Car Repairs and extended warranty companies
February 16, 2006 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Dodgy charges for a car repair and recommendations for extended warranties?

My girlfriend has a 2000 Saab 9-3. 49K Miles. She currently has no extended warranty.

She just had her car back from the shop (not the dealer, but well reputed independent) since the driver's window stopped going up. When she took it in they estimated the problem was the window "guide" and would cost about $15 in parts to replace. However, due to the fact it was a pain in the ass to get to, it would run her 2 hours labor, and, as a result would probably cost about $165.

One hour later they call her to tell her it's ready. Price: $165. She asks how they can charge her 2.5 hours labor for a job that took an hour. The reply was they have a book that tells them what to charge per time/per job. In this case the book said 2.5 hours therefore that's the charge.

While this obviously doesn't seem particularly right, the estimate matched the cost, so does she really have grounds for complaint?

As a result of this, and given her friend who has a similar Saab has experienced similar problems and other issues, my girlfriend is thinking about getting an extended warranty. Do any of you have an extended warranty and would you recommend a particular company? Search on google shows lots of companies offering them - this is one I'm looking at (Btw, I'm not looking for the pros and cons of extended warranties, just reputable companies and experiences). Thanks!
posted by Mave_80 to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Response by poster: By the way, I have seen this previous AskMeFI question, but it seemed to deal with more whether warranties were worth it. My apologies if I've missed any other threads...
posted by Mave_80 at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2006

Most shops use a cost estimate book to determine the billing of a job. Book says the job should take x-hours...that's what they bill. That said, the shop I go to would not have billed for the 2.5 hours if they were done in just 1 hour. That, or they would just wait another hour before calling me. LOL

Extended warranties (especially the after-market varieties) aren't really worth the expense. If you look closely at the fine print, you'll see that problems like the window aren't going to be covered. Generally, after-market warranties cover the drivetrain and that's about it.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:07 PM on February 16, 2006

Thorzdad is correct; However, another way to look at this, were 2 people working on this at the same time? Probably not, but can be easily justified as such. "Man hours" are different than straight time.

IMO no grounds for complaint.
posted by AllesKlar at 12:13 PM on February 16, 2006

If you complain I bet you they will tell you two people worked on the job for 1 hour each. :-S

This is why I charge by the job, and not for labour by the hour. When you get experienced enough at a job (of any type, I do electronics) you can often get it done in less than half the time of someone new to it (but with the necessary education to complete the job). That doesn't mean your time is worth less, though... by all rights it's worth more!
posted by shepd at 12:15 PM on February 16, 2006

Response by poster: Wasn't two people. Just one. Fair points though.

Experiences or recommendations re. extended warranties? (Understand that there can be a lot of exclusions, but the check engine light keeps coming in which added to concern - although then you run into trouble on pre-existing conditions etc). Still like to hear about companies though...
posted by Mave_80 at 12:18 PM on February 16, 2006

My recommendation is don't get an extended warranty at all. It's designed to make them money, not you. Only very rarely are things that break covered under warranties. Funny how that works.
posted by Hildago at 12:41 PM on February 16, 2006

Check engine lights can come on for many reasons. Believe it or not, on a lot of modern cars, not putting the gas cap on correctly can do it. Honest.
A lot of places like PepBoys and the like will read the diagnostic code for free and tell you what is causing the light.

Sorry I can't help with a company for extended warranties. I just avoid 'em.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:44 PM on February 16, 2006

That is just standard operating procedure, and she should not complain. In fact, she should consider herself lucky that she got a skilled technician who was able to "beat the book." The labor estimates are really just there as a reference to keep things fair. Good mechanics are can beat them consistently, and this is a sign of an experienced and able person. And many times it swings the other way -- they'll run into a seized bolt or a defective part and it will end up taking twice the number of hours as listed in the book for the particular repair. Regardless, it's the same cost to you. The book is there just to give a fair and equal price to everybody, and to remove the element of uncertainty. If it makes you feel better don't think of it as having anything to do with hours, think of it as a standard list of jobs and what they're expected to cost.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:00 PM on February 16, 2006

For Saab specific questions regarding repair, maintenance and general quirks of these delightful cars check the Saabnet forums. There are some preventive measures your friend can take to save you expense and inconvenience, like having her head bolts retorqued before her head gasket blows, (my, that sounds dirty....) and having her IDM replaced and software upgraded under the recall. And make sure she has her oil changed religiously, every 5000 miles with a good synthetic. And tighten the gas cap three clicks, or you'll get a check engine light. Really. Saabnet also has a list of good Saab mechanics. If her regular mechanic isn't used to dealing with Saabs simple things can get expensive while he throws parts at a problem.
The best extended warranty I know of is the General Motors Protection Plan Major Guard.
posted by Floydd at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2006

I bought an extended warranty for my car when I purchased it (used) in 2001. I did some research and bought what I thought was a good plan from an established company. One Source Auto Warranty. Tried to use the insurance one time, when my power seat went on the blink, but it wasn't covered. Never needed to use it for anything major.

Fast forward to 2006, I get a letter from the Hawaii Department of Commerce. The underwriter has been declared insolvent. My coverage is cancelled. I'm not holding my breath waiting for a refund.

Bottom line: before you buy, check out the coverage, the company, and the financial health of the underwriter before you buy.

Next time I think I'll skip the insurance policy.
posted by dudeman at 4:38 PM on February 16, 2006

Extended warranties are not well regarded; they're always full of exclusions (sometimes, it seems like every moving part is excluded); and even when a repair should be covered, there often is a hassle getting it paid for.

That said, if you're absolutely set on getting one, try to get it from the manufacturer, not a third party, and try to get one that is transferable, unless you're absolutely certain that you're going to keep the car for most or all of the warranty period.
posted by WestCoaster at 5:50 PM on February 17, 2006

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