Those wild guys "Click & Clack, the Tappet Brothers"-also known as Tom and Ray Magliozzi of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" fame-recently unveiled the results of a survey they conducted about the cost of car repairs.
Keep in mind that Ray (at right in the photo) operates a repair shop in Cambridge, Mass. What they did was pick a couple of "fairly average cars"-a '96 Honda Civic and '96 Dodge Intrepid-and chose four common repairs likely to be needed on a 3- to 4-year-old car.
They then called 158 shops, both car dealerships and independents, to get some prices. Comparing costs, they found (not surprisingly) that dealer prices were higher, on average-by 15 percent for the Honda and by 10 percent for the Dodge.
But the brothers said they discovered some interesting regional differences. Looking at data by time zone, the Magliozzis said dealers on the coasts charged the highest prices; that is, customers paid more in the Eastern and Pacific time zones than they did in the Central and Mountain zones. But they also found that the smallest price spread between dealers and independent shops was in the Mountain time zone, where charges were almost the same.
Their conclusion? If you live on the East or West coasts, "by going to an independent you can often save real money (some of which you should deposit directly into our secret bank account in the Cayman Islands)," they wrote in their weekly newspaper column.
"And you'll save even more money if you drive your car across the Continental Divide before getting that brake job!"
They did add a caveat: Money isn't everything, and there are times when a trip to a car dealership makes sense. "Would you want your open-heart surgery done by the guy who had the lowest prices?" Tom asked.
Well...if he threw in a free valve job, we might be willing to consider it.