Auto Service Shoppers Seeking Transparency

by | 5 minute read

Most consumers (83%) continue to ‘feel’ overcharged in the auto repair process and rank the experience of going to the repair shop/dealership to get their car repaired  on par with going to the dentist (with women preferring the dentist), according to a new consumer survey from

While women have a more negative view of the repair shop/service center experience than men do, across the board consumers say a more transparent process would improve the experience. Consumers say that not knowing what a repair should cost is the biggest challenge in the process and that they want real apples-to-apples repair job quotes. But, the survey shows, these consumers are empowering themselves digitally, by going online to research pricing and to look at consumer reviews before going to a repair shop.

“We know that there are excellent repair shops and service centers in every city in the US, but, as this study shows, a persistent perception problem plagues the industry: consumers simply don’t trust that they are paying an appropriate price for a repair and their view of the whole experience is, generally, not a positive one,” saidBrian Hafer, VP of Marketing for  “But there is good news. Consumers are going online to check price quotes and repair shop reviews and are craving apples-to-apples actual job quotes. So, for shops that are pricing fairly, offering real quotes and keeping up a good digital presence, there is a real chance to improve perception – and, with it, their business.”

The survey, which was conducted online among over 2,400 car owners from March 27 – April 30, 2014, offers a snapshot of how car owners view the current repair shop experience.  The survey included self-identified Do-It-For-Me – DIFMers (46%) and Do-It-Yourself – DIYers (54%) who shared consistent and similar views of the overall repair shop experience.

Key Highlights

Vast Majority ‘Feel’ Overcharged/Overall Perception Not Positive

A whopping 83% of those surveyed say they have “felt” overcharged for vehicle service at the repair shop or dealership, a number that has remained stubbornly high over the past four years: in 2010, it was 88% and in 2012, 85%. Women dislike going to the repair shop more than going to the dentist, when asked to rank against other experiences. Men ranked it just below going to the dentist.

Not surprisingly, over 44% of women have a negative view of the auto service center/repair shop experience with only 12% viewing it positively. Overall, only 16% of all survey respondents had a positive view– but the silver lining for repair shops/service centers is that 40% overall had a neutral view, meaning perception change is possible.

Transparency Offers Biggest Opportunity

Respondents ranked “not knowing what a job will cost” as the number one challenge in the repair process.

Eighty-four percent said that a more transparent experience, i.e. ‘knowing exactly what I will be paying up front for the job I need done, before I go to the repair shop,” would improve the process, vastly trumping better customer service and speedier repairs.

What would most positively change the way you feel about your current repair shop/service center experience?

A more transparent experience, i.e. knowing exactly what I will be paying up front for the job I need done before I go to the repair shop.


Speedier repairs


More pleasant customer service


What Do Consumers Want? Comparative Job Quotes, Actual Parts Prices and a Good Mechanic

Eighty-four percent overall reported that getting the same kind of apples-to-apples repair price quotes usually available for most goods online is either ‘important’ or a ‘must have’ in the auto repair process. And an even greater percentage, 91%, said that knowing the specific part to be used in the repair – and its price – was either ‘important’ or a ‘must have.’

Is knowing that you have a good mechanic/service technician important when choosing a repair shop?

Must Have




Somewhat Important


Not Important


Don’t Care


Ninety-eight percent ranked having a good mechanic as a ‘must have’ or ‘important,’ followed by fair pricing (97%) and a convenient location (52%). Shuttle service ranked low in importance: 56% either don’t care or say it is not important.

Consumers are Looking at Online Shop Reviews and Pricing

Almost two-thirds (65%) report that they have looked at reviews before going to a repair shop/service center, with women considerably more likely to do so than men (73% versus 64%).

Have you ever looked at online consumer reviews before going to a mechanic/service center?

Yes, sometimes


Yes, always




No, but I have afterwards.


And over three-quarters have gone online to research what the price of a repair job should be, with men only slightly more likely to do so than women.  Overwhelmingly, consumers say that websites offering actual quotes for an actual job from an actual repair shop are of far higher value than websites offering just a general repair price range.

Consumers Not Following Service Schedules

Even though over half of those surveyed have over 100,000 miles on their primary vehicle, only 55% of those who normally go to a repair shop to get their vehicle serviced follow a maintenance schedule, with 45% only taking their vehicle in when something is really wrong.

Ad-ology Research reports that up to 9.6% of U.S. adults will seek auto repair services in the next year. About 43% of these consumers expect to purchase new tires in the next year and 36.3% intend to pay for car wash or auto detailing services. Marketers may be able to reach these consumers through the formats they’ve seen in the last 30 days that have caused them to take action: TV (52.4%), newspaper (40%), and radio (35.3%).

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to Ad-ology PRO. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.