YesE.J. of Highland Lakes, NJ:
Although I don't think I have ever been charged more for auto repair than a man would be, I can tell you emphatically that car dealers and repair people have routinely tried to rip me off by assuming my ignorance. My all-time favorite story is about the Plymouth dealership where I bought my 1995 Neon. I took the car back for the 1,000-mile service. When I went to pick it up, I was told I owed some $100.
After I picked myself up off the floor, I asked the service writer to tell me exactly what they had done. He rattled off a memorized litany of ludicrous items, including a claim that they had rotated the tires. I smiled and said, "No you didn't. Are you going to tell me you drained the air and refilled them, too?"
Without missing a beat, he continued. When he got to "added valve oil" I put up both hands and shouted, "STOP!" I leaned over the counter and said in my deepest most menacing voice, "There is no such thing as 'valve oil'-- get me the manager right now. I will pay you $29.00 for an oil change, and not a penny more." The service manager changed the bill with no more discussion. I went back to my office, which happened to be an international engine & drivetrain manufacturer and repeated the story, leaving my male co-workers, engineers & technicians, roaring with laughter. "VALVE OIL???!!!!!"
Joy of Cedar Springs, MI:
Women DEFINITELY pay more. About two years ago I took our minivan in for a new axle. My husband had called and talked to the tech who said they could get one from the junkyard down the road for $75 and the total cost for the part and installation would be $150. When I went there, they told me I would HAVE to get a new one for $200 plus installing it would be another $200. I totally refused the repair.
When my husband called them the next day, they told him the same $150 price. When he said I had been there the day before, they said, "OH, that was YOUR van?" They thought that since I was a women they could pull one over on me. Needless to say, my husband and I bought one ourselves from the junkyard and my husband and brother put it in.
Ken of Hollister, CA:
My wife took our Mazda MPV to a facility for a routine service and they called to inform her that the hydraulic lifters needed to be replaced and would cost around $2000. She called me at work and I called them. The service guy told me the same thing. I said, "They're just making noise and the car will run many, many, more miles, am I correct?" He said yeah, that was true. I told them not to do the repair.
I think women get taken this way all the time just because some guy thinks they're ignorant enough to fall for it. P.S. the repair was eventually done, albeit at another repair center.
Ruth of Sedona, AZ:
Definitely! I always ask, "Is this a man's quote or woman's quote?" when getting prices. I get diry looks and BIG promises that they don't do that. What a joke. I had a male caregiver here at my home for my husband who told me something that floored me.
He said he went to work at one time for two different gas stations who did motor work. He was given a pair of scissors at each place. He asked what they were for. He was told that when a woman comes in, be sure to clip a wire enough to fray it so it will GO QUICKLY, causing her to have to return more often! He refused to work under those conditions and was really upset with both stations.
My motto is find a honest mechanic to go to. I have even though I drive two hours to get to him after I get the quotes where I live. My last venture saved me $250 from the quote at my local garage. Do women pay more? You betcha they do!
Margaret of Stafford, VA, writes:
Yes I believe this is true. I had this happen to me on my 1987 Honda Prelude. At inspection time I went to American Service Center, now AC Delco, on Garrisonville Road in Stafford, Va. Upon inspection the technician rejected my car due to a bad tire. When I asked how much a tire would cost he told me it would be $125.00 just for the tire and then $90.00 for labor. (13" tire)
Well, needless to say I happily drove off with a rejection sticker.
My husband the next day took the same car with no changes to another company who in turn told him that there was nothing wrong with the tire and passed my vehicle. I know quite a bit about cars and know that a tire and labor are not that expensive.
Thank you for allowing me to speak on this matter.
Heather of Abingdon, MD:
I had my mother take my Ford Taurus to a dealer for a 50,000-mile maintenance check-up. If you look at the paperwork you discover that they did an oil change and a transmission service. She was charged for $300 for the labor to perform these tasks. The overall bill was $474. When I looked at the bill I realized that they ripped her off and took advantage of her. She was doing me a favor, but I will never do that again. I am a woman too but my mother is more naive than me in this area.
Anne of Harrisburg, PA:
I have found that places do charge a woman more. For the most part especially in auto repair they do not think that a woman knows much about that, and therefore they can charge you for work that either they didn't do or work that didn't need to be done.
Donna of Fresno, CA:
About 3 years ago, the radiator blew in my 92 Toyota Camry. I was out of town visiting family. I called around Monday morning and found one radiator in town for $125. I finally called a male friend (who happens to also work at an auto parts store) who called the same store and was able to get the raditor for $110.
Of course, my friend asked if he was getting a discount because of his job and was told, "No I just gave HER a higher price." (emphasis added on HER)
Dorothea of Orlando:
My experience has been yes, a woman pays more. Unless women deducate themselves on the purchase they are making they will be ripped off. Tire stores don't carry the "sales" that they have running. Auto dealerships give women the runaround, especially women who are self-employed. I know this for a fact, and after speaking with other women and men who are self-employed, women are the ones who get shafted at dealerships. They try to contract females in on 23% loans, ask for 3 years worth of taxes and really try to bully females into something they can't afford. My male friends, on the other hand, do not experience this.
