00We all have our classic movie favorites.  Mine extend back to the old westerns like Gunsmoke and The Rifleman.  Good, clean action and plenty of wonderful quotes we most likely wont forget. Unlike a lot of movies today they also gave valuable life lessons. Like you as I grew older I graduated to harder movies and harder lessons, one being:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Let me if i may, set the rough spaghetti western stage. A young Clint Eastwood as Blondie (The Good) is traveling with a wanted desperate outlaw named Tuco (The Ugly). the_good_the_bad_and_the_uglyBlondie and and Tuco had a working plan agreement where Blondie would turn in Tuco to the authorities for the large reward money.  Then later, just before Tuco was to be hung while sitting on horseback, Blondie would rescue him by using a rifle to shoot and cut the hanging rope in the nick of time.  This would cause surprise and chaos, allowing them to ride off into the sunset.  They later would split the money and do it again in another town.  Tuco however, is starting to feel like his cut of the money is just not enough to cover his risk. While complaining Blondie calmly addresses Tuco’s concerns:

Blondie: “You may run the risks, my friend, but I do the cutting. We cut down my percentage – uh, cigar? –  (it’s) liable to interfere with my aim. “

It quickly becomes clear to Tuco, he is going to get what he pays for.  He is paying and trusting that Blondie’s expertise in his job of “rope cutting” is Precise, Accurate and Straight. A “Bargain or Low experienced” job would create catastrophic results and Tuco knows this.  Tuco then decides that for the moment he will not argue.  No,  he’s still not happy with the price, but he knows Blondie knows what he is doing.

So how does this apply to vehicles or it’s repairs?  Well, next time you get on an airplane remember this, it was built by the lowest bidder. Comforting, isn’t it?   We all want the best work for the lowest price. There is nothing wrong with this and its expected.  And of course we all have stories of the time when we tried to save money somehow and got burned because we took the “screaming deal”.   We also brag on the best deal we ever got that worked out great!

So where is that happy median?

Lets set up the car repair illustration this way.  Customer “Tuco” (The Ugly) vehicle needs repair and he goes to “Blondies” (The Good) Repair shop”.   Blondie completes a diagnostic on the vehicle and tells Tuco that in order to repair the problem the vehicle will need this list of parts that cost $550 and the labor is another $500.  This work comes with a good warranty. The total is $1050. The estimate seems right on.

PARTS AND LABOR:  If the shop has honesty and integrity you can bet that all the parts they listed is really WHAT YOU NEED to repair it properly.  And yes in order for the owners to make money to keep the doors open, pay the bills, pay employees and feed his family they have marked the parts price up from his wholesale price he buys them for to the retail price they sell for in stores.  Next, since Blondie cannot  arbitrarily just make up (or guess) the amount of time it will require to fix it (called labor), it has to be estimated. So without doing the work how do they really know how long it will take? Great question.

estiMost shops go by Mitchells, or some other official labor guide to tell them approximately the amount of time it will SHOULD take them to complete a specific repair. This protects the customer from overcharged labor and protects the shop from underestimating. Since each car is different when it comes to labor times this is what helps shops calculate your specific cars “Quote or Estimate”.

After reading the estimate Tuco says,  “Hey wait, I can buy cheaper parts than that.. why don’t I buy them for you instead!”  Sometimes that’s true sometimes not.  Some will ask to buy their own parts and have the shop install them so they only have to pay for the labor. In Tuco’s mind, he believes he is saving money but not really.  In fact, Tuco may be losing money and creating a higher risk of repair failure.

An experienced shop owner knows what parts he can trust and cannot.  The average consumer may not know and purchase inferior, cheap/inadequate or even wrong parts. The reputation of the shop depends on it. Occasionally shops will say yes to this, sometimes not – depending on the type of repair. Another reason is that this creates a warranty issue as shops cannot warranty a part they did not buy. It also creates a risk for the customer as you will need to pay the labor AGAIN if the part fails, whereas under a “parts and labor warranty” it would all all be covered.  That should be what you want, someone to stand behind the part 100% and the workmanship 100%.

A owner I deeply respect once explained it to me this way.  “Whats your favorite Steak House?”  I replied the “Outback”.  “Okay, then,” he said “Do you take your own steak to the Outback and tell them to cook it? Of course you don’t.  Why not?”  Because that defeats the whole purpose of having an expert in the steak business (known  worldwide) to serve you.  It also allows them to retain control over the high quality of their product and service.  This makes sense since when you go there you EXPECT a great steak and a nice dining experience, every time.

Ok, So lets go back now and see how Tuco’s deal could go.  Tuco decides to call other shops using the repair estimate from Blondies Repair shop.  They call “Angel Eyes” (The Bad) Repair Shop.  Tuco tells them that they are looking for the same repair but they need it for $150-$200 less because “That’s All I have!”.   Angel Eyes Repair Shop, who wants the job, Says “Of course I can” do the repair for $850 !” sometimes without even looking at the estimate.  So the customer goes with the lower estimate.

  • Question #1  How did “Angel Eyes” (The Bad) Repair Shop do the repair for less? What are they NOT Doing that allows the price?
  • Question #2 Did they actually replace all the parts needed?
  • Question #3 Did they spend the proper time to remove and replace the part and do it correctly? Or did they just “rip and replace”?
  • Question #4 Did they use cheap or inferior parts that will get you down the road for a while then break again leaving you either in the same place or worse?  Did you even see the parts they replaced?

Next time you price shop note that there are still plenty of honest shops that still do have integrity and that give complete and honest estimates.   Also, there is always a competitor that is hungry to low ball you and lure you in, at your risk and your cost.

Remember, it’s not Good, Bad or Ugly for a shop to be the highest priced shop in town, nor is it to be the lowest. 

  • Take a walk around the shop, talk to the owner. 
  • Is the shop clean?
  • Is it organized?
  • Does it look like the owner is invested in his business and employees?
  • Do they talk to you like an owner, instead of a customer? 
  • Does the shop look like that they will be around in 2 years to honor your warranty? 

If they do its because they found a happy median between price and quality workmanship.  That should be your shop.  🙂

Need to know More on this subject? Read: Whats It Cost?

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