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March 04, 2008

The Service Advisor: Friend or Foe?

Womanwithkeys As an automotive consumer -- a woman automotive consumer, no less -- you probably have some questions about your dealership'€™s Service Advisors. Do they just want your money? Does your car really need that repair? Are they telling you the truth? As a female who has worked at three different dealerships and one independent repair facility I’ve learned a thing or two in my experiences. I hope I can answer some of those burning questions you may have.

Do they just want my money? 
Well, there is no easy way to say this, but yes, Service Advisors do want your money. Most of them make commission so the more you spend, the more they make. A dealership or independent shop is a business, after all, and they need to make money to stay afloat. However, that doesn’t mean that they are allowed to sell you repairs or services that your vehicle doesn’t need. Lying to customers is against the law, bottom line.

You may be annoyed at the fact that most of the time when you bring your vehicle in for service, the advisor tries to sell you something else. In the beginning when you sit down with the advisor, they usually go through your history and check to see if you are up-to-date on all of your services. Maybe you missed your 60,000 mile service and they are recommending that you have it done. If you don’t choose to have the service, fine, no harm done. If you do choose to have it done, the advisor gets more money and you get the peace of mind knowing that you’re doing something good for your car.

Another time when an advisor may try to sell you something is while your car is being worked on. This means that they found something during the service and want to see if they can “upsell” it to you. They’ll usually give you a call or if you’re waiting at the dealership they’ll find you in the waiting room. They may say something like, “During your 60,000 mile service we found that your front brake pads are at 1mm, would you like us to replace those pads today?”

Which brings us to our next question...

Does my car really need that repair? 
This question is a little more tricky, because it depends on the situation. I'€™d say, most repairs are necessary, but some can wait longer than others. For example, if it'€™s a safety-related item such as tires or brakes, you should get the repair done as soon as possible. Also, check engine lights are important to have diagnosed quickly, because driving with one on for an extended period of time can cause damage to your vehicle. It's a good rule of thumb to ask your Service Advisor if the needed repair is safety-related or not and what can happen if you don'€™t have it done right away.

Services however, are a different story. Services aren'€™t safety-related repairs but they are preventative maintenance. Check your Owner'€™s Manual to see when you need service and what it includes. Your dealership can always tell you or print out a schedule if you like. You can always wait a while if you don'€™t have the extra cash available for services, but at the very least have your oil changed if you'€™re overdue. This way, they can at least check the fluids and advise you if anything needs immediate attention. It'€™s also important to get your tires rotated and have the pressure checked to minimize unnecessary wear.

Are they telling the truth?
Most of the time, yes, your service advisor is telling you the truth. I say €˜most of the time€™ because I don'€™t know every service advisor out there, and sometimes people lie. But the important thing to remember is that it is unlawful to do so. If something doesn'€™t sound right to you, or you'€™re confused about a particular repair, don'€™t be afraid to ask questions. If you don'€™t believe your car needs a certain repair, ask them to take you back to the shop and point it out to you. And finally, if you suspect that you are being lied to, you should ask to speak with the dealership'€™s service manager. If you suspect that the service manager is lying to you, you can speak with the general manager or even file a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repair.

I'€™ve also included a few helpful tips on getting the most out of your dealership experience:

Feel free to shop around! One thing that determines prices at dealerships and shops is their “Labor Rate.” This is how much they charge an hour for repairs. I'€™ve seen over $20 an hour differences between dealerships that were just a few miles from each other. Also, different dealerships will usually have different prices for their services, so be sure they include the same things. One dealer may be a hundred dollars cheaper but they don'€™t include a valve adjustment, while the other one does.

Also, shop around for service advisors too. You may prefer your advisor to be female or you may prefer someone who used to be a technician, etc. Once you’ve found a service advisor that you like, keep coming back to that person. As you become more familiar with them, you’ll feel more comfortable and sometimes even make a friend. Also, the service advisor will appreciate that you keep coming back and sometimes they'€™ll give you a discount.

Yes, it is annoying that the dealership always finds something wrong with your car when you bring it in, but your service advisor is just the messenger. Often times I would see a service advisor dreading to make a call about a pricey repair to an already peeved customer. Keep in mind that it is the service advisor'€™s job to inform you of any needed repairs and whether they make a buck off you or not is irrelevant. And how would you like it if they didn'€™t tell you anything? If you just had work done on your car and ended up broken down on the side of the road the next day, you'€™d be pretty upset!

And finally, remember that your advisor is after all a service provider, and should be treated with respect. Sure you'€™re upset because something is wrong with your car, and you'€™re annoyed because it will probably be expensive, but that doesn'€™t mean you should take it out on your service advisor. A good advisor is genuinely concerned about you and will do everything in their power to help ease your frustration. The more important thing than making a quick buck off you is to make you happy, because then you'€™ll most likely return to that dealer.

So until we invent cars that don'€™t need repair, or you happen to have a friend who is a mechanic, dealing with a service advisor will continue to remain a necessary evil. But hopefully after reading this article, a little less evil. Happy driving!

Jennifer_frey By Jennifer Frey
AskPatty Expert Woman
Automotive Service Writer and Technician
When Jennifer is not working on or talking about cars, she is pursuing her other two passions: writing and foreign languages.

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