Why you should NEVER ask for the price of a transmission overhaul over the phone.
The bad news is that you believe you have a transmission problem and you just felt your wallet shrivel up into a little ball. Your first instinct is to call various transmission shops to get a price to overhaul the unit and compare these prices. The bottom line is price, right? Or is it? Before we get down to the difference between price and quality, let’s talk about shopping for phone quotes and why you should NEVER do it. The good news is that we will tell you how to get the most useful information from a repair facility and make an educated decision for the future of your car.
Customer: “Hi, I drive a 2004 Toyota Rav4. Can you tell me the cost to rebuild that transmission?”
No matter what the answer is going to be, it’s going to be high because that’s what you want, right? A worst case scenario is what you seek so you can brace yourself for the worst. Seems like a good idea, right?
Well, let’s think about what goes on behind the scenes for a minute. Every transmission shop in town is taking down your information. They want your name, car you drive and potentially your phone number. They also will write down that worst case scenario price tag that they just gave you in hopes that you will come visit them.
Trans shop: “Yes, ma’am, a basic rebuild on that unit can range anywhere from $2400 to $3200.”
The customer then repeats this process through four other different transmission shops and decides to go to the cheapest price. (Another no-no that we’ll discuss later)
Every one of these shops has written down the customer’s name and the price given to them. If this customer decides to show up at any one of these shops, they know that she has already committed to potentially paying $2400 - $3200 even before it’s checked out! The customer has the price they were looking for over the phone and they came in anyways ready to bite the bullet! Guess who has the upper hand in this transaction? The transmission shop.
The transmission shop will then think, “I’ve already given this person a rebuild price, let’s just rebuild it because that’s what she’s expecting anyways!” They will then proceed to overhaul the unit whether it needs it or not and gladly take the $2400-3200 quoted. They may even charge at the low end of that scale so that the customer will be ecstatic that it was at the low end of the price range quoted! The customer will also NEVER know what was truly wrong with the vehicle. Can you trust any shop that gives a price of repair without knowing what is wrong with it? You can’t diagnose a transmission problem over the phone!
Once you go into a shop that quoted you a price over the phone, you are now labeled as a “Player”, someone who is ready to plop down that worst case scenario amount of your hard earned money because you were the lowest price in town. You didn’t come in because the shop has a good reputation, or are a member of ATSG or ATRA or the BBB, or because you came highly referred from family and neighbors. You came in only because of price since that’s all the information you have from your phone calls.
The fact about transmissions that come through our shop is that the average cost of repair is about $700.00. This is because some vehicles require a simple solution such as replacing a defective sensor or solenoid. Others may require a complete overhaul. Our shop performs more repairs than overhauls. Approximately 75% of our work is repair work to the drivetrain. The remaining 25% usually means the transmission needed to be rebuilt. The odds are in your favor but you’ll never know until you have your vehicle properly diagnosed by a professional.
Now, as for looking for the cheapest possible price? There’s a mission statement that we adhere to that goes a little like this:
Quality: It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you waste money. That is all! When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the item bought is incapable of doing what it was bought to do.
The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot; it just can’t be done! If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is wise to add an amount for the risk you will take. If you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.