Saturday, November 3, 2012

Eight General Rules of Dealing with German Mechanics

On occasion, I offer some insight and advice on odd things.  Here are my eight suggestions on dealing with German car problems.

First, when you move in and get to know your neighbors....one of the recommendations you want early on....is who they recommend for car repairs.  In a small town, this matters. If someone has been using Huns, the local garage guy, for twenty years....it might be a pretty good recommendation.

Second, if you have a car that's less than ten years old...use the better replacement parts.  Bosch makes good parts, and I recommend them.  If the car is over fourteen years old.....don't worry much about what parts you end up with.  The cheaper German parts will work good enough.  Also, junk yards and junk-centers are a big deal in Germany.  If you need a replacement steering column or a new door....you might want to ask about the local junk-center and if they can offer a cheap replacement situation.

Third....the old German garages used to offer a drive-around car if your car was going to be in the shop for two or three days.  No one much offers these today....if they do....there's typically a low-cost charge.  My advice is to pay the charge....it'll end up being a decent car that the mechanic keeps in good condition and a better deal than a rental agency.

Fourth.....if your car is totally screwed up, and the German mechanic calls at the end of the day to say he needs to order parts....he'll have them by the morning of the second day.  The problem is that it might go into the third day before he can get around to the issue.  Be prepared for a problem like that.  Older cars mean longer periods of mechanical repairs.  You pay for your cheaper strategy.

Fifth.....if you have a connection to the military facilities....you have access to VAT forms, with the tax-discount.  When you negotiate with the mechanic....this VAT-discount matters.  A 1500-Euro bill....could be trimmed by twenty percent.  Also, if you hint that you'd pay in cash.....the mechanic might grin and offer a ten-percent discount on the bill very quickly (provided you aren't playing the VAT-discount game).  But don't anticipate a warranty deal if he accepts this cash under the table.

Sixth.....yes, there are great reasons to go over to the BMW dealer for your repairs, if you have warranty tied to the vehicle.  If you don't have warranty, and this is a simple repair....you don't want to pay 300-Euro for a 160-Euro repair that your local mechanic could handle easily.  All of the Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, and BMW dealers will charge forty percent more on mechanical repairs.  Anticipate that.  Most local mechanics have the computer system and readily diagnose problems in five minutes.

Seventh....if you are intending to drive from Germany to Spain for a vacation, or to Italy for a beach trip.....you might want to drop your car off with the local mechanic two weeks ahead of the trip and have them do a 10-minute glance at important things like oil leakage or brakes.  You don't want to be in Spain and be told of a 1k Euro brake-job being required.

Eighth....you buy tires from a German tire-center....not your local German mechanic.  I realize that your local German mechanic will often come up and do this special deal with your standard yearly oil change/tune-up.  Four new tires for 250-Euro....no changing fee....free balancing....etc.  It sounds good....especially when he says he can make this happen with a ten-percent discount if you pay in cash.  These are usually no-name brands and you might be lucky if you get a full year of use out of the tire.  Always buy tires from an actual tire-center, and don't go cheap. When you are driving 180 kph.....you don't want to sit and worry about a blow-up with a cheap tire.

No comments: