Women quoted more for auto repairs

You suspected as much. Now a Northwestern University study proves that, at least in certain circumstances, it's true.

By Mitch Lipka Jun 28, 2013 4:12PM
Image: Traffic © Digital Vision, Getty ImagesGetting a car fixed is one of the remaining arenas where consumers are at a major disadvantage -- not really knowing the costs in advance. That makes it difficult to know whether you're being taken advantage or being given a fair price.

So a team of researchers from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management set out to find out what callers would be told if they asked for the same basic repair: having a radiator replaced on a 2003 Toyota Camry. Hundreds of shops were called and callers read from several different scripts.

Most of the callers who cited knowledge that the repair should cost about $365 were quoted that price, the researchers found. But for the sets of calls made in which the caller indicated no real knowledge of repair costs, women were quoted a price that averaged $13 more than that while males were quoted $10 less.

It wasn't entirely clear why the men were getting lower price quotes. The researchers suggested that perhaps the repair shops were more wary of a man saying he wasn't sure what something would cost.

From the shop's perspective, "If you say 'I have no idea' and you’re a woman, you really have no idea," researcher Florian  Zettelmeyer suggested. On the flip-side, the shop could have seen the man's admission as "being really strategic," researcher Meghan Busse said.

The researchers noted that while consumers are greatly empowered by websites that show the prices to purchase new and used cars with any variety of options, they don't have the same tools to get a feel for what certain car repairs should cost.

While the company AutoMD.com is ramping up and CarMD.com also provides a sense of some repair costs, the transparency is nowhere near what consumers now have for the car buying market.

The researchers also found that women had an advantage in certain circumstances. When the women offered a reasonable price for how much a repair should cost, they were quoted a price lower than the one offered to men who made the same suggestion, the researchers said.

That led the researchers to offer some suggestions to consumers shopping around for car repairs.

"If you are a woman, the smartest thing you can do to get a good deal is to shop around, either online or by phone," the researchers said. Then, let the shop know you are knowledgeable -- "reveal that you know what you’re talking about -- that you know the car, you know the repair, and you know what a sensible price is -- right off the bat," Busse said. "And if you get a price that’s above that, ask for a discount."

Men, the researchers said, should just avoid demonstrating that they are ignorant about how much a repair might cost.

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Jun 28, 2013 7:28PM
And if you see a couple broken down on the side of the road, the man will probably be looking under the hood.

Ladies, take a course on auto mechanics at the local community college and arm yourselves with knowledge.

Jun 28, 2013 5:41PM
Car repairs are way to high for everyone. They beat everyone over the head. The only repair worse than car repair is the medical field, if your have insurance or the where- with- all to pay they whack ya good. Then of course there is the heat and air condition thieves. Hell everybody in America is stealing with both hands. It's a free for all. If you find a business with professionalism, integrity and compassion; hang on to them by being a very good customer. It's a two way street. Appreciate the good guys as they are harder to find day after day.
Jun 28, 2013 5:39PM

Women tend to go to the chain tire stores, where they rip off everyone, men tend to find a private shop where most are honest and fair.


Always look up the parts cost they quote you at Napa or Autozone, if they don't add markup, generally the shop is on the up and up.

Jul 1, 2013 3:30PM
WOW, we needed a study to know what has been common knowledge for 50+ years?
Jun 29, 2013 12:57AM
I have the best mechanics ever. They always try to keep the repairs as reasonable as possible, and then give me an extra 10% discount. (I think they think I'm broke since my cars are a  '97 Taurus and a '91 Caddie. They did the repairs on a couple of old Lincolns I owned before these.) I can trust them totally and I know they treat many of their customers the same way.  I always write a check for the full amount, no credit card fees for them and cash in hand for the day.  I have to say I've always lived in small towns and have managed to find a good, fair repair shop in each town. If I have a bad experience I go somewhere else until I find "my guy". There are a lot of them out there. Keep looking.
Jun 28, 2013 5:39PM
Someone got paid to do this. What a joke
Jul 1, 2013 3:33PM
Why is the lady in the picture in the passenger seat?  She looks like a real ****!
Jun 28, 2013 6:14PM

When you buy a car, new or used, you have to budget for problems.

Cars are not like they were in 1955. Mechanics spend 10's of thousands of dollars for specialized tools. This does not include the man hours for training. I laugh, because working at a dealerships I see customer after customer who went to the corner mechanic. In some cases they spent over $1000 dollars to solve a problem. Then when their mechanic has thrown every part known to man at it, they come to the dealer.

This is where the fun starts. They get mad at us, because they expect us to fix it, but don't have any money left to pay us for the repair. They expect us to cut them a break, because the idiot down the street had no clue what he was doing.

In a lot of cases, we could have repaired it for 10% of what they already spent.

Cars don't care how much money is in your bank account. When they break, expect to pay for the expertise.

It's just like going to the doctor. If they screw up, and cause complications, they will find a way to bill you for it again.


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