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Old 03-23-2017, 07:21 AM   #1
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Unhappy Question about independent shops - Did I get ripped off?

Hi All,
Just looking for thoughts on this. I needed some maintenance interval work done plus a new water pump. I decided to use a pretty well regarded shop here locally instead of the dealer to avoid the ridiculous labor charges. The estimate was verbal (my first mistake). I was trusting because of the reputation. And then hours later he called and increased the estimate by $1000. But what am I to do at that point since he has my car and is already working on it. So I felt like I couldn't say anything at that point. Figured when I got the bill I would discuss it. However, much to my surprise, when I got my $3500 ($200 more than then the 'adjusted' estimate) bill for a 'major' maintenance and water pump/ therm replacement, they charged me almost $1700 in labor. Basically did what the dealer does and charge the Porsche 'recommended' labor hours regardless of how much time it took. So basically I paid 14 hours of labor when they had my car for about 6.5 hours. Shame on me for not asking. Nothing I can do about it. But I expected an honest transaction since they came well regarded and I have never in the past had an independent shop do that to me. I have always been charged hours worked. I mean isn't that the entire point of skipping the dealer and using an independent? Anyway, just looking for thoughts? Am I wrong in my thinking? I suppose I just learned a ridiculously expensive lesson since I basically now have to sell the car since it put me way in the hole. But just curious of others experiences and if I got ripped off or if this is now standard practice. Been a while since I have used an indy shop. I felt like I couldn't argue the point since it was my fault for making the assumption and not asking about how they charge labor. And with that in mind, I certainly doubt I have an form of recourse.

Last edited by drewman75; 03-23-2017 at 07:24 AM.
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Old 03-23-2017, 07:28 AM   #2
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What all was done?
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Old 03-23-2017, 07:29 AM   #3
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A water pump replacement and major service would probably have cost less than that at an official dealership. This indy doesn't sound honest to me. I once had my car serviced at a Porsche dealer where they charged me that amount, but they did a water pump change, engine mount change, service, and full brake change (all 4 pads, rotors, etc.). And gave me a Cayenne S as a loaner car. Next time, shop around for a written price before giving the car to them.
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Old 03-23-2017, 07:45 AM   #4
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Agreed Boxtaboy. I have definitely learned my lesson. Original verbal estimate was $2200 which I thought was high as well but assumed it would come in lower. And figured we could nitpick once I picked it up if I saw anything I didn't agree with. i was assuming if anything he was going to inflate parts prices which I was very aware of the costs of those and could speak to them. So the labor charges are what totally threw me for a loop. Just was not expecting that in the least. At that point, the car was already up on the lift because we looked at it together initially. And I could see the pump was shot. So based on what he said, I was concerned to take it down and try to get it home and then shop it around. Mistake number two on my part.

Quadcammer, he charged me for an 80k service which I thought strange since the car has 47K miles. Granted it is a 2005. Charged 8 hours for that and then 6 hours for "replace water pump and thermostat and fill with coolant and bleed system". He replaced both air and cabin filter, spark plugs, oil, brake fluid. seals and coolant. Dropped car at 10a and they close at 5p. But from the adjusted estimate call, i believe they were done by 4p. Wanted to keep overnight so he could 'burp the system' and top off in the morning. So basically charged me more than twice the hours they worked on the car.

