There's a common myth when it comes to cars, mechanics and auto-shops: If you're a woman, it's likely that you're going to get charged more or get ripped off completely.
Turns out that this may not be a myth after all; studies have corroborated that this happens more often than we would like.
In 2012, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management teamed up with AutoMD to conduct an experiment on why different customers receive different quotes. AutoMD's agents called 4,603 auto-repair shops to get a quote for a radiator replacement. The experiment presented three conditions:
- The customers indicate that they have already done research, and know the market rate for the replacement
- The customers indicate that they have no clue about pricing
- The customers indicate that they think the price is higher than market rate
The results of the study found that customers in group 3 did indeed receive higher quotes. Customers in groups 1 and 2, however, received approximately market price. That was, if you were a man.
However, when researchers broke down these results by gender, they found something troubling: women are worse off when they indicate that they have no clue about pricing. In the study, women were quoted an average price of $406, while men were quoted $383.
According to Meghan Busse, one of the study's authors, this difference comes from statistical discrimination: "Shops believe, rightly or wrongly, that women know less about cars and car repair. In the absence of information to the contrary, they will be offered a higher quote."
There was another interesting takeaway from the study: When women asked for a lower price, they got it more often than men did (35 percent of the time, versus 25 percent for men). This difference, according to the authors, is due to the unexpected nature of a woman negotiating.
So, the key to not getting ripped off at auto repair shops? Defy stereotypes, do your research, and stand your ground. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Get information about your issue's market repair rate, present your research to the shop, and then firmly ask for a discount. Chances are, you'll get one.
Interested in learning more tips on how to talk to mechanics to find the best one? Check out our video with Patrice Banks, founder and chief sheCANic of Girls Auto Clinic: