Can you ask your me­chanic for bet­ter pric­ing?

When deal­ing with re­pairs, you have a few op­tions to keep some money in your pocket

The Province - - DRIVING - BRIAN TURNER

When it comes to get­ting an es­ti­mate for a re­pair or main­te­nance, you usu­ally just shrug your shoul­ders, mut­ter “Whad­dya gonna do?” and give your shop the green-light to pro­ceed.

Of­ten, that’s be­cause of the trust you’ve built with your me­chanic, or your ex­pe­ri­ence with sim­i­lar jobs in the past. But in many cases, most sim­ply go along with it be­cause they don’t want to make waves or cre­ate a rift be­tween them­selves and their me­chanic. And of course, no one wants to look cheap. But there are al­ter­na­tives that are pain­less and con­se­quence-free that can save you money.

If you deal pri­mar­ily with an in­de­pen­dent shop not af­fil­i­ated with a na­tional or re­gional chain, th­ese fa­cil­i­ties are free to pur­chase re­place­ment parts from just about any lo­cal source. They may pri­mar­ily deal with one or two parts sup­pli­ers, but sel­dom — if ever — have agree­ments that re­strict them from buy­ing else­where.

In th­ese sit­u­a­tions, all you have to ask is if there’s a less ex­pen­sive al­ter­na­tive that’ll do the job. Many sup­pli­ers of­fer dif­fer­ent qual­ity lev­els of the same part with vary­ing war­ranties, and they all carry dif­fer­ent prices. It’s sort of like the good, bet­ter and best plans, and you may not need or want the best. You also should ask what the ben­e­fits are when opt­ing for your shop’s first choice over less ex­pen­sive op­tions.

For ex­am­ple, Napa lists al­most 20 dif­fer­ent front brake pad op­tions, rang­ing from $41 to $274, for a 2013 Honda Civic. Of course there are dif­fer­ences in qual­ity, noise level, life­span and per­for­mance, and as with most things in life, the cheap­est isn’t al­ways the worst and the most ex­pen­sive isn’t al­ways the best. Few good shops will rec­om­mend or use prod­ucts they don’t have any ex­pe­ri­ence with, but if you ask for their opin­ion — and they’re in­ter­ested in keep­ing you as a cus­tomer — you’ll get the right an­swer.

Don’t as­sume it’s a dealer-only item, ei­ther. Many spend more than they need to be­cause they think only a deal­er­ship can sup­ply the parts or skills to do the job. On the other side of the coin, they might as­sume the dealer will be more ex­pen­sive than their go-to shop.

If it’s a com­mon fail­ure on a pop­u­lar ve­hi­cle, af­ter­mar­ket sup­pli­ers will usu­ally be quick to de­velop, build and dis­trib­ute so­lu­tions at com­pet­i­tive prices — think things like ex­te­rior mir­rors, door han­dles, win­dow reg­u­la­tors and the like. Again, all it takes is a ques­tion or two to get some an­swers.

If you’re shy about ask­ing too many ques­tions, check out var­i­ous on­line fo­rums and com­mu­ni­ties for your par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle. There’s at least one for just about ev­ery­thing on the road, and sev­eral for pop­u­lar, main­stream rides. While you might not get the ex­act an­swer you’re look­ing for, you’ll at least find some di­rec­tion.

JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN/GETTY IM­AGES

Don’t be afraid to ask your me­chanic for a cheaper op­tion on parts. Af­ter­mar­ket sup­pli­ers usu­ally of­fer so­lu­tions at com­pet­i­tive prices

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