This is an ongoing debate in the automotive industry. If you put several shop owners in the same room, you will get several different answers. Each owner has developed his own method for charging for diagnostic. As a consumer you must understand, all shops are driven by the same economic engine, so whether it is a “line item” on the invoice, a larger profit margin on a part, a surprise part that you find out about after you already have approved the work, or simply a “cut corner” you never knew about, auto shops need to satisfy their overhead. With this in mind, you can be sure that you are paying for diagnostic or lack thereof whether you know it or not.
So as a consumer, how do you navigate paying for diagnostic or not paying for diagnostic?
You know you need to get your car fixed, but you don’t want to spend any more money than necessary. No one blames you for that. It’s a very common situation we encounter every day in our business. Some people are willing to choose a repair shop simply based on whether or not the shop charges diagnostic fees. This is not a good deciding factor for picking a reputable auto shop.
This may sound counter intuitive, but stay with me. To save money on auto repair, Choose the shops that are honest and upfront about diagnostic charges. “Honest” is the key word. Remember, it’s part of every shop’s economic engine, it’s not simply that one shop is making a whole lot more money than the next because they charge diagnostic.
Let’s understand diagnostic charges and inspection fees. There are typically two types of diagnostic or inspection fees. The first type is “Diagnostic” where there is an issue and something has to be intellectually figured out with testing. A good diagnostic identifies what broke and why it broke. In this instance if you don’t identify both cause and failure, you don’t have a complete diagnostic.
The second type is simply an inspection fee. For the shops who offer this for free, they are typicallly just looking for a visible or broken part. It’s NOT the best way to understand your car issues as a whole, so that you know how to spend money wisely. With the “free inspection” a technician may just hit the highlights he or she is looking for. Paid diagnostic service keep their motives inline.
To bring this full circle, the number one thing that reduces the amount of money you spend on auto repair is to have an ongoing, long term relationship with a quality auto shop, some of which will charge diagnostic. So if your shop charges for diagnostic, don’t hold it against them – they are just being financially responsible and not hiding a true cost somewhere else in the bill.
At Auto Select, we always treat our customers fair and honest, and always give you the "whole story" when we provide our diagnostic services. For more information about that and other client perks, click here.