If you thought that car salesmen were the only people you had to watch out for at your local car dealership, you are very wrong. The Service Department is filled with people ready and willing to scam you out of your money!
The main culprit is the one person that you expect to be 100% truthful with you – the Service Advisor. His main job is to tell customers about their car's required maintenance and repair work. But what most customers don't know is that the advisor is meant to milk as much money possible out of the customer as they can.
How is this possible? How could the Service Advisor, someone that you're supposed to be able to trust with your best interest, be allowed to get away with this sort of behavior?
It's all in the name of profits. Besides the sales department, the Service Department is the only other money maker in a dealership and owners want to get as much money as they can from it. So, they push advisors to recommend services that you don't need and pad the bills as much as possible.
Most Service Advisors are willing to go along with it. They are paid on commission so the bigger the bill, the better their paycheck will be.
So, how do you make sure that you are not taken victim by some sweet-talking Service Advisor? Here are a few tips…
Know What Maintenance Is Required For Your Car
The owner's manual has the correct maintenance schedule that your car requires to keep in tip-top shape. Read the manual – know the manual. This way, you know what's going on when you head to the Service Department for your car's oil change.
When you arrive at the dealership, don't be surprised when their "recommended service" doesn't match up with what the book says. Most dealerships make up these "schedules", suggesting that you do the major and expensive maintenance procedures more frequently. This way, they can make more money off of you.
Be Ready For Pressure
Most Service Advisors will put up a fuss when you decline this extra maintenance. Some may even lie, saying that if you don’t get the maintenance done, you will void your warranty. Don't fight back – just retrieve your owner's manual from the car and show him what the carmaker's maintenance schedule really is.
Also, watch out for some key pressure phrases like, "While you're here, let's get this stuff done…" or anything that has to do with safety, like "There is less than 50% of your brake pad left." These are signs that the vultures are circling for the kill.
Take Your Time
Service Advisors prey on the fact that you are usually in a rush to drop off your car and get back to whatever you were doing (work, home, kids, weekend, etc) as fast as possible. The more rushed you are, the more apt you are to agree to anything.
The best thing to do is to not rush through the check-in process. Set aside enough time in your schedule to drop off the car and talk to the advisor without being rushed. This way, you have the time to pay attention to what they're saying and to read all of the paperwork presented to you.
Watch Out For Upselling
Upselling is when Service Advisors try to talk you into getting services or products that you don't really need. Between the pinch of the recession and better-built cars, many dealerships have demanded that their Service Advisors "upsell" as much as possible.
Upselling can come in the form a "free 30-point inspection". That's where the mechanic pokes around your car even before he starts on the repair or maintenance you came in for, looking for anything remotely wrong. Then the Service Advisor will call you with a long laundry list of tasks, hoping that if you're overwhelmed, you'll just agree and hang up, racking up a huge repair bill.
When you are presented with this list, be ready to write these down so you have a list to refer to later. Then take the time to contemplate each repair or maintenance procedure. When was the last time you had that done? Is it really necessary? Will it really be dangerous for you to ride around with it like it is?
Unless it's something critical, it's probably best to tell the Service Advisor to only do the work you brought it in for and that you'd do the rest later, when you can afford it. This way, you're not only giving yourself extra time to make a decision but you have a chance to take it to another mechanic for a second opinion.
Many dealerships package up routine maintenance procedures into services packages which they tout as a way for the customer to save time and money.
First of all, some of these deals may not actually save you money. It would be easy to compare prices if the dealership posted their prices up on the wall like McDonalds, but they don’t…so customers must guestimate the real value of that deal.
Also, you may not need that transmission flush that your dealer packaged up with the tire rotation and oil change. Changing liquids in your car too often could actually hurt your car and waste your money.
It's best to stick to the manufacturer's recommendations in the owner's manual and leave those packages alone unless you actually need every procedure listed.