Rip Off Mechanics let loose on the poor old TFS Mobile!

The faithful fuel efficient old TFS mobile had to be checked into A&E a few days ago due to white smoke coming out of the exhaust on start up. A quick google search came up with a potential list of problems that all looked way above my extremely basic knowledge level of car mechanics, and given that all of my time is currently being taken up with getting the new house into ship shape, which I’d class as a productive activity, I decided it was fair enough to outsource this time round. (If I were out playing golf while paying a mechanic to do the work, then there may have been a problem!).

Mistake One – taking it to a random Garage

To save a bit of time and for convenience we just rushed it into a garage near Mrs TFS’s work. I checked out their website and it seemed like a family run and reputable business so all well and good. They had a look at it and rang the Mrs back and said it was the starter motor that needed replacing. I haven’t got a recording of the conversation but I think it went something along the lines of this:

MTFS: “Oh ok then, how much will that cost to replace?”

Moron Mechanic (MM): “Ah well let’s see…. the starter motor should be less than £200”

MTFS: “Ok I will check with my husband and ring back to give the go ahead”

MM: “Sure, no problem”

Mistake Two – Not ringing to check the quote

MTFS then emails me with the “quote”, and again I check online for how much a starter motor costs: about £50 from either eBay and various other online auto parts stores. So I figure it’s about £100-£150 for labour, not amazing rates but still not over the top, so I just tell her to tell him to go ahead with it.

I guess I should have rung back to check the quote myself, but I took it in good faith that it was at least a good ball park of the final cost. I am used to garages coming back with slightly higher final charges than they quote, but this time round I was absolutely floored by the final cost:


And I even had to work that out myself. Yep, when he rang back he still didn’t give a direct statement of the cost even after the work had been done! All Mrs TFS got was:

“Ah well lets see… the starter motor was £148, then £120 for labour” (you will have noticed that’s still only £268. He still didn’t even quote the final price including VAT until I rang up to question the price (see below)… ridiculous or what!?)

So basically he had “forgotten” to quote for labour costs (and VAT) in the original quote.

Am I being unreasonable in expecting if I ask a mechanic (or any business for that matter) a price to do something, e.g. replace a starter motor, I want the full price including parts, labour and VAT? I’d even forgive the VAT as garages often say “it’s XXX plus VAT” (which he clearly didn’t anyway) but to not quote labour is just totally fucking moronic at best, and deliberately misleading/crooked at worst.

Naturally I was pretty hacked off to hear the price was £268 so rang up to perhaps negotiate £20-30 off if I could. I genuinely didn’t think they’d budge more than that but just wanted to state that I felt the quote was so far out of line that they could give us some sort of discount, and state my case that I thought we’d been misled.

It went down. Big time

TFS: “Hi, Mr TFS here, I’d just like to question the final price for our TFS Mobile”

MM: “Ah yes it was £148 for the motor, £120 for labour, and I forgot to say to your wife I didn’t add on VAT either”

TFS does rough mental calculations and comes to over £300

TFS: “You’ve got to be kidding me, you quoted us under £200 and the final price is actually over £300?!”

MM: “Errm actually no, I told your wife that it would be about £200 FOR THE STARTER MOTOR

TFS: “Well I think you have clearly deliberately misled her in that case. No one wants to hear a quote for just the parts. Did you think she was going to install the thing herself?”

MM: “I didn’t know how much labour would cost as we hadn’t done it yet”

TFS: “OK, how many starter motors have you installed in your life?”

MM: “We’ve been in business 44 years so yada yada yada…”

TFS: “OK so you could have given us a rough ball park of the final costs including parts, labour and VAT?!”

MM: “I’ve never had a problem with the way I quote before”

TFS: “Come on… don’t bullshit me {I wish I’d said it like this}. You are saying people are happy to get quotes and then come back and find they are nearly double the original quote!?”

MM: “Please sir don’t swear.” (I hate it when people say this when they are completely in the wrong!)

To keep things short we kind of just went round in circles for about 5 minutes like that, with him saying that it was absolutely fine and I was just being unreasonable and making an “issue where there is none”. The most annoying thing was that he was adamant that nothing wrong had been done on his part whatsoever. If there had been some kind of apology and lame excuse about miscommunication and that they’d give us £30 off for good will then they may have even kept us as a repeat customer if the work had been done to a high standard. But alas, it clearly was not to be!

We seemed to be getting nowhere near a compromise when the conversion ended abruptly with him saying:

“OK just come and collect it and pay £148 + VAT”

“Errr… OK” I said and hung up the phone!

I’m pretty sure that would not have happened if they had a leg to stand on so I felt quite vindicated in the end, not to mention extremly happy to save the ~£140 off the price they were trying to charge us!

So anyway, lessons learnt:

  • Make time for a DIY attempt at all possible costs
  • Go to a recommended garage next time if we have to
  • Always confirm the full price of the quote (some will always try to be sneaky but you need to pin them down to as accurate a figure as they’ll give you)
  • If in doubt go somewhere else!
  • If you feel you’ve been ripped off then argue your case (evidently I did this quite well for once in my life! 🙂 )

If you have any tips on dealing with garages or giving the DIY route a pop then let us know in the comments! And does anyone  else have any horror stories from garages/mechanics? It might make me feel a bit better about the whole thing so I’d really appreciate hearing about them 🙂