Women Quoted Higher Prices for Auto Repairs, But Negotiate Better

When it comes to getting car repair price estimates, it’s all about what you know-- especially if you’re a female.

A new study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, found that informed female callers were quoted prices in line with expectations while unaware females were given higher estimates. When it came to men, it didn’t matter their knowledge level, both groups were given accurate price approximations.

Two professors for the school worked with AutoMd.com to set up field experiments to test auto shops’ responses to male and female callers looking for a cost quote to replace the radiator on a 2003 Toyota Camry.

The callers were either informed, misinformed with expectations of a higher price or completely uninformed with no idea how much the replacement part and labor would cost. The result: women who were uninformed were quoted higher prices, while informed females were quoted a price in line with their expectations.

Men, according to the study, were quoted an accurate price whether they were informed or had no clue of the potential cost. Both men and women were quoted higher prices when they expressed an expectation that the repair would cost more than the true market price.

“This comes down to stereotypes and assumptions,” says Meghan Busse, associate professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School in a press release. “Our findings suggest that auto shops may assume men know the market price for a given repair, so they automatically grant it. However, they may not expect women to be knowledgeable in this area, so the perception is they can charge them more.”

While it appears women are more likely than men to get taken advantage of at the repair shop, women might have the upper hand when it comes to negotiations.

According to the study, 35% of women who called the shops had their price request met, compared to 25% of the men. Although there is no data to answer why this happens, the professors suggest that since most of the people giving the quotes are male it could be a cultural or social thing to respond positively to requests by females.

How to Get the Best Cost Estimate

The internet has made it easier for consumers to become more knowledgeable and compare prices.  So to get the best quote, drivers—especially females—should do their research to have a price range for necessary repairs.

“Reveal that you know what you’re talking about—that you know the car, you know the repair, and you know what a sensible price is—right off the bat. And if you get a price that’s above that, ask for a discount,” says Busse in the release.

It’s also important consumers maintain a sense of knowledge to avoid showing vulnerability. “Research prices nonetheless to make sure you don’t inadvertently reveal that you are badly informed,” says Busse.