Be My Value, Let Me Count the Ways – HT Auto Care

ht auto sterlingWhat is a fair price? The true answer is, “Whatever you feel a fair price is!” Regardless of amount if you feel you are getting value from the service, then it is a fair price for you. If you don’t know where to begin with a fair price the next logical step is to investigate what others are paying for a similar service or item.

Most savvy consumers will pick up the phone and start calling around for estimates. The only problem with that is that it is like price shopping restaurants. You may end up trying to compare a 5 star restaurant to a fast food place. Even worse you may get 5 star prices on what really is fast food.

I have a favorite burger spot; I’ve been eating there since there were only three locations before they turned into a nationwide chain. I love ‘em, it’s a great burger spot, they use fresh ingredients and it tastes awesome! I have never seen anyone in line start screaming they were getting ripped off because they could get a burger off the dollar menu down the street.

We all know there is a difference in the two burgers but we are willing to pay more because we know how the better one tastes and we also know that the dollar menu is priced to still make a profit for the quality food served.

Unfortunately this is a more accurate comparison to automotive repair than we would like to think. For a typical vehicle there are almost as many choices for brake pads and oil filters as there are hamburgers places. Oil filters and brakes do have their dollar value equivalent. Since your vehicle can’t tell you what it tastes like, how are you, the consumer, to know? It makes an apples to apples comparison very difficult.

What Should You Do?

Get estimates! If you want to know what the going price is to repair brakes on your car, you should investigate by calling around and asking the auto service center:

• What is your labor rate?
• Do you offer both Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and aftermarket parts?
• Can you give me a ball park over the phone to make this repair?

Keep in mind that a vehicle in fair or poor condition could cost more to perform a repair due to excessive wear or neglect from surrounding parts. Also keep in mind that the person you are speaking to on the phone has not seen your vehicle. If you call in asking to get a price on brake pad replacement and it turns out the repair really should be to have the rotors replaced, the estimate has now changed. The best way to offer a good estimate is to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle.

Expensive labor rate does not correlate with expertise. The same goes for very low labor rates and the level of service you will receive. Cheap parts can also mean shorter life span of their performance. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself: Are you on a budget? Do you plan to keep the vehicle for a long time? Are you selling soon? Tell your auto service manager what your plans are for the vehicle are and build your budget together based on that information you have given!

In an industry filled with many slips and slides always buyer beware . There are many good shops out there that are honest and provide great value, however there are just as many that are not. No shop should be exempt from scrutiny, independent, national chain or dealership. Nothing is the same between any two shops regardless of their affiliation.


• Compare prices.
• Ask questions about the quality of parts used.
• Ask yourself… with all of this information at hand…

The answer is up to you and we are the experts here to help, with a smile and fair price – always. Safe driving!

Matt O’Donnell
Co-owner of both HT Auto Care and the Grease Monkey in Sterling, VA

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