Ridiculous 40,000 mile check-up

So… perhaps I’m just “bitching,” but I’ve just returned home from a 40,000 mi. check-up on my '05 VW Passat Wagon GLX that cost just over $2600 when all is said and done. I realize I live in an expensive market (Metro D.C.) and that dealers mark up all kinds of costs (expected), but I have truly never had a car that cost so much, so fast. It’s been just over 4 years with this vehicle, and, at 10,000 mi./year, I’m pretty much driving it only locally with the kids. There isn’t that much wear and tear.

Let me account what was done:

40K service – $698.30

Right engine mount replaced (found leaking) – $337.52

Battery replaced (failed their test, despite the fact that it showed no signs of problems to me) – $213.00

Tail Lights replaced – $54.40

Rear rotors & pads replaced (I know this is an issue with VWs, having to replace these WAY too quickly, so I suppose I expected it) – $483.20

Drive belts replaced (upon inspection, found one starting to crack) – $196.38

Oil Cooler replaced (leaking oil in coolant) – $369.48

Cooling system flush (necessitated by the leaky oil cooler) – $263.58

Perhaps not surprisingly, at least three of these items (the engine mount, oil cooler, and flush) WOULD have been covered under warranty but my warranty expired 12/29/08. What a wonder these items weren’t identified for repair until now (I say with all the sarcasm I can muster online). Obviously, these items – totalling around $1,000 – should have been found during my last check-up but weren’t in order to cost me money.

I suppose I have no recourse at this point, having paid for the repairs. (In my defense, I’ve got an 11-month-old baby at home and just didn’t have the time… let alone the brain power, given the amount of sleeplessness I’ve been going through… to fight. But are these charges way out of line? Should I just chalk this up to the idea that clearly I AM NEVER BUYING A VW AGAIN?!?



It seems funny that you are complaining about this bill after authorizing the work.

The amounts for the battery, tail lights, brake rotors and pads, and cooling flush are wayyyyyyy too high. Why didn’t you shop the competition before you authorized these repairs? The time to fight is before you authorize the repairs, not after.

I suppose I’m wondering if I do have any recourse at this point, other than to plead mercy and/or have my husband call and yell at the dealership for taking advantage of his wife (who has a baby in tow). But really, that baby’s presence answers your question, in a way. Why didn’t I shop the competition? Well, first of all I had no idea these repairs would be necessary. I just took the car in for the 40K service. Then I was told these repairs would be needed. With a baby in tow (and this being our family car), I require a loaner vehicle of some kind while repairs are being made. And while I could always shop dealership vs. dealership in terms of repair prices, I feel like I’m pretty much beholden to the dealership for a loaner.

That being said, you’re right that I might just be up a creek without a paddle in terms of getting my money back, since I’ve already authorized the work.

But really what’s surprising to me is that this kind of work is necessary on a 40,000 mile, 4-year-old car.

That surprises me too. If the dealership I frequent told me my car of that vintage needed that much work, I would say, “Just do what I have authorized. I will pick it up and get a second opinion.” They may have taken advantage of you because they recognized you as an easy target.

You can always rent a car. Some rental car companies will even pick you up, which would make a loaner unnecessary. This dealership’s loaner service doesn’t appear to be free when you consider their prices. You might be better off paying for it yourself.

If you feel the task of maintaining the car is too much for you right now, ask your husband to do it until you are ready. You can’t be expected to do everything with a baby in tow.

Either you or your husband (whoever is better at this sort of thing), should write a polite letter to the service manager, explaining that this situation is unacceptable and that your loyalty as a customer is at stake (although we both know that ship has already sailed). If the service manager values your business, he may mail you a partial refund. It has worked for me in the past.

Stop whining…You could have/should have WALKED when the service writer announced the results of their fishing expedition…Have the car inspected at an independent shop and verify these expensive repairs. I suspect your laundry list of repairs could have been done for HALF of what you paid.

“But really what’s surprising to me is that this kind of work is necessary on a 40,000 mile, 4-year-old car.”

Not to us it’s not…Happiness is spelled “Toyota”, not VW…

But are these charges way out of line?

You might consider raising your kid to be a Volkswagen mechanic. It appears to pay better than counterfitting – without the risk of arrest.

No, you probably don’t have any recourse as long as the work you paid for was actually done. But you might find a good independent mechanic to use in the future. I paid for a couple of major repair jobs on our Dodge Neon when my daughter was going to school down there (timing belt-water pump, head gasket). The cost was a bit higher than it would be in Vermont. But nothing like what these guys are hitting you up for. $400 for a battery and drive belts?

I saw a recent survey with VW shown at the bottom of the list for dealer satisfaction. While 85%+ were satisfied with independent VW specialists, find one.

The prices are very high, even with another car brand this same dealer would charge the same or find unnecessary work. There is nothing VW that makes this expensive, it is your dealer going crazy hoping you bite on an item or two and you took all of the. Lastly are you just over the 4yr/50k warranty possibly? Some of those items are covered.

Brakes are normal in urban cycle not “way” too early. It is also driver style.

All I can say is WOW.

40k service is $700 and they hit you up for another $200 to replace the belts?? What does the 40k service include for that money that doesn’t even include the belts? I’m amazed at the cost of the belts and installation too.

A good rule of thumb is to stop taking a car to the dealer after the warranty runs out, unless it’s an exceptional problem.

Nancy, This Is Water Over The Dam. Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over This.

You didn’t waste the whole $2600. Regardless where you took the car there would have been a large bill. It’s D.C. ( I can’t lie. These labor prices are high.) Besides that, $2600/4 years = only $650/year for car maintenance and repairs. The battery, brakes, and belts could have maybe gone a little longer, but would be due soon. These are “wear items” that any car uses.

