Can garages be female-friendly when less than 1% of car mechanics in the UK are women?

female friendly garage

According to the Guardian, only 200 of the 500,000 car mechanics in the UK are women. So, to say that the car servicing industry is male-dominated would clearly be a huge understatement. The garage environment can be a terrifying domain for women to enter, even in our modern world where misogynistic and sexist behaviour is seriously frowned upon. Mechanics as a whole continue to struggle under a wide-spread perception that they are not friendly towards women, but as experts in the field, with relationships with thousands of garages up and down the country, we know that this is absolutely not true in most cases.

So, when do the problems women encounter at garages start?

Psychologically, many women feel vulnerable and lose sleep merely at the prospect of having to deal with a garage. According to AutoMD, even a trip to the dentist is viewed more favourably than getting a car serviced. From the moment of the first contact, many women’s guards are up, ready to be patronised and pressured from the off. Some resort to having a male friend or family member involved at some stage, for perceived protection from evil-doers. Others even make up male companions to toss into conversations, alluding that someone is keeping an eye on what happens from afar! So, who should women trust? A wade through verified reviews would help because we guarantee that some female-friendly garages do exist.

What is it about garages that women find so intimidating?

Jessica Anderson of Kiplinger.com states that “Nine in ten women believe they are treated differently at auto-repair shops than men are.” Statistics from the Institute of Motor Industry (IMI) also indicate that 22% of female drivers found the atmosphere in garages uncomfortable. Even before they’ve encountered a mechanic, garages are typically not attractive places for a woman to visit physically. One is either greeted at the broad, gaping entrance to the workshop, exposed to the elements, or in a tiny, cramped office, so designed to optimise space to fit cars and parts in. And while less apparent these days, there are still a few dodgy calendars hanging on their walls. So, it’s easy to understand why some women don’t feel safe and can become afraid even before a single word has been directed at them. But, frankly, a lot of these issues fade away when a genuine bond is formed with a set of truly female-friendly mechanics. And, yes, they do exist!

What sort of behaviour do male mechanics exhibit towards women?

Let’s face it when a group of men get mucky working on machines that they have to rev loudly to test, there might be a bit of excess testosterone around. So, when a woman walks in, especially one giving off an air of naivety and lack of knowledge about cars, it might, to some, be viewed as a lamb coming in for slaughter. We even hear, anecdotally, that some male mechanics still make inappropriate, lewd and suggestive comments to female customers, which we feel should be cause enough to make them leave the premises and potentially report the behaviour. And sexism does seem to be a major concern, with blonde women being quoted up to 20% more than brunette and redhead women according to a study by Sheila’s Wheels.

What is the biggest problem women face at garages?

The main problem that women face is high-pressure tactics, whereby jargon is employed to make the customer feel stupid. This makes the customer believe that their questions will sound ridiculous due to lack of knowledge and any attempt at negotiating will be laughed at for being way off base. As reported by IMI, 31% of female drivers are confused by jargon and 28% feel nervous about asking technical questions. Once softened up through such intimidatory tactics, the rip-off can commence. A bill can be thrust on a customer and many reasons are given why the work has to be done, and now. Alleged safety issues raised in a slightly alarmed voice by a mechanic can be a huge tug on a woman’s heartstrings, especially when she has children to drive around. But trust us, not all garages and mechanics are rude to women or try to take advantage of them!

Woman at garage

In what ways do mechanics rip-off female motorists?

Confused.com state that over a third of women motorists worry that they will be ripped off by a mechanic. That is a worryingly high number! One of the main ways some mechanics can exploit customers is by overcharging for work. Marking up the cost of a part or padding the amount of labour required is very hard for someone uninitiated to pick up on. But probably the most common rip-off is to perform work that doesn’t actually need to be done at all. Women tend to be an easier target for this tactic as, according to the IMI, 36% of female drivers admit to having zero car knowledge and have no idea what is going on underneath their car. But rest assured, there are many honest and truthful folks out there to service your car!

What is the latest scam that female motorists should look out for?

