Are garages charging women more than men?

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The garage mechanic exhaled with a muted whistle and shook his head. “It’s not going to be cheap,” he said He was right. Paying for the repairs to my car at the time – an old Vauxhall Nova – made a big dent in my student budget. But just how much of the total bill was “girl tax”? New research from website ClickMechanic reveals that garages charge women up to a third more than male customers for the same repairs.

Shock absorbers

Shocking, eh? Well… if you’re a woman and you own a car, it’s probably not really that much of a surprise. Of course, not all mechanics are dishonest when it comes to pricing jobs for women. But in some garages, it’s almost as if you can see the dollar signs lighting up in their eyes as you arrive. And now there’s proof that the impression you get as you walk in (and shudder at the sight of topless women on wall calendars) is probably spot on after all.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…

On average, the extra cost of being a female driver is £45, according to the results of the ClickMechanic survey. The website, which allows you to get an online quote from a “vetted” mechanic, sent mystery shoppers to 182 independent garages in 10 major cities. And the results reveal that “girl tax” exists in eight of the 10 locations.

Clutching at straws

All the researchers involved in the survey asked for quotes for a clutch replacement on a 2011 Ford Focus. But in Birmingham, for example, the average quote for male car owners was £445, compared to £582 for female car owners – a difference of 31%. (No wonder I was charged so much for the repairs to my Nova – I was a Birmingham University at the time!) Brummie mechanics are not the only sexists out there, though. In Manchester, the researchers found a 28% female premium, while in Glasgow the female participants were charged 20% more. The exception to the rule was Edinburgh, where the quotes handed out to the women were actually 18% lower than those given to the men.

How to get a fair deal

It’s not just women who get a rough deal when taking their cars in for repairs. Some 45% of all car owners admit that they do not know how much common repair jobs should cost. And during the survey, researchers of both sexes were quoted £80 more than the recommended industry standard guidelines provided by car manufacturers, parts providers and trade bodies. “While the vast majority of mechanics strive to provide honest and reliable quotes, these results show that there is a worrying minority of garages failing to do so,” ClickMechanic said. If you feel you may be being overcharged, it makes sense to visit a couple of local garages for quotes before going ahead.

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