Last edited by drewman75; 03-23-2017 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 03-23-2017, 07:57 AM   #5
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Sorry to see they did that to you. Since it's already done, I'd just put it past me, and going forward, you know better. One of the best things I did years after I got the car was to meet up with fellow enthusiasts who also owned Porsches and worked on their own cars. I was able to make great new friends who were local to me, and we'd get together to work on our cars. Learned a lot, and save a lot of money too. You can also join your local PCA, attend the events and meet local Boxster owners who also work on their cars or can point you to their trusted mechanics. Keep the car, forget about this bad experience, and just don't let that ever happen to you again. The car should give you many years of enjoyment.
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Old 03-23-2017, 08:11 AM   #6
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I would have a serious talk with the owner and demand that you only pay for the actual labor done and only pay for the actual hours done.
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Old 03-23-2017, 08:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drewman75 View Post
Hi All,
Just looking for thoughts on this. I needed some maintenance interval work done plus a new water pump. I decided to use a pretty well regarded shop here locally instead of the dealer to avoid the ridiculous labor charges. The estimate was verbal (my first mistake). I was trusting because of the reputation. And then hours later he called and increased the estimate by $1000. But what am I to do at that point since he has my car and is already working on it. So I felt like I couldn't say anything at that point. Figured when I got the bill I would discuss it. However, much to my surprise, when I got my $3500 ($200 more than then the 'adjusted' estimate) bill for a 'major' maintenance and water pump/ therm replacement, they charged me almost $1700 in labor. Basically did what the dealer does and charge the Porsche 'recommended' labor hours regardless of how much time it took. So basically I paid 14 hours of labor when they had my car for about 6.5 hours. Shame on me for not asking. Nothing I can do about it. But I expected an honest transaction since they came well regarded and I have never in the past had an independent shop do that to me. I have always been charged hours worked. I mean isn't that the entire point of skipping the dealer and using an independent? Anyway, just looking for thoughts? Am I wrong in my thinking? I suppose I just learned a ridiculously expensive lesson since I basically now have to sell the car since it put me way in the hole. But just curious of others experiences and if I got ripped off or if this is now standard practice. Been a while since I have used an indy shop. I felt like I couldn't argue the point since it was my fault for making the assumption and not asking about how they charge labor. And with that in mind, I certainly doubt I have an form of recourse.
OK, let's clear up a couple of points. All shops estimate labor based upon "book", or factory fair estimates of how long a job should take. The primary cost differential is the labor rate, most independent shops hourly rates are $50 or more lower per hour than a dealership (that coffee and donuts is not really free, nor are the loner cars, which are typically written off as marketing or advertising expenses internally). It is not at all unusual for the total labor time billed to be more than the time the car spent in the shop, and this is not because of any accounting tom foolery, but because of multitasking. Suppose two cars come into the shop, the first for an oil and filter change, a water pump, and a brake flush; the second is just in for a water pump. The cost for each item on each car is estimated off "book". Both cars go up on the rack at the same time, or car one, the tech puts the oil drain tank under the car and pulls the sump plug, and then puts the coolant catch tank under the water pump and starts the coolant draining. While everything is draining, he starts on the brake system flush. The second car gets the coolant tank under the water pump, and starts the coolant drain. Once the cool is out, the tech starts the pump removal and replacement. You can see what is happening here, one tech is working on three items at the same time, the other on only one, but both customers will be billed exactly the same amount of labor for the water pump replacement. But in the case of the first car with multiple items being done, the total hours billed may not tally with the time the car was in the shop.

The concept of "book" time estimates is the backbone of how shops price estimate jobs. Do more complex jobs seem to favor the shop, the answer is yes, but it is the only fair way to estimate individual jobs consistently from customer to customer. It is also not uncommon for a shop to throw a customer a discount on a multiple item project like changing the AOS while doing an IMS retrofit (it only takes about 15 min. to do the AOS while the trans is out of the car, compared to an hour or more just doing an AOS on an assembled car), but that is up to the judgement of the shop in a given situation.

I would also always recommend getting a detailed written estimate on any major projects, so you know what to expect up front.
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Old 03-23-2017, 08:41 AM   #8
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+1, also any good and experienced tech can beat the flat rate. Many techs are paid on a percentage of the flat rate, so they make more money when completing the tasks quickly.
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Old 03-23-2017, 09:04 AM   #9
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Understood. I know I was naive. He was recommended, so I let my guard down. Funny enough, it was by local PCA enthusiasts since I am a PCA member and he is actually listed on their site as one of the local experts. Won't happen again.

