Most consumers (83 percent) continue to 'feel' overcharged in the auto repair process and rank the experience of going to the repair shop/dealership to get their car repaired on a par with going to the dentist (with women preferring the dentist), according to a new consumer survey from AutoMD.com.
While women have a more negative view of the repair shop/service center experience than men do, across the board consumers say a more transparent process would improve the experience. Consumers say that not knowing what a repair should cost is the biggest challenge in the process and that they want real apples-to-apples repair job quotes. But, the survey shows, these consumers are empowering themselves digitally, by going online to research pricing and to look at consumer reviews before going to a repair shop.
"We know that there are excellent repair shops and service centers in every city in the US, but, as this study shows, a persistent perception problem plagues the industry: consumers simply don't trust that they are paying an appropriate price for a repair and their view of the whole experience is, generally, not a positive one," said Brian Hafer, VP of Marketing for AutoMD.com. "But there is good news. Consumers are going online to check price quotes and repair shop reviews and are craving apples-to-apples actual job quotes. So, for shops that are pricing fairly, offering real quotes and keeping up a good digital presence, there is a real chance to improve perception – and, with it, their business."
The survey, which was conducted online among over 2,400 car owners from March 27 – April 30, 2014, offers a snapshot of how car owners view the current repair shop experience. The survey included self-identified Do-It-For-Me - DIFMers (46 percent) and Do-It-Yourself - DIYers (54 percent) who shared consistent and similar views of the overall repair shop experience.
Vast Majority 'Feel' Overcharged/ Overall Perception Not Positive
Of those surveyed, 83 percent say they have "felt" overcharged for vehicle service at the repair shop or dealership, a number that has remained stubbornly high over the past four years: in 2010, it was 88 percent and in 2012 85 percent. Women dislike going to the repair shop more than going to the dentist, when asked to rank against other experiences. Men ranked it just below going to the dentist.
Not surprisingly, over 44 percent of women have a negative view of the auto service center/repair shop experience with only 12 percent viewing it positively. Overall, only 16 percent of all survey respondents had a positive view– but the silver lining for repair shops/service centers is that 40 percent overall had a neutral view, meaning perception change is possible.
Transparency Offers Biggest Opportunity
Respondents ranked "not knowing what a job will cost" as the number one challenge in the repair process.
Eighty-four percent said that a more transparent experience, i.e. 'knowing exactly what I will be paying up front for the job I need done, before I go to the repair shop," would improve the process, vastly trumping better customer service and speedier repairs.
What would most positively change the way you feel about your current repair shop/service center experience?
86 percent - A more transparent experience, i.e. knowing exactly what I will be paying up front for the job I need done before I go to the repair shop.
8 percent - Speedier repairs
6 percent - More pleasant customer service
What Do Consumers Want? Comparative Job Quotes, Actual Parts Prices and a Good Mechanic
Eighty-four percent overall reported that getting the same kind of apples-to-apples repair price quotes usually available for most goods online is either 'important' or a 'must have' in the auto repair process. And an even greater percentage, 91 percent, said that knowing the specific part to be used in the repair - and its price - was either 'important' or a 'must have.'
Is knowing that you have a good mechanic/service technician important when choosing a repair shop?
76 percent - Must Have
22 percent - Important
1 percent - Somewhat Important
0.2 percent - Not Important
0.5 percent - Don't Care
Ninety-eight percent ranked having a good mechanic as a 'must have' or 'important,' followed by fair pricing (97 percent) and a convenient location (52 percent). Shuttle service ranked low in importance: 56 percent either don't care or say it is not important.
Consumers are Looking at Online Shop Reviews and Pricing
Almost two-thirds (65 percent) report that they have looked at reviews before going to a repair shop/service center, with women considerably more likely to do so than men (73 percent versus 64 percent).
Have you ever looked at online consumer reviews before going to a mechanic/service center?
42 percent - Yes, sometimes
23 percent - Yes, always
31 percent - No
4 percent - No, but I have afterwards.
And over three-quarters have gone online to research what the price of a repair job should be, with men only slightly more likely to do so than women. Overwhelmingly, consumers say that websites offering actual quotes for an actual job from an actual repair shop are of far higher value than websites offering just a general repair price range.
Consumers Not Following Service Schedules
Even though over half of those surveyed have over 100K miles on their primary vehicle, only 55 percent of those who normally go to a repair shop to get their vehicle serviced follow a maintenance schedule, with 45 percent only taking their vehicle in when something is really wrong.
 AutoMD.com consumer repair surveys (2010/2012)