Every once in a while, not too often, I’ll get a phone call from some random person asking me how much it would cost to install a part. Say a starter, or struts, or maybe heater core. I know the phone call is not going to go well when they follow up with “Labor only, I have the part.” There are two things I’d like to do at this point. First, avoid this job like the plague. Second, take the time to educate this person. They don’t want to hear the expert, with over 30 years of experience, take the time to help them out; they want to hear a dollar amount so they can hang up and call the next shop. This person will call 10 shops and then choose the cheapest (most likely they will want it done yesterday as well). This person will usually have the least reliable car on the road and one that you would never want to buy as a used car.
If this caller ever let me help them, here is what I’d tell them. My first question is; why do they think their car needs that particular part? I suspect Google diagnosed their car for them. The reason I would start with this question is because I don’t want to see them spending their hard earned money on a part their car may or may not need. Auto repair is expensive, don’t make it more expensive by buying wrong parts. I sometimes think people get caught up on word association, like, if the car doesn’t start, must be a starter, or ‘I don’t smell fuel, must be a fuel pump’.
Let’s give them the benefit of doubt and say that they got it right. Next, is the part itself. Again, this is an area I’m an expert in with over 30 years’ experience. Not all parts are created equal. There are at least a few different grades of the same part, for every part. The lowest quality is referred to as the value line. This is the cheapest in cost, the lowest in quality, and has the highest failure rate. In case you skipped over that last part let me raise my voice and repeat IT HAS THE HIGHEST FAILURE RATE. The person shopping around for a low cost of installing, always buys the value line part. Can you understand how installing this part is a bad idea? This park won’t last, it will fail, and it’s only a question of when and where. Which leads me to my next point.
Value line parts won’t last, they will eventual fail. Like I said, it’s a question of when and where. If I were to install this part and it failed, I would have to charge the customer the labor over again to replace that part. The customer on the phone will always agree to that, right up until it happens. “You’re going to charge me again?” “But I already paid you for labor” YES, I’m going to charge you again. YES, you already paid me labor and I already did the job. If you want me to install YOUR part I’m going to charge every time I install it. Your warranty for parts you purchase is through whoever you purchased them from.
Trying to save money by buying a part you think your car needs often ends up costing more than if you just brought the car to my shop in the first place and had the job done right. When we work on a car, we stand behind it, we can even offer a nationwide warranty.