You ARE Going to Pay a Lot for This Muffler

 MrConsumer admittedly does not know a lot about cars or car repairs, but doesn’t like to pay a lot when his 1996 Honda Accord needs fixing.

About 10 years ago, he had Meineke install a muffler with a lifetime warranty. Maybe five years later, it rusted through and needed replacement again. The “gotcha” with guarantees like this is that you have to pay for labor and other parts, and it comes out costing almost as much as replacing a conventional muffler. So when that muffler went again, MrConsumer decided to go to his trusted gas station mechanic instead.

After dropping off the car, the verdict came from the repairman by telephone: it would cost $400 to replace that muffler with another “lifetime warranty” one. MrConsumer gave the go-ahead, and the car was fixed a few hours later.

Scrutinizing the receipt, MrConsumer noted that the muffler itself was $260, but wondered what an auto parts store would have charged for it. Advance Auto Parts was $172.99 — nearly $90 less. Ugg. Autozone was $149.99 — $110 less, but there was a $50 additional rebate. Double ugg. And was $103.99 less 25% or $77.99 AND the $50 rebate also applied there. Shoot me now.

Then a brainstorm hit MrConsumer. The purchase was made with a Fidelity MasterCard that has a “price protection” benefit that would provide up to a $250 refund if a purchased item could be found for less elsewhere. As MrConsumer was relishing getting his $260 muffler for a mere $27.99, he checked the fine print of the bank’s price protection benefit.


What items are not covered?

The Price Protection program applies only to items purchased in the United States of America, including Alaska and Hawaii. This program does not cover any of the following:

Motorized vehicles of any kind and their parts and equipment, including, but not limited to, boats or watercraft, air vehicles, automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles.

Foiled again. Drats.

One last hope: what if the charge had been put on his Chase Freedom card instead? Nope. Their price protection policy excludes automobile “equipment.”

So MrConsumer learned an expensive lesson about car repair shops marking up the cost of parts, and will have to be content with at least getting back $50 under the manufacturer’s rebate.

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8 thoughts on “You ARE Going to Pay a Lot for This Muffler”

  1. The high parts price for garage parts not only includes a profit for the shop, but your shop also pays much more than a consumer parts store.

    The commercial parts shop offers things like same day delivery, excellent return policy, and competes for the shop’s business on things other than price (that get passed on to the consumer).

    You can ask your mechanic if you can buy the parts yourself. Most small shops will allow it, but not offer a labor warranty for the “lifetime” part.


  2. I ALWAYS research and buy the parts myself and then take them to my local mechanic to install. I also always keep my parts receipt on file for the warranty, this has saved me a lot of money on “lifetime replacement” parts.

  3. Depending on the equipment, many small shops will not do the installation. If the item is defective or the wrong part, the customer tendency is to blame the shop. Like many business, shops do recognize customer loyalty and will discount whem and where they can.

  4. I don’t know how things works elsewhere, buy in my neck of the woods, parts purchased by independent repair shops are delivered by the “commercial parts shop” that I can shop at – NAPA, Autozone, etc., or one of the local new car dealers. Back many decades ago, a 10% commercial discount was given to a mechanic/shop. I can’t say that I’m current on that knowledge now.

  5. Whenever I have gone to an autoshop I have always asked for the price of parts and the price of labor. I don’t mind paying for labor I don’t know how to do myself, but I will not sit by and let the mechanic gouge me on the cost of parts. Usually I am able to bring the price down after negotiating with the shop manager or mechanic.

    If you already know what you want to have fixed on your car just call the shop and ask for an estimate. In my experience most shops want you to come in and have your car looked at for a fee before they do anything. A quality shop should provide an estimate if you call in.

  6. I think Mr. Consumer might have been on the right track by resorting to the credit card on which he charged his purchase. Besides the price protection he cited, most cards offer double-warranty protection up to a specific time period. So does that mean his muffler would be good for two lifetimes? Yeah, right. I would have called his credit card company to see what the protection might have been in that case; they may have some arbitrary time limit assigned to the free warranty extension in the case of “lifetime” warranties, which the credit card company must know is bogus…unless, of course, it excludes auto parts anyway, as was already his experience.

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