Built-In Gypping: Auto Mechanics Paid On Commission

Auto mechanics are always finding extra things wrong with your car is because they work on commission.

This is from an email a business reseller sent around, advertising an auto repair facility for sale. It describes the current employees and their compensation.

Auto Tech @42% commission employed 6 years
Auto/Smog Tech 38% commission employed 18 months
Auto Tech @40% commission employed 12 months
Auto Tech @35% employed 12 months
Auto/Smog Tech @35% commission employed 2 months

Forty-two percent comish? We’re in the wrong biz.

Are there any auto repair places that pay their mechanics on a flat rate? That’s where we would take our car, if we had one.

(Thanks to Brian!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. bambino says:

    As a Gypsy, I’m quite offended.

    Ok, not really.

  2. Bernard says:

    No, Seriously,

    Not all of us Gypsies are thieves. Some Romanian minorities have high values and standards.

  3. Chongo says:

    I know a mechanic or two and you know, it’s fair for them to get a high commision. The problem would then be what the business itself charges for the job. don’t blame the guys who actually fix the cars.

  4. Ben Popken says:

    We’re not blaming the guys, we’re blaming the system. The workers are incentivized to find things wrong and replace parts, sometimes unnecessarily.

  5. homerjay says:

    actually, Ben, the problem IS in the guys. The system assumes honesty. If only machanics were assumed honest!

  6. LLH says:

    sounds like jiffy loob had increased their commission! seriously. my mechanic does not do that – of course he doesn’t advertise 9.99 oil changes either (they’re around 32.00) just to get you in the door to trash your car. and this in in LA!

  7. HankScorpio says:

    If the mechanics were not paid on commission, it would just take twice as long to get your car fixed. The system as is, rewards the good mechanic that can diagnose and fix cars quickly and accurately, and in turn penalizes the dolts who can’t figure it out. They still get paid the same amount for the same repair no matter how long it takes because they are paid “book-rate” for a job.

  8. homerjay says:

    Oh, and I know several mechanics that AREN’T compensated on comission. There are several ways to skin a cat, I guess.

  9. Anonymously says:

    To avoid the “we ‘found’ something wrong with your car” when I get an inspection, I’ll just pay the extortion fee upfront and order some cheap service at the same time. Works like a charm.

  10. Sam Glover says:

    I have no idea whether my mechanic is paid on commission, but to me, this kind of exemplifies the problems every consumer has to deal with: namely, the disparity in access to information.

    The average car owner is no mechanic, and so has no idea whether or not they are being fed a line of bull. Having far greater knowledge (and the consumer having no choice but to trust the mechanic’s judgment), it’s easy to take advantage.

    The same happens in all types of consumer fraud. We just don’t often think of “ambitious” mechanics as frauds. But it’s the same thing as a predatory lender.

    The solution is usually to play the one cheat against another. That doesn’t work so well when you can’t get your car to move, however. Find a mechanic you think you can trust, or learn how to work on your car yourself, I guess.

  11. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    The commission system would work if all mechanics were honest, but show me any kind of business where all the employees are 100% honest, and I have some nice Iowa beach-front property to sell you.

    Even if you have an honest mechanic and he’s paid on commission, maybe the guy is is in a pinch..kids in college, mortgage payment…whatever..so what’s to stop him from replacing a few extra parts on your car? Just because the guy has some bills due or things are tight at home, does that give him the right to make a couple of “questionable” repairs just so he’ll have some extra money in his pocket for the weekend? I certainly don’t think so.

    I’m an electronic repair technician, and I get paid the same whether I have to perform a simple 15 minute repair or a 3 hour repair with lots of expensive parts. I have absolutely no incentive to run up a customer’s bill or replace unnecessary parts, and I have so much to do that I don’t want to take any longer than I have to.

    (Unless, of course, you act like a complete dick towards me, at which points all bets are off and then I won’t be so careful about your bill).

    But that’s another story.

  12. Invest $20 in “Auto Maintenance for Dummies” so you can at least diagnose your own fluids and belts. I’ve noticed that shady mechanics always start on the “your X fluid …” or “your fan belt …” Now that I know more, I can ask some questions of a mechanic and get a much better sense of if he’s good or not.

    I once had someone tell me something was broken that isn’t actually ON my car, I guess because I”m a girl. Fortunately I’d read my “Dummies” and could say “uh … my engine doesn’t have one of those.”

