Very few people walk into repair shops knowing exactly what's wrong with their vehicles. Some folks have hunches, though, and that can make all the difference when it comes to the price they're quoted -- especially if those folks are women.
That's the finding of a study conducted by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and AutoMD.com. Together, they recruited a group of men and women to make phone calls to various garages. During each call, participants asked for a quote on a radiator replacement for a 2003 Toyota Camry.
During their phone conversations, the callers either:
1. Said that they were well-informed about the cost of such repairs and that they expected the price to be around $365 (which is accurate).
2. Said that they were well-informed about the cost of such repairs and that they expected the price to be around $510 (which is inaccurate).
3. Said that they had no idea what the repair might cost.
4. Or said nothing about their own price expectations.
Here are the study's key findings:
- When callers indicated that they were well-informed by citing an average price of $365, men and women were both given quotes around that figure.
- When callers indicated that they were mis-informed by citing the above-average cost of $510, they were both given higher-than-average quotes.
- When men said that they had no idea what the repair would cost, they were quoted figures in the $365 average.
- When women said that they had no idea what the repair would cost, they consistently received higher quotes than men.
According to Meghan Busse, a professor at the Kellogg School and one of the leaders on the study, "Our findings suggest that auto shops may assume men know the market price for a given repair, so they automatically grant it. However, they may not expect women to be knowledgeable in this area, so the perception is they can charge them more."
The good news is that women were considerably better at haggling than their male counterparts. When study participants attempted to negotiate a better price, 35 percent of women were successful in doing so, compared to 25 percent of men.
Bottom line: whether you're a man or woman, if you know what's wrong with your vehicle, do some research on repair costs before taking it in. Remember, Mr. Google is never more than a few keystrokes away. And unless you're wedded to one particular garage, get a few quotes over the phone. That's doubly important if you live in one of the more expensive states for auto repair.
On the other hand, if you don't know what's wrong with your car, you may just have to wing it, or invest in a system like Automatic. Our guess is that, like many things in life, appearing confident can help you get what you want -- even if you have no idea what you're talking about.