Don't want to get ripped off at the garage? Send a woman in

Don't get ripped off at garages - Sheilas' Wheels

PCP research conducted a live experiment in which 51 men and 50 women visited 101 independent garages across the country. Participants were provided with the number plate registration of a Ford Fiesta, 2011 model. They each asked for a quote for new brake pads, a new alternator and an intermediate service. In addition to the estimate costs they were provided with, they were also asked to record their overall experience and treatment during their visit.

Research was conducted by Opinium among 2,002 nationally representative UK adults (18+) in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Research was carried out from the 12 April to 15 March 2016.


  • Men are quoted on average 13% more than women for car repairs 
  • One in four (25%) male drivers avoid going to the garage as think they will get ripped off 
  • Dark or red-haired women tend to receive the most competitive quotes 
  • One in four drivers (28%) take their car to be repaired for one problem and end up replacing or fixing something else, spending an average of £230 extra
  • According to an investigation by Sheilas’ Wheels, garages charge men more than women for the same car repairs


The research was amongst 100 independent car garages across the country. Both male and female mystery shoppers requested quotes for a minor service and to fit either new brake pads or a new alternator on a 2011 Ford Fiesta, at each of the garages.

Looking at servicing costs, the research found a minor service would cost a man £106, compared to the average price of £94 for a woman – a difference of 13%.

Looking at repairs the research also found that older men in particular got a worse deal. Men aged sixty and over were charged 32% more to replace an alternator (paying £258 compared to £196), 26% more for a basic service (£103 versus £82) and 17% more to fit brake pads (£74 versus £63) when compared to quotes received by women of the same age.

In total, one in four (25%) male drivers avoid going to the garage altogether, sending someone else who they think has got better knowledge on their behalf. At the same time, 41% of women avoid taking their car to the garage because they think a man is less likely to get ripped off.

The investigation showed men received more of a formal service (49% versus 26%) at the garage. Around half of the male participants said they were addressed as ‘sir’ or ‘mister’ rather than ‘mate’.

Women on the other hand, were more likely (16% versus 8%) to be greeted with terms of endearment including ‘love’ (8%) and ‘darling’ (6%). And while women get a better deal – it’s not all equal. Those with darker or red hair tend to get the most competitive rates, receiving quotes 20% lower than blondes for new brake pads on the same car (brunettes were quoted £61.54 for new brake pads, and blondes were quoted £77.28).

When asked about their most recent visit to a garage, one in four (28%) motorists took their vehicle for one thing and ended up replacing or fixing something else, spending an extra £230 in repairs. Male drivers are also considerably more likely to say their final bill was a lot higher than the estimate the mechanic gave them initially (14% versus 9% of women), and almost twice as likely to claim the garage did work they didn’t ask for (5% compared to 3% of women).

The most common ‘extras’ that are up sold to men include replacing brake pads (22%), new brake discs (15%), a full service (12%) and a full set of tyres (12%).

Responding to the findings, Sheilas’ Wheels spokesperson Elspeth Hackett, said: “Taking your car to a garage can be a confusing and costly experience – especially for those with limited motoring knowledge – and the imbalance of knowledge can lead drivers vulnerable to rip offs and sharp practice whatever your gender.

“Even if you have no knowledge of car maintenance, it can pay to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can about your car when it goes wrong. It’s best to search the internet for details about the problem and find out average costs – and then shop around at local garages to see what they would charge. Plus it’s always worth checking that the price you are being given is a quote or an estimate and also check whether it includes parts, labour and VAT.”