Again, my advice to women is to educate yourself before walking into a dealership, tire shop or auto shop. Be assertive (or a "bitch" as these men prefer to think of you) and don't back down. You have the right to say "no" and go elsewhere.
Janet of Fanwood, NJ:
WOW. I was not surprised to hear about all those women being cheated by the mechanics. As a 5', 100 lb. Asian woman, you can bet they start rubbing their hands together when they see me coming. I sent you my experience with my 1999 Nissan Sentra GXE in your official complaint form today. Mechanics are constantly trying to kill me with condescending repair atrocities. I am able to fend off the worst of it by acting tough and being up-front about my wariness, not to mention making it clear that I know how to gauge my oil levels, put air in my own tires and open my own hood (which they actually think I wouldn't know how to do!). It also helps if I just open the hood myself and look knowingly inside at it, believe it or not.
Isn't there some way women can get together to discuss their experiences, come up with strategies for repair-defense, and learn a little about cars too? Can you collect the women who have sent you stories, for an online chat room? It would be so helpful to have honest people learning to fend for themselves.
In response to reader requests, we will be adding discussion forums to our site later this year.
NoAutoman, an independent mechanic in North Carolina, writes:
I have been working on cars long enough to know that women NEGLECT their cars more than men. As a matter of habit, men are always under the hood, and as a result spot problems before women. When a woman brings her car in, or towed in, guess what? There is a lot more work to be done, sometimes catastrophic damage because they either drove on the problem too long or ignored the warning signs -- smoke, smell, leaks on the garage floor.
Of course there are some men that treat their cars like they treat their women. Joking aside, women should pop open the hood just to take a look and get an idea what things should look and smell like.
Linda of Sacramento:
I currently own an automotive shop and I can honestly tell you that we do not charge women more for their repairs. I can tell you, however, that we do charge more than most shops around us, and that is because we only use premium parts (AC Delco). AC Delco is really good about their parts warranties. Also, I do not believe on skimping on any parts. The cheaper the parts, the less the warranty, if any. Also, good parts usually last longer.
I always tell people who think we charge too much to go shop around, I'm sure they will find a cheaper shop. You get what you pay for. Most of the time people (women included) come back to us because of our quality and honesty. I would rather not argue about my prices, I kindly suggest people to go shop around. Many times we get back those complainers, and it is usually after they took their car to a cheaper shop, and it turns out that the shop will not either warranty their parts or cannot really fix the customer's car.
I once had a woman complain that we would not pass her car on smog because she was a woman. I patiently explained to the woman that only the State of California can adjust our smog machine, and I didn't think that the smog machine could distinguish the gender of our customers.
Bill of Edmonton, AL, Canada:
I think generally I can say "No!"
I work for a Toyota dealership and have been at two GM dealers previously for a total of eight years plus my wife has been employed in the Service Dept of two other dealers for sixteen years.
Here in Canada, dealers are very conscious of their reputations and that of the manufacturer. Prices are posted, printed in brochures and advertised nationally (ie. Goodwrench service,etc)
My technicians do not necessarily know the sex of the customer (they only see the name on their computer screens) and other servicing and repair recommendations based on the needs of the vehicle only. My job is to serve the customer and by doing so make money for the dealer and thus for myself. I present all recommendations to a customer with total disregard to the sex of the customer. I've also never heard of a single case in the dealership industry of this occurring.
Instances of over-selling and plain old ripoffs are much more prevalent in the small independent shops however.
Example: a customer came to me recently with a 1998 Corolla with 30,000kms on it. In addition to the oil change (at $1.00 less than my price and using a non-Toyota filter), she was advised that the fuel filter needed to be changed and a tune-up was required. I have yet to change a fuel filter on any Toyota in two years (no suggested interval in the manual or schedule) and the first tune-up is not due until 48,000kms! Was this lady being ripped off -- you bet.
Dry Cleaners, Hair Cuts, etc.Brenda of Kennesaw, GA:
I recently took a blouse to the laundry thinking I would get it laundered (not dry cleaned) for the same $1.00 that men's shirts cost. When I picked the blouse up, the charge was $5.00! They said it was because it was linen and because it was too small to fit on the ironing mechanism, it had to be hand ironed. Next time, I washed it myself. It looked great.
Fran of Nashville, TN:
I took two white blouses to the dry cleaner. A few weeks later my husband took these same shirts and the cost was lower, because the clerk listed them as shirts, not blouses. Why?
Robin of Maryland:
Women pay more for drycleaning, hair cuts and personal products. A woman can have short hair just like a man and still be charged a bundle. Not to mention all the statistics that do show women are often underpaid by employers. They even have a harder time getting loans!
T.L. of Greensboro, GA:
Yes, the men-based businesses do overcharge women, unless the woman is like myself and makes it a practice to know a little about these fields. I can wire my own telephone, clear my own drains, I have knowledge of the workings and what the parts are, I can do some home improvement and have knowledge of the appliances.
What I'm trying to say is women need to arm themselves with knowledge. Even if they can't do the job themselves. The less you know, the more you pay!