JFP, I certainly understand your point. My brother in law owned a shop for many many years. So I get the business side of it. My main issue was with the increased estimate and final cost AFTER he had my car, I was home and he knew he had me. I agreed to the original estimate. What was I supposed to do when he calls me, has my car apart and tells me the new $1000 extra estimate? Tell him no and then have no idea what the heck he might do to the car or leave unfinished or subpar? There was nothing additional added to the work order for that increase. And had he quoted me that at the shop, I would never have agreed to it. Regrettably, I made the poor decision to hitch a ride home from him after dropping the car. And I highly suspect I got the 'nice neighborhood' adjustment if you know what I mean. How else can you explain the initial estimate of $2200 jumping to a final bill of $3500. He's been doing this 30 years and probably knows part prices and how much a job will cost like the back of his hand. I suspect he was going to charge me honest and then after driving me home, he saw an opportunity to mark me up and make a nice tidy profit because I was a newbie. Hard and very expensive lesson learned. Which is a shame because the reason I got the car is because my little boy has recently become obsessed with cars and it's a nice thing for us to spend some time on weekends taking drives. But now that I just spent about 30% of the cost of the car on this service, I am looking at having to likely let it go to try to recoup as much money as I can since this puts me in a huge hole.

Anyway, the point of the post wasn't to argue with other shop owners. I was just trying to see if this was standard practice. But ALSO to warn other newer owners who are debating the indy versus dealer question to not make the same mistake I made. To make sure they ask the right questions. And to walk away and not get hosed by scare tactics like I did when my car was on the lift.

Last edited by drewman75; 03-23-2017 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 03-23-2017, 10:06 AM   #10
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Quote:
I suppose I just learned a ridiculously expensive lesson since I basically now have to sell the car since it put me way in the hole.
If the extra $1300 in repairs forces you to sell the car, then you likely should not have purchased a used Porsche in the first place. Twelve-year old German sports cars can get expensive. Based on your post, the indy charges $120 hour in labor. What does your local dealership charge?

It seems he only had your car for 24 hours. How was the original estimate done...did he look at the car? Did you verbally describe what you thought needed to be done, and he gave you a price?

If the indy inspected the car and gave you the original estimate, you could go back and explain your concerns, and maybe ask for a few hundred dollars in labor credit for your next visit (maybe an oil change?). He might want to give you a break based on his continued business with the local PCA members.
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Old 03-23-2017, 10:56 AM   #11
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Tomonomics. I think that is a little unfair for you to make that statement. I should have somehow anticipated getting ripped off and so not bought the car? Its not just the $1300. I was expecting it come in under $2k based on research. And it should have and his initial estimate was close. I just bought the car in November. No one expects to pay $3500 (almost 30% what I bought the car for) four months after buying a car. My wife humored me and agreed to this purchase based on a certain amount. I certainly expected over a couple years I would have to put some additional money into the car. But not that much right after purchase. We have college funds and kid expenses to consider. I have had a Porsche previously. Moons ago I had a 944 that was a complete money pit. I ended up spending more repairing it in two years than I paid for it. So I'm a little gun shy when it comes to this sort of thing. Difference is that back then I didn't have a wife and kids. So could I keep the car? Sure I could. But after this, it's just not worth it to me anymore. That was money better spent elsewhere that was earmarked for other things and now in the back of my mind, I wonder what goes next. Is this money pit part 2. And are shops more dishonest now and willing rip people off than back in the day. Back then I had a great mechanic. He didn't over charge me. The car was just a pit.

In regards to the estimate, it was done after it was on the lift, the under panels removed and we inspected it together. I know a thing or two about cars. I'm not completely dumb to the subject. The estimate was based on the service, the water pump and therm. Nothing changed except his estimate increase a couple hours later. And then the final price increased again when I picked it up. No additional work was performed that wasn't discussed or included in the original estimate. The only thing additional was his continuing to raise the price. And again, the point of this is that I know there are a lot of new owners on these boards like me and this is all uncharted territory for them too. One expects to be able to trust PCA and other enthusiast recommendations. So if my mistakes and experience can save another newbie here from making the same mistakes I did, then that is the point. Isn't that part of what these boards are for. Not telling people they shouldn't have bought the car in the first place because they got ripped off. But sharing information.

