Car Care: Quote, unquote
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If your last warrant of fitness inspection or service check left you with a long to-do list, here’s how to get the best from a service provider.
Estimate v quote
It may be easy to let your fingers do the walking and ring around a handful of workshops to ask for estimates to carry out repairs.
Though this may be a quick way to find who will be the cheapest, don’t forget that it’s an estimate.
Under the Consumers Guarantees Act 1993, the professionals are telling you only what they think the job will roughly cost based on their skills and vehicle knowledge.
The actual price may be more or less than the estimate, but as a general rule of thumb should stay within 10 to 15 per cent of the original estimate.
Where possible, it’s better to drive your vehicle into a workshop so they can physically see the make and model of the car, as well as being able to gauge its overall condition to make sure that the work is required.
They can then call their suppliers to get a better idea of part prices and availability, which will allow them to pull together a written quote, including the labour rate.
A quote is an offer to do the task for an exact price. If the quote is accepted, the service provider can’t charge more than the agreed price unless extra jobs come up that couldn’t be seen until the work started.
The provider must keep the owner informed throughout the job and any variables should be explained along the way.
Oil leaks are a common issue often uncovered while work is being carried out on a vehicle.
Before any work is started, it’s a good idea to get in writing that the service provider will contact you if the final price is going to be higher than the estimate.
Obtaining a quote
Make sure the quote is inclusive of GST and be aware of any expiry dates.
Labour rates, prices and availability of parts change over time. Usually, quotes will be valid only for 30 days.
We’d recommended using a reputable and well-established service provider because, should any disputes arise over repairs once a provider has your car, it can be hard to get it back.
If the company is part of an association, however, this will give some backing and resolution assistance in a dispute.
New Zealand’s Consumer Protection has some great advice on how to obtain quotes:
●Shop around and choose at least three businesses. Give them the same information and ask for a written quote. Check if the business is charging a fee to prepare a quote.
●Compare quotes by looking at the total price and whether GST is inclusive or exclusive. Check the hourly rates, quality and cost of materials, start and finish dates, and how long the job will take.
●Negotiate with the successful business on price.
●Try not to pay a deposit but, if you do, pay no more than 10 per cent of the total cost. Never pay the whole amount before the job is finished.
●Keep all the paperwork — quotes, invoices, receipts.
You can use the same process for an estimate as well, but just bear in mind that the actual price may be more or less.
A quote is a contract
A quote is a contract between you and the workshop. That’s why it’s best to have it in writing and get a detailed breakdown of the work and materials.
You must agree to extra work before a service provider carries it out.
Find out how much the extra work will cost before you agree and you can always contact others in industry to find out if the price they’re giving you is fair.
This will need to be agreed as a variation to the quote and put in writing.
If it turns pear-shaped
If the bill is more and the workshop hasn’t contacted you beforehand to discuss the new changes and authorise the extra work, you should have to pay only the quoted amount.
If the price was not agreed beforehand, all is not lost. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993, a tradesperson or professional must complete the work with reasonable care and skill, and complete it in
a reasonable time for a reasonable price. Speaking to other workshops or a motoring organisation will help you to decide if the services are reasonable or not.
If you have a problem, it’s always best to try and sort it out with the service provider first.
If you can’t agree on a fair price, it may be best to pay the full amount to get your vehicle back.
You can then take things further to the Disputes Tribunal to try and get your money back later.