You may have spent a little already for oil changes, etcetera along the way, but I’ll bet not much.

It sounds like they went over it really well. You should be able to drive trouble and worry free for quite a while now. That’s important with baby.

Live and learn. Take the advice others are offering here. Ask other VW owners for recommendations concerning a shop with competent, reasonable, prompt service. Now that you are out of warranty you’re especially free to roam. This site has Mechanics Files that may have recommendations for you.

I wouldn’t say that you’re never buying a VW again, just yet. Give it a little more time. I’ll bet this experience would be pretty typical, regardless of the brand. I think the problem was more with the dealer and people, rather than the car. The extra money spent has made you a wiser shopper.

Good Luck,


Find a good local mechanic to do any service. Theses guys are CROOKS. $2600…I never put that much into my wifes 96 Accord TOTAL…for the 10+ years and 230+ k miles. That’s absurd for a vehicle this new.

I concur with most of what’s been said. I’d stay far away from VW’s, mainly due to their repair history and reputation. There is a reason Toyo has the rep it’s enjoyed. You can have good luck with many other manufacturers, but I’d avoid all the Vw’s, SAABS, volvo’s BMW’s, etc, unless money is no object. In my opinion, those dealers deal with a lot of people in which money is no object so they charge accordingly. If you want reliability, go with Toyo, if you want cheap, go with Hyundai. You will not get both highly reliable and cheap at the same. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

You will not get both highly reliable and cheap at the same. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes it doesn’t work that way when you consider the overall cost of ownership and not just the sticker price. Paying a little more for a Honda or a Toyota can pay dividends over the lifetime of the car. Sometimes cheap isn’t cheap. If you don’t believe me, check out Edmunds’ “true cost of ownership” of several models.

Having a “highly reliable” vehicle can save you money in the long run.

I never liked the move to labling service work 15K,30K,45K etc. You just don’t know what is included. When I would change Dealers I would always have to look at the sheet and see what is include.

Since the OP stated she just felt like venting I am going to stay out. OK one thing, break that tie to the loaner car.

Most car dealerships are struggling just to stay alive. Many have turned their Service Departments into Profit Centers, supporting the entire dealership. That “free” loaner car was the most expensive rental car you ever drove…From a service writers viewpoint, you look like a duck in a shooting gallery…

Now here’s an interesting turn of events: My husband has called and raised holy hell with the dealership and gotten $732 knocked off the price (I know these kind of prices are what a woman can expect when she goes to a dealership… We know this and sometimes play “good cop, bad cop” or, perhaps more accurately, “lovely woman, angry man”). Essentially, they agreed that while the oil cooler and the cooling system flush really were unusual and reflected a defect, rather than wear-and-tear, the engine mount issue was not similar.

We’re holding out and waiting to hear from the manager whether we can squeeze out an additional $300+ for the engine mount as well, the theory being that this IS an unusual repair at this point in the car’s life, and that the timing of the repair indicates we’re being fleeced anyway.

I’m still rather peeved at the whole situation, but what do you think: should this “buy back” our loyalty at all? Or, now that we know the warranty’s up, is it just time to look for a non-dealership repairman (and rent our own “loaner” during service visits)?

The 40K service includes: engine oil & filter change; tire rotation; check and correct tire pressures; brake inspection; check of accessory drive belts; replacing pollen, air, and fuel filters; replacing spark plugs; onboard diagnostic check; flush & refill of brake fluid; and timing belt inspection.

Yes, all this can be yours for just $700.

When they called you and asked you to authorize the various and sundry items that they claimed needed to be replaced, you could have said, “no”.

Or, you could have asked about the price of each item and selected some to have repaired/replaced, and others to reject for repair/replacement.

As you know, their prices are incredibly high ($213.00 for a battery???), but if you did authorize these things, then you only have yourself to blame.

On the other hand, if any of these items were repaired/replaced without your authorization, then you have a legitimate gripe.

In the future, I would suggest that you avoid that dealership like the plague.

And, since you have discovered the reality that, as they age, VWs need significantly more repair work than their Japanese and Korean competitors, I strongly suggest that you shop for a nice car from one of those countries when you are next in the market for a new car.

Consider this an investment in your education.

Next time remember that there is no reason to bring your cat to a dealer for anything that is not covered 100%. If you have to pay for it, you can have someone else do it.

And remember that not not everything someone (no matter who they are) says needs to be done, must be done without a second opinion.

If nothing else the battery, if it was original was likely needed, but they did charge too much.

I appreciate the advice to not let one large bill affect me too much, but I will say that each service appointment with VW costs more and more. The 5,000 mile check-ups (at 5K, 15K, 25K, etc.) are very reasonable, but the 10K checkups are rather expensive. The 20K checkup – just the checkup – cost $440.

In addition, the axle boots needed replacing at 30K, and I needed new steering rack bolts at 35K… so while this is certainly the largest bill I’ve paid at this dealership by far, the other costs have totalled a bit over $2300. So, really, this car has cost just about $1250/year for car maintenance and repairs. That does seem a bit much., does it not?

The other cost of doing business with VW, I’ve found, is that their dealerships still have the attitude that a VW – despite costing over $30,000 – is not a luxury car. This means that their customers don’t get luxury service.

Disclaimer: Our other car is an Acura Integra (old-school, '97), and despite the fact that this is their low-end vehicle, we ALWAYS get a loaner vehicle, no questions asked, and the car gets a free wash. These are such small things, but they mean a lot to us – particularly the loaner. I’ve had to do battle with the VW dealership to obtain loaner vehicles ever since it was purchased WITH THE PROMISE that I’d always get one. Yes, I seem to have won this battle; these days, I hardly have to raise my voice to get that loaner. Still, the fact that I had to fight such a battle leaves a bad taste in my mouth about VW.