Saturday, September 4, 2010

OT: Getting Shafted in Car Service

When it comes to car services, I am always a little apprehensive.  There is this nagging feeling inside me that tells me the dealer is screwing me with the price/services.  In fact, at times, i feel like a piece of meat on the chopping block.  But, what can I do?  If I need to service the car, I have to do it.  I don't know any mechanics personally, so the service is always done at the dealership.

It was a real eye opener yesterday.

A bit of history before we begin: I have been servicing my Toyota at the same dealer ship since the mid 90s after I got my first car, the Cressida (a great car, by the way.  It was the grand daddy of the Lexus).  I bought my first new van from them too, in 2001 due to the growing family.  So, you would think that for such a loyal customer, I would get some respect/better deals in service, no?  Let me give one example before we get back into story.

In early spring, the rear door handle stopped working.  I could hear the cable snapped inside.  Unlike a car, where there is a cable to release the trunk, the rear door handle is the only way to open it.  It was a real inconvenience, so I took it to my dealer and get it fixed.  They first quoted me $150 to fix, but needed to be confirmed by the technician.  Couple hours later, I got a call and it would cost $350.  Now, that's ridiculous.  I told them not to fix it.  Few months later, I couldn't stand not being able to use the trunk, so I went back to them,  and what do you know, they gave me a different quote, and was eventually fixed for $215.  Same problem same service rep, with a big price difference.  My suspicion that the dealer is screwing me deepens.  I swore not to go back there.

OK, back to yesterday's experience.

On Thursday, I drove to work instead of biking, because my wife was a bit late.  When I came back to the car in the parking garage, there was a blanket of shattered glass on the floor -- Some crack-head broke my driver's side window to steal the GPS inside.

Shattered -- for a cheap GPS. The car was parked inside a supervised Green P garage.

Anyways, I need to get the window glass replaced ASAP so the next morning (yesterday), against my promise, I drove back to my dealership (on Queen & DVP).  They quoted a Toyota glass would cost $400, plus 1.5 hours of labour ($160); an after market glass is $250, plus labour.  So I went for the after market option.

After I went back to work, I called Speedy Glass, and was given a quote of $258 to place the window with genuine Toyota glass, and that's including labour!  Upon hearing that my insurance does not cover the replacement, he gave me an even better deal of under $190, including labour.  Needless to say, I was shocked by the price difference!

What follows was a few calls back and forth with the Toyota dealer.  Their excuse? The parts manager said that's what the supplier quoted him, but said he would call other suppliers.  The final price was $277, including labour, for an after market glass.  I went for it, since the weather has been rainy for the last few days and I was already caught in the rain on Thursday with no glass window.

What have I learned?

The dealership will screw you and scam you any chance they get, regardless of how loyal you are.  Since my van is out of warranty, I will not be using their service again, unless I can't get my van fixed by independent technicians.  This will be tough for me, because they are just so %@#$ conveniently located.  I will have to go out of my way to get services for my van from now on.  Also, call around and ask what others charge before taking your car in.


  1. Ouch, sorry to hear about the van.

    Good tips on car dealerships, yea they constantly try to upsell you on service and parts. Sad that the window replacement probably cost more than the GPS itself.

  2. For those who break car windows for coins, they really need to be shot on the street!

  3. indeed ouch .. I always take my GPS and sunglasses off the dash and put them in the glove box. Dad had his work truck windsceen smashed for a pair of sunnies which (being prescription glasses) were tossed on the ground 50meters from the car.

    As to the automotive service industry, its interesting. I personally believe we'd be all better off with less sophisticated and simpler machines. For instance we have a 1980 Volvo Station wagon (265) which on the highway gives 6l / 100Km ... today you need to spend dozens of thousands to get a turbo diesel which will not last as long or be as tolerant of service issues as the reliable old Volvo has been. People talk about C02 emissions but if you're burning the same amount of fuel then you're emitting the same amount of carbon ... no two ways about it.

    So the service industry is much like the way we use the word "service" in the agricultural industry. You have a cow, you want it pregnant so you pay for another farmer with a bull to service your cow.

  4. @yungphotography & Anonymous: Thanks for the support. The GPS wasn't worth much. These people who do this kind of stuff don't really care how much it's worth. They would do it for $10, I am sure.

    @obakesan: Yes it was a mistake to leave the GPS in plain sight. I used to put it in glove compartment when GPS was still pretty expensive, but eventually got lazy. Now I know better. I agree with you on simple technologies, especially when it comes to automobiles. There was a time when anyone can have a shot at fixing simple stuff but now even the simplest fix require a computer connected to the car and everything is now electronic instead of mechanical. Sample the camera has gone, I guess. It's sad that it's an irreversible trend, simply because electronics is a cheaper alternative.

    As for the services, I guess the dealer has to pay for all the fancy HD TV, free coffee, etc in the waiting area, but his is no excuse for such price differences. Thanks for your input.

  5. Sorry, it should have read "Same as the camera has gone" instead of "Sample the camera has gone".

  6. Hi again ... don't forget that the dealer has to pay through the nose for the software they put onto those diagnostic computers. I happen to know (in Australia at least) its horrific.

  7. Hi
    I suggest you call Shahin Alizide, dealer principal at Downtown Toyota and share your experience. Mention that Toyota Canada staff happened to be reading your blog.
    While you are there, go visit the Sales Manager, Jenan Culic. He's a photography buff too.

  8. I hear about this kind of issue several times from my friends. I started saving up some money for a new vehicle, actually and one of them suggested that I should choose a deal that is really worth it. He mentioned to me that he saw these used cars in Anaheim when he visited his dad last season. I might be considering used car dealerships in Orange County 'coz of its good offers and services. As I have researched a few days ago about Toyota brands, it's worth it. But I think with every buy, we must also think about the added services the dealers would promise us. Anyway, I do hope you got your rear door handle fixed by now.

  9. They overcharge for the initial tank of petrol and refuse a refund on remaining petrol when the car is returned.