused any problems with my cars.

They can’t do these things without your approval. If they ask you if you want something done, like new wipers and you say yes without asking the cost, you are leaving your wallet open for them.

It is expensive to run a dealership. I am fortunate to have a BMW dealer only 5 miles from my home, and that they are open early in the morning and on Saturdays. However, I go there ONLY for warranty work and emergencies.

I cringe when I have to go to the dealer for a part because I need it immediately so I can put my car back together. When I have to pay them two to four times what I would pay on-line, it adds up. However, when I do the math, and realize that they probably have a million dollars worth of parts back there, some of which they will never sell, but they need to keep them on hand anyway, and the parts guys and mechanics would like to make a decent living and buy decent cars and a home just like me, and then there is the cost of their workman’s comp insurance and other costs of employing them. At my office, If I pay a professional $30 an hour, I have to charge $110 an hour for his time in order to make an 8% profit, and I don’t have hoists and $100k diagnostic machines to pay for. Much as I cringe, it is not hard to understand why the dealer needs to charge $120 to change my differential oil. (at least, they would charge that much if I didn’t do it myself).

Well…let’s see. A massive building, tons of very expensive tools and equipment, a large chunk of land to either lease or pay mortgage & tax payments on, a full labor force to pay and maintain, etc. etc…not to mention that the purpose of a business is to make money for its owners, not to wipe your nose.

I actually don’t think that $4 for wiper fluid or $20 to do wiper blades is out of line at all if it is done by a business that has to maintain itself. People who would complain about such things have probably never tried to run a business. Why not just take some responsibility for your own basic maintenance?

That said, you will normally pay the highest premium at a dealership. Why not just find a local independent?

Businesses model their pricing strategy for the clientele they expect to draw. The price shoppers look for the lowest price going in and in the end get the poorest value. It requires a minimum of 45 minutes from drive in to ready lining a car getting a “proper oil and filter change and lube.” That can’t be done for $25. unless minimum wage help is used and even them a great deal of added high profit service and parts must be sold to be profitable.

Ok, ok… Here is the problem… windshield washer fluid is no problem adding but, the fact that they did this indiscriminatly and then charged for “topping” it off is what bugged me when I have a gallon in the garage for that purpose… During a PA inspection they have you by the short hairs if there is a “nick” in one of the wiper blades. IN essence you guys are saying… Inspect the car before taking it for inspection?? It’s not the fact that they charge for the changing of them but, the fact that they have a Book they use to charge for that no matter how long it takes… so, in essence, if a painter comes to your house and says the Book says it will take me 5 hours to paint an 8 x 10 room and it only took him 2… you should pay that person 5 hours work?? C’mon… What are you guys thinking??

Well, I have been in busines for my self for the past 40 years…and if you are saying that it is fair to charge Not by the hour but by how long the book says It Should take… I can see why you would not be in business and see why dealerships only get the business until the warranty is expired…

Your wife or whomever at the time of the instance should have challenged the top off at that time. If it wasn’t specifically OK’d (oral or in writing) then the charge is incorrect. My technique is to provide the mechanic/service writer with a list of what I want done and a statement that if something else is needed, to call me for authorization. My trusted mechanic has faithfully followed my instructions.

As I understand it, you always have the right to take your vehicle from the place that did the inspection to have the repairs done at the shop of your choice. When I lived in states that had vehicle inspections, the shop doing the inspection never profited from what they found. I would either accomplish the work myself or pay to have it done elsewhere, and then verified by the inspection station. The only exception was if it was fairly trivial and inexpensive. And yes, I tried to do a “pre-inspection” when I lived in nit-picky states to insure that most of the stuff I could find was corrected before I got there.

Mechanic book rates and mechanics beating the book have been around the industry for a long, long time. This is not a new revelation, and you do have a choice, just say no to what you don’t want done and make the business adhere to it.

Well, if you have wiper fluid in your garage then why are you taking it to the dealership low or empty?

As to the .2 hours you will seldom find a labor operation that is less than .2 and in spite of your perception the mechanic is not getting rich on this. You saw the 2 minutes to change them. You did not see the time before and after the wiper change. This involves paperwork, clocking in and out, running the car in and out of the shop, standing at the parts counter for what can be eons waiting for a parts man to get on the ball, etc.

If that tech is making 20 dollars a flat rate hour then do the math. The tech made a whopping 4 bucks for that entire operation.

Take the car to Wal Mart. They will top off the fluid and install wiper blades for much less and there is no reason to go to a dealer for routine maintenance services.

I have no idea what the “charge Not by the hour but by how long the book says It Should take” comment is about. You said nothing of this whatsoever. And frankly - yes. It is fair. How about this instead: you come in to have wiper blades changed. I have an experienced guy who can do it in 5 minutes or an untrained teenager who has never done it before. I put the teenager on it and it takes him an hour. Now which would be fair?

And yes (from below)…if you don’t want to pay someone else’s rates to do simple things like wiper blades or whatever, then you SHOULD deal with these things before an inspection. And, if something comes up that you didn’t know about but don’t want to pay the rates for, then take the rejection on inspection, deal with it in whatever way you want, and then take it back for re-inspection.

Look, you will not find any adamant supporters of dealerships here. In fact, it is close to a daily occurrence on these boards that people are directed away from dealerships. I always do it myself when relevant. But if you really just wanted to come in an rant about dealerships you could have something a lot more relevant to talk about than $26 worth of simple stuff that you easily could have done yourself.

I always add my own washer fluid and replace my own wiper blades. It is quick and easy. My independent garage will call me if they think the wiper blades should be replaced, but I always decline and do it myself.
A dealership has several departments: 1) new car sales; 2) used car sales; 3) service; 4) parts and possibly 5) body shop. Each department has its own manager and each department is expected to generate revenue. When you have the wiper blades replaced, you are paying both the service department and the parts department. The mechanic flagged .2 hour of time to change the wiper blades. Probably half this labor charge went to the dealer. The parts department probably charged $12 for the blades, for which they paid $6. This is business–the parts department has money tied up in inventory. The service department has to keep its mechanics busy.

I had a good friend named Wes that had the following rule: “If I can do something in 15 minutes or less, I do it. If it is going to take more time, I hire it done”. If you use Wes’ rule, you will replace your own wiper blades and fill your own washer reservoir.

This is no big deal. You can get an entire jug of Rain-x fluid from Target for $4. $20 to replace the wiper blades? $20 total or $20 in labor on top of the cost of the blades? Either way, if you don’t want to hassle with even the most basic maintenance then $24 per visit is simply the premium you pay.

If you order a pizza, it’s because you didn’t want to make it yourself, or drive to the store and buy it frozen, preheat the oven etc; so you pay the delivery fee and tip a few bucks on top of that.

I think you will be happier if you find an indy garage to take the bug to. My local mechanic would never charge me extra to top off the WW fluid or change the W-blades, but I do that stuff myself anyway.

Don’t beat yourself up over this.