Micah took in our dear little car for her oil change today and the service people promptly suggested that he replace the front two tires. At first he was inclined to go with it, but he ended up deciding to comparison shop (thanks love!).

The thing is, they weren’t actually wrong about our car needing new front tires. After I got home from work, we did the penny MacGyver tire check* (yes, there’s something pennies are good for!!). Didn’t pass. Her indicators aren’t quite to the NOW point, but they soon will be.

He’d been told before that they’d be needing changing in the next 6 months, so we were a bit prepared (we just wanted to make sure).

But even though we’ll be changing them soon, I’m glad he didn’t just go ahead with it. Two big reasons.

The first is communication…when we’re outlaying that much money, I at least want to make sure we’ve talked and one of us made sure it was really needed (penny check). If it had been an emergency, like the tires were about to blow, then it would have been ok for him to go ahead (see bottom for more on this).

The second is upselling. You see, the oil change place quoted him a price of $50-70 more than the other places he called once he got home. I expect they wanted him to just go ahead with it. He asked them if that was their best rate and for ranges on tire prices, but they said that was the lowest.

Somehow, even with warranties, all the other places came out way ahead. And without warranties, they’re heartwarmingly good prices vs. the slightly heart-freezing quote he got.

I was so happy that husband went ahead and started getting quotes to give me when I got home (he got many kisses for being so awesome). I was already feeling suspicious of the oil change place–even though we might need the tires–after reading Patrick’s account of the attempted $1000 upsell he got last week. At least these people didn’t recommend a full set of tires.

As Patrick notes, it’s what you expect when you get an oil change. The key is figuring out what’s really wrong and what to do about it. We’re going to get new tires on Friday. *sigh* But we’re going to get them at a much better price.

If you’re concerned that a place is trying to sell you stuff you don’t need, what do you do about it? One solution I can come up with is asking if it’s still safe enough for you to bring it back in two days. If they say yes, then go home start comparison shopping (and figuring out if you actually need it!). If they say no, ask why and go from there.

Later this week, I’ll be talking about communication and finance, because we realized today that we’ve sort of got an arrangement that anything non-essential over, say, $20 needs to be discussed if it’s not in the budget and anything essential (getting towed, for instance) it’s ok to pay if we have the money. But what about semi-essential things?

*If you don’t feel like clicking through, a rough way to gauge when to replace a tire is to stick an upside-down penny into one of the little tread sections. If Lincoln’s head doesn’t go in a bit, then it’s time to start shopping around. If you live in a very snowy area, you want to turn it the other way and see that the top of the Lincoln memorial starts to disappear. At least that’s what I’ve read…I’m not a mechanic.

{ 3 trackbacks }

How Would You Feel if Your Spouse/Partner Broke Your Budget? | Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life
January 9, 2008 at 6:01 am
It’s Hard to Upsell Someone Who Isn’t There | Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life
January 11, 2008 at 3:42 pm
An Idea for Using Your Pennies to Make Others Happier
February 8, 2008 at 9:35 pm


Patrick January 8, 2008 at 6:51 am

Great decision to shop around! That will probably save you about $100 or so. Thanks for the mention! 🙂

Dan January 8, 2008 at 6:58 am

It’s an interesting world when the McDonald’s principle “Would you like fries with that” gets applied everywhere. I wonder, if you did take your car back to that shop for tires, they might try to sell you a new engine, or maybe a parka so you won’t be cold the next time you’re changing a flat. The cross-promotional marketing opportunities are endless.

SavingDiva January 8, 2008 at 10:09 am

I agree! Mr. Micah should be very proud of himself! The pressure at car places is insane! Also…I need to get an oil change!

RacerX January 8, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Many places will offer really low prices on oil changes and other fixes (like wipers) in order to get you in to up-sell you. Grocery stores do this all the time, especially with soda. They call these los leaders, but they pull you in to pay a bit more on everything else.

CatherineL January 8, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Mrs M – I’ll remember this next time I visit a garage. When I’m selling an add on I usually try to make it more reasonable to buy the two services together. But, I guess garages are just plain greedy.

Amanda January 8, 2008 at 10:18 pm

We just got new tires on our blue car today. Our mechanic is a member of our church and just charged us the cost of the tires (no labor). It was quite a blessing. 🙂

So, woohoo for new tires!

juanny January 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm

I don’t know why everyone is attacking the garage here. Yes, I would have comparison shopped too, since I don’t know the going rate of tires. $50-$75 variance for a set of tires isn’t that large of a variance. If this was a small garage, or a small oil change shop, they probably can’t get the bulk discounts that a bigger chain could. You did admit that new tires were needed, it wasn’t like they were trying to scam you, and for the added convenience of getting it done since they were working on your car anyway may have been worth the $50.

I don’t know the details of your situation, but $50-$75 might be worth it to make a needed repair and save me perhaps an hour or two of time shopping around for deals, plus the extra time and inconvenience to drive to another place, and wait additional time for them to work on my car.

It’s like when people buy concessions at a movie theater. Sure they could have went somewhere before to eat so they wouldn’t be hungry at the theater, but people spend tons of money on concessions because of convenience. You could make your own meals everyday and save money, but that’s time and effort that makes it easier to go out to eat or buy prepared foods.

Like I said, I would have comparison shopped, too, but I think the oil change place is getting more of a hit than they deserve. They are offering a convenience and possibly the best price they could offer, depending on their size/specialty.

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