Take the Stress Out of Your Next Auto Repair Shop Visit
Whether the reason is for regular maintenance or an unexpected repair, a visit to the auto repair shop typically isn’t on the list of fun places to go to. Spending $500 on a vacation or on a new television is much more exciting than spending the same amount on a new water pump and timing belt. In fact, a vehicle repair can be stressful if you have time or financial constraints that make it challenging to keep your car running properly.
I have run the front counter at a busy automobile repair shop for almost ten years. I have seen the stress and frustration that a car repair often creates. This article isn’t going to focus on how to choose a repair shop. If you need advice on finding a good shop, please read this article. Rather, I am going to give my insight on how to make your next visit a little less painful. Some of my suggestions may seem very obvious, but I would not be mentioning them if the situations that I describe didn’t happen frequently.
Don’t give yourself a tight deadline to meet: The Friday before a holiday weekend is typically a very busy day for us because this is when many people bring in their vehicle for an oil change, safety check or a repair that they have been putting off. They are hoping that they can get in and out quickly so that they can finish getting ready for their road trip the next morning. Imagine their frustration when we tell them that it will be a two hour wait to get them in or that we won’t have enough time to finish their requested job by closing time. My advice is to get your vehicle in at least a few days before you are scheduled to leave on vacation.
The same advice of getting your vehicle in early holds true if your vehicle failed a state emissions test and it needs to be diagnosed and repaired before you can renew your license plate tabs. I remember the time that a woman called us about 1:00 pm and practically yelled, “My car failed emissions and my license plate tabs expire today. I need to get my car in now!” She was in a panic because for a reason that I didn’t quite understand, she was going to be fined $500.00 if she didn’t get her license plate tabs renewed by 5:00 pm that day.
Though we were busy when she called, we managed to fit her in. Looking over her emission test record, she failed her test five months earlier. She would have saved herself a lot of stress if she brought her car in earlier for us to do her emission repairs. My advice is, if you need your car fixed by a certain date, bring it in early with a few days to spare.
Reduce your wait time and use the time to relax: I understand that people lead busy lives and sitting for more than an hour at a repair shop waiting room may seem like wasted time. Some people tell me that they don’t want to wait because they have nothing to do. My first suggestion is to call the shop before you bring your vehicle in and find out when their typical busy and slow times are. At my shop, the best chance to get in and out quickly is to be the first one here when we open. That way you don’t have to wait for the car ahead of you to be serviced first. The worst time to arrive is at noon as this when several people arrive to try to squeeze in a quick oil change during their lunch hour.
If you know in advance that the shop will need your vehicle for a few hours, ask if they offer a courtesy shuttle or ask a friend to pick you up. If you have to wait at the shop, bring a good book, a puzzle, your tablet or a wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes to explore the neighborhood.
I often have my regular customers tell me that they like coming to our shop because it’s the only time that they can sit and relax with a cup of coffee and catch up on the celebrity gossip magazines. Others use the time to shop at all the nearby thrift stores and to eat lunch out. Make the most of your time while you wait. It will make your experience a little more enjoyable and you may finally finish that great book that you started.
Have a plan to pay for future repairs: I know that many household budgets are stretched thin and finding the funds to pay for a car repair can seem impossible. I often see the look of despair on our customer’s faces when we tell them how much it will cost to fix their vehicle. Some absolutely do not have the money and cannot afford to get it fixed. I am not insensitive to the fact that people are struggling financially because I was there too but I believe that being financially prepared before your vehicle breaks down will go a long way in making the situation easier to deal with.
Ask yourself, if your vehicle’s starter went out or the timing belt broke, how would you pay for it? Do you have an emergency savings account or credit card? I remember listening to a customer calling around to find someone to loan her $400.00 so that she could get her van fixed. I overheard her saying that she could afford $50.00 per month payments, but she didn’t have $400.00. If you are lucky enough to have an extra $50.00 a month, my advice is to put it away in an emergency saving account so that you don’t have to scramble and find funding the day you need it.
Another option is to find out if your auto repair center offers financing. In my store, it’s a private label credit card that the customer applies for and will get approved if they meet the income and credit history requirements. It’s a great program because if approved, the customer has the peace of mind knowing that they have the finances available to get their car fixed when needed. As the credit card can’t be used elsewhere for other purchases, the line of credit will be available for the vehicle repair. However, as with all forms of credit, it is wise to make sure you make your monthly payments on time and to pay it off as quickly as possible before you pay a lot in interest.
Granted, I make my living on vehicles that need to be serviced or repaired. However, I want to make your visit as pleasant as possible and if I help prevent some of the frustrations associated with a trip to the auto repair shop then it makes my job easier too. Believe me I enjoy sitting back and chatting with my customers and it’s much nicer when they are happy and not stressed.
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