Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Frugal Diva Does Car Repair Bargaining

I have been called one of the cheapest people in the world. I can squeeze a penny not only till it screams, but until it melts. My money-saving secrets allows my family to live well in uncertain financial times. It's been a necessity as opposed to just being cheap. I will not apologize for being cheap, but will share some of my frugal tricks with you.

I will start with one of my most amazing tools of all, bargaining. I know some of you think you can't do this, but you can. I thought the same thing too when faced with an overwhelming repair bill for my daughter's car. Keep in mind, if you want to bargain you have to do it with the owner or manager, not the minimum wage employees since they have no power.

I knew two things: my daughter needed her car fixed and I had limited money. The bill a well known chain presented me with was staggering. It totaled almost what I originally paid for the car. Remember mechanics must have your approval BEFORE working on your car. You must agree to the price before signing off on the receipt. Anyone who refuses to state a price or tells you they don't know until they get inside is not on the level. BEWARE.

When presented with the monster bill, I explained that I couldn't afford it. Never be afraid to admit something is too high. We often pay too much because we're embarrassed to admit a price is too much. My significant other goes around paying full price for everything unaware that people can adjust prices if you ask for it.

First after telling the manager the price is too high, ask if there is some way to work it out so you can do business with him. No stomping out of the building with a hair toss, but maintain your manners, your smile and even a sense of humor. Flattery doesn't hurt either. Nothing false, but along the lines of how his company is reputable and that's why you came.

Usually he'll ask what you can afford. Go slightly lower than what you think you can afford because this will not be his firm offer. Ask what the car absolutely has to have done. It is no good to replace tires if the alignment is out of whack. The tires will be ruined in six months. The mechanic may back off on some the piddly things when he sees you're not one of those people who pays without negotiating.

This may take up to ten minutes. He might ask if you can charge it. Bad deal, do not agree to this. Basically if you agree, he has no reason to lower the price. I finally lowered the price approximately $600 by eliminating minor items that did not need to be fixed on her aging car and insisting I could not go over a certain figure. The manager gave me some free labor and found, surprisingly, cheaper parts.

Once I established myself as Cheapee McCheap, he gave me the name of a tire dealership where I could get cheap tires for the car, but that's another column.