Last edited by drewman75; 03-23-2017 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 03-23-2017, 11:08 AM   #12
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And getting stuck for another $1300 for no additional work performed compared to the estimate isn't something to be put in the "oh well" column. It's not like the tech found other items that needed addressed which would justify the higher cost.
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Old 03-23-2017, 11:31 AM   #13
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It would clear up a lot of things if you posted up the itemized bill with parts and labor charges. Some shops do rip you off by charging extra labor, what I mean by that is they charge the book hours for each part even though half the work may already be done by installing the part that is in the way of that one. There should only be a charge for one part if another part needs replacing but it is required that the particular part had to be removed anyway and reinstall in the process or replacing the part behind it. I know this sounds confusing but let's just say you're doing a water pump on a car, well you can't charge additional labor for replacing the belt even if you are installing a new one because the labor in replacing the water pump already included belt removal and reinstallation.
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Old 03-23-2017, 12:54 PM   #14
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Keep the car and drive it! I have spent way more on mine than I expected, but it is so worth it. It is the only car that I have ever owned that actually makes me smile when I drive it.

Do what I do- don't add up the bills. It is only money!!
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Old 03-23-2017, 12:58 PM   #15
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Interesting as some states seem to require that a written estimate be given and signed and an approval for more than a certain deviation from the original estimate be received before proceeding.

When I got the second estimate, I'd ask why the difference between the first and second estimate. I'd understand that difference and make sure it made sense to me before saying yes.

The 80k should be a 90k I think as it is the most comprehensive service requirement (for a 2001 it was). I had one done when I bought my second car based on its age, not mileage just so I knew where it stood. Was always glad I did that.

(I'd be interested if you PMed me the shop name as I do have a list of DC area shops on my web site and, if it is one of those, ...)

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Old 03-23-2017, 01:08 PM   #16
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Drewman, apologies if I sounded harsh, but if you read many of the FAQ and posts here from new owners, you would find that ~$3000 repair bill is not at all uncommon if you are not doing your own wrenching on a 986 (you have a 987, so I'm not sure if the same applies, but I assume it probably does). You didn't give us much details in regards to the car you purchased: if you had a PPI before you purchased the car, if the previous owner had already done most of the required maintenance (with receipts), etc. But you should have anticipated that it was a very good possibility that it would be $3000 or $4000 for a shop to bring the car up to current maintenance. Clutch, IMS, brakes, suspension, etc are all on the table for a 12 year old car, even if it only has 50k miles. It all depends on the previous owner(s) and how good they were with maintenance.

Your last post leads me to believe the original estimate included the water pump, etc. so I'm not sure where the additional labor costs came from. As someone else here said, posting the detail of the repair bill would allow us to better gauge if the mechanic just padded the bill.

At the very least, it sounds like you paid less than $12k for a 987 w/~50k miles, so you probably got a good deal assuming it was at least minimally maintained. But again, based on what you've told us, if your budget was a tight $14k, you likely bought the wrong car. Just my .02 - I wish you well and hope you can keep it.

Last edited by tomonomics; 03-23-2017 at 01:28 PM. Reason: edited to change 997 to 987! I wish 997's were going for under $15k
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Old 03-23-2017, 01:59 PM   #17
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I just took my car in to get the bumper resprayed (old owner sure liked driving on gravel roads!) - quote was $1000. Good quality shop, do good work, worth it. But when they took the bumper off, they discovered some serious issues with the rebar - clear indication the car had been in a bit of an accident. So my $1000 bill is now up to about $2000.

My point - cars cost money and sometimes you don't know what it's going to cost until you get right in there. That's why it's called an 'estimate'.

Until you post an itemized bill, we have no idea whether it's you or the repair shop that's out to lunch. Post it up and let the experts dissect it. JP is always a good resource for this sort of thing.
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Old 03-24-2017, 06:07 AM   #18
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If you now have the car and paid by credit card, you have leverage to discuss the total of the invoice with him. An "extra" $1300 in overage isn't reasonable from the estimate if no extra work was done or parts used. Go back to him and assert yourself. It's not personal, just business. The worst that can happen is he will refuse to work with you on the bill. That is exactly where you are now, so nothing ventured, nothing gained (recovered) by you. Yu don;t have to go nuts or be come an AH, just state your case and demand a refund.
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Old 03-24-2017, 06:24 AM   #19
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No reputable shop does work without prior approval unless they like confrontations. Customers don't like surprises. Who does? If they call to advise of extra recommended work you can say no, defer, or take something else off of the scope.
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Old 03-24-2017, 02:18 PM   #20
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There's always Yelp and Facebook and others

Give a bad review - just the facts, ma'am. They sure don't like those. And tell them beforehand that you're going to do so.
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