Pay me now, or pay me later? Is it better to fix it all at once, or break up repairs

How honest mechanics get paid

As a mechanic, teamed up with a service advisor, it is part of my job to help customers make some tough choices. Something that come up a lot is deciding to fix all of a cars issues, or break the repairs up over time.

From a very selfish place, I would say always fix it all at once. I mean, that is how I get paid! 🙂 Truth be told, there are some advantages to getting everything repaired in one shot.

If you get multiple repairs at the same time, there will most likely be some overlap in jobs. For example, if I am replacing a timing belt, it will most likely be cheaper to replace the thermostat as part of that job, rather than a second repair.

There can be a savings in materials. Take that same timing belt job, if I replace the water pump AND the thermostat at the same time, it will save on buying coolant twice.

The shop might help you out. My dealer works really hard for all our customers, but someone doing a lot of repairs might just get a better deal. From parts prices, to labor costs, the big jobs allow for some flexibility.

Those are the big 3 reasons for getting all the repairs knocked out all in one shot. The negative is, of course, COST! Cost is usually the deal breaker on repairing you car that way. Sometimes you just can’t break the bank to pay for repairs!

There are some benefits to spreading out repairs too. This would be if you have 10 thing wrong, and fixed 1 every month.

Fixing your car this way will allow you to budget for future repairs. You can save up and get the big things fixed first.

The shop still might help you out. If the car is in a few times for repairs, the shop might still try and save you some money.

The big negative to doing repairs little by little is, things might pop up between repairs. This is actually really common. Nothing worse than planning out repairs, and something else go wrong. To be fail, that could really happen either way you go.

The best advise I could give is, make sure you have a great mechanic, and great service advisor(do not underestimate a great service advisor). They should be able to help you gauge the best approach to fixing you car!!

What do you guys think, am I out of line? How would you do it if you were faced with a large repair bill?

5 replies
  1. Wes
    Wes says:

    I would agree with your sentiment. As a customer, I would want to hear it exactly the way you just said it. Basically, say—“look the thermometer does not look that great—so while I am in there I can replace it and it would be more economically efficient. However, it really could last a few more months.”

    That sort of logic may have led me to spring for all four break-pads/rotors—but instead the guy just said “you have to do all four” as if it was some sort of dogma without reason or sense. I respected the guy a lot who just said I needed the two, but he would do all four if I had the cash. More information is always better in my view.


    • Humble Mechanic
      Humble Mechanic says:

      Great point Wes! It’s funny how far just a little bit of information goes.

      If you really needed all that work, how awesome would it have been if they took you to shop and showed you what your car needed.

      It builts so much value!!

  2. Jeremy Bechtold
    Jeremy Bechtold says:

    how does this fit in with the “paid by the job” scenario described in a previous post? I assume it would require you to be proactive with your service manager to consider reducing the costs where work overlaps as the “book” defines the price for each service in that list as a line item, correct? it’s always made sense to do things this way, and I do it the same way when offering web or design services to my clients when the admin side of things bloats a project that could be done all in one day or over 8 1-hour mini projects. if you list the tasks on the work order, does the service manager automatically know to reduce the costs when there is time for duplicated work, or does he only do it if you or the customer (following your advice) brings it up? I left the service of my purchase-dealer because of a terrible service manager. I love the tech, he’d take me into the garage or lot, show me what was wrong, explain things thoroughly, and be very candid about the state of some vw parts at the time (such as the MKIV MAF being on revision “R” in late 2001 after the model was only introduced in ‘99.5) which greatly earned my trust in him and his ability to work “for me and my car” not just “for the dealer, on my car” … I probably should have been able to get my car classified as a lemon, but his service manager didn’t even stand behind what he said. and the worst part was that it wouldn’t cost them any time or money that wouldn’t be paid. it would have all been covered by vw customer care, but he wouldn’t agree with what the tech said who actually diagnosed the issues. among other things, my 3rd MAF in 2002 on a 2000 model should have been the final straw. instead, he screwed me and I never went back. I found a new dealer to handle the tough stuff, and the tech whom brought me there is a great help outside the shop as well. it just leads me to wonder whether most service managers will consider the situation you describe above when quoting the costs to the customer or if he’ll assume they’ll take your word that it’s actually cheaper while he still gives you the full cost of each line item. your experience will obvisouly not be that of 100% of the dealers and their techs and managers, but it’s something to consider. great post all the same.

    • Humble Mechanic
      Humble Mechanic says:

      GREAT POINTS! The dynamic of the Customer and Service Advisor(or manager) is VERY important. A good or bad Advisor is can be as important as a good/bad mechanic. I have worked with some really awesome Advisors over the years. The can make or break a dealership. The best mechanics in the world do not make up for a bad Advisor.

      I usually make sure if there is any overlap to bring it up. If so some reason, I would not realize the overlap or forget to say anything, a good Advisor will catch it. We would then get together and figure out how to make it right. It has even happened while I was doing the work,. At that time, we would just reduce the customers bill, and “surprise” them with a cheaper repair bill. I can’t speak of what most Advisors do, all I can say is good ones take care of it, bad ones don’t care enough to worry about it..

      HA, I can’t tell you how many bad MAFs I have replaced.

  3. Jeremy Bechtold
    Jeremy Bechtold says:

    just an extra comment to check out the notifications and get one if anyone else comments later on…

    MAFs, thermostat housings, and O2 sensors… not sure what are the worst…


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