    (My husband says over my shoulder, “Get a better book than Dummies!” but Dummies was the right level for a car-dummy like me!)

  13. Ran Kailie says:

    What Eyebrows said is correct, consumers need to be educated in this as well so they’re less likely to be taken advantage of.

    I know how to fix cars, I can overhaul and engine or rebuild a transmission. I grew up working on them with my dad, and I’m a woman, so trust me I get a lot of stupid bull from mechanics. I know how to recognize when I’m being shystered.

    My high school also offered a basic class on auto mechanics for students, how to change fluids and check them, belt replacement and simply fixes and repairs. More schools should offer that sort of class, so people are more educated.

    It makes me sad that some people will spend 13K+ for a vehicle they know nothing about, but will research forever and maybe know everything about a gaming system or their new LCD TV.

    As for mechanics, I’ve seen shopped and known mechanics that worked for both a flat hourly fee and who worked on commission. I’ve known good and bad mechanics in both, so while the system of commission can be questionable its not the only reason.

    Hourly mechanics will just take you to the cleaners on time. Funny how a 5 minute headlight bulb change suddenly gets rounded up to 30 minutes.

  14. latemodel says:

    As a mechanic, I should be offended by some of the comments but unfortunately there is some truth in them. The reason most shops have a commission basis is to control overhead costs and provide an incentive system to the workflow.When there are no cars to work on the mechanics are standing around for free. Then there is the issue of clock hours versus flat rate hours. Also realize that most cars do not receive the recommended maintenance suggested by the respective manufacturers so if they say your whatsit needs attention they may be just doing what Honda/Toyota/??? says to do in your owners manual.

  15. Magister says:

    I change my own blinker fluid!!!

  16. Funklord says:

    Glad someone else said it–my wife who is of gypsy descent, has had to break me of the habit of calling things a “gyp” as she says it is racially insensitive. I’m allowed to say “rip” though. Man, am I whipped or what?

  17. robbie says:

    It sounds like the primary drawback to a flat-pay system is that mechanics will sit around and/or take longer on your car. Frankly, this sounds like a management problem. Midas can’t develop an internal bonus system to speed people up? They can’t figure out a standard timeframe for a particular job and hold mechanics accountable for getting things done on time?

    Commissions are typically used to motivate someone in sales, a role I would rather not associate with the mechanic in charge of diagnosing and fixing problems with my vehicle.

  18. Ass_Cobra says:

    Commission systems of course can create incentives for ripoffs but as it has been pointed out the root cause is information assymetry. If you’ve just moved shop around when you need a repair. See who is giving you a straighter deal. If you’ve lived in one place for a while and haven’t cultivated a good relationship with a mechanic or don’t know anything about auto repair, well caveat emptor.

    I agree that the compensation scheme in a shop should be disclosed, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Commissions don’t create rip-offs, under informed consumers.

  19. MonsieurBon says:

    Although I expect Ben will erase this comment like he has all of my other comments about “gyp” being a racially charged word, I will at least try to post it.

    Ben, it’s not OK. You may think it’s funny/cute/ironic/hip. It’s not.

  20. Ben Popken says:

    We don’t erase comments. Yours on the Coinstar post still stands.

  21. TTCFCL says:

    I’m sure a majority of the people don’t even know that “gyp” is an offensive word to some. People use “kipe” not realizing it’s a derogatory word for Jews. No one means it to be offensive. I’m gay, and I used to get ticked off when I’d hear classmates say “Oh that’s so gay!” when refering to something stupid or unfortunate. But then I realized they weren’t directly bashing gays. Now my boyfriend and I have adopted it into our vocabulary. I think you are acting a bit over-sensitive.

    Anyway, I don’t meant to get off topic…. I think you are lucky if you know a “friend of a friend” that will do the stuff for you, infront of you, for cheap. My dad’s friend has worked on my car a couple times. Unfortunatley, he is very scary. I wouldn’t want to be in his presence without my dad around (and I’m 22). Buying a howto book does work. I bought my car’s service manual on ebay for 20$ (watch out, I saw others going for 100$ for whatever reason). I had fun replacing my speakers, taillight and bulbs myself. Of course, I am the mechanical kinda guy. I guess it depends how scared you are of messing up and breaking your car, heh.

  22. Borman says:

    There is a lot of disinformation out there.

    Check out flatratetech.com for some good reading.