It has been reported in some media outlets, like the Sunday Express, that some garages are taking advantage of the new 2018 MOT test rules. An important change to the rules is that, when a car fails its test because of a dangerous fault, it can’t be driven away. A devious mechanic might, therefore, use the opportunity to quote an exorbitant price to fix it because the car is stuck there, that’s if the problem is even genuine at all! However, any decent mechanic would explain the problem to you in great detail and allow you to call other garages to get competing quotes for the work, allowing a different garage to come and pick up the car if you’ve agreed a better deal with them. These days, many garages will also text you a link to a full video of the work required, with a quote, and the option to confirm or decline the work. At the end of the day, most garages are not out to exploit women, which is proven by the number of excellent reviews you can read from verified female customers on BookMyGarage and across the wider web.

Is all hope lost for female motorists seeking a trust-worthy mechanic?

Not at all. Far from it in fact. Many garages acknowledge the issues mentioned in this article, and some go to extraordinary lengths to make women feel at ease. While lots now employ more female staff, with AM Online recently revealing that female mechanics working in the UK has risen by 125% since 2011, others have adopted various alternative methods. For example, ensuring their women’s washrooms are spick and span and providing female-oriented magazines to help pass the time if waiting. Others go even further to encourage women to use their garage. For example, one garage in Oxfordshire has teamed up with a local salon to offer manicures and massages to their customers. Some garages now provide baby-changing facilities, comfy sofas in attractive lounges, children’s playrooms and so on. A few even boast that they deliberately positioned their business within walking distance of shopping centres so as to attract female customers!

So, should female motorists avoid small, independent garages?

Absolutely not! As an example, Stein’s Garage in Edinburgh, which is tucked away under one of the arches along Gordon Street in Leith, is a particularly female-friendly garage. To a woman, it might look like a slightly intimidating business to approach, but these guys are proof that the garage experience for female motorists is all about the people, the mechanics, and their personalities, and often has nothing to do with the garage’s building or facilities. In the south of the country a few miles from Gatwick Airport, in Haywards Heath, is Lavender Motors, which must be the most female-friendly name a garage could possibly have! Female drivers simply want to be treated politely and fairly by mechanics and spoken to with broad smiles and cheerful demeanours. Many women expect things to be explained to them simply, using a language they can understand, with an option to accept or reject work as they see fit, so Lavender Motors does everything with this in mind.

What exactly makes Stein’s Garage in Edinburgh so special?

Craig Stein, the owner of Stein’s, says “My father and I started Stein’s in 1991 and, since then, we have won over hundreds of female motorists, many of whom are long-standing customers who trust us implicitly. We go the extra mile to make our female customers feel that they are getting a great service at a superb price.” BookMyGarage’s CEO, Douglas Rotberg, backs up Craig’s claim “Craig’s female customers drop off their cars, tell Craig to do whatever needs to be done, and pay the bill without question. He is a leading light when it comes to customer service. The reviews he gets in our system from his female customers are truly heart-warming. They all give him 5-stars out of 5 and 100% of them would recommend Stein’s Garage to others.”

Steins Garage

What is the unique approach of Lavender Motors in West Sussex?

Ryan Andrews, the owner of Lavender Motors, adds “Women love coming here because our female-friendly reception and cosy waiting area is always staffed by a woman and is completely separate from the workshop. It has free wi-fi, a television, magazines and refreshments and, while relaxing, customers never see any dirt or grime or hear any loud banging. It’s all very serene.” BookMyGarage’s CEO, Douglas Rotberg, supports Ryan’s approach “The name and layout of Lavender Motors show that Ryan is blazing a trail in the car service industry by welcoming female motorists with a pleasant, stress-free experience. They also offer free, local, collection and delivery and have five courtesy cars too, so their customers can interact with them in whatever way makes them feel most comfortable.”

Lavender Motors

What is BookMyGarage’s advice for female motorists looking for a garage?

As well as Stein’s Garage and Lavender Motors, there are lots of other female-friendly garages across the UK, and this mindset is becoming the norm. It is recommended that you get your vehicle serviced at least once a year, so it is vital that you find a garage that you trust and feel comfortable with. Having regular servicing will also mitigate the risk of having to make any hasty decisions due to your car having any serious issues. The best way to find a garage is through research. Put your car registration and postcode into bookmygarage.com and we will display relevant listings from over 8,500 subscribed garages. Sort the results based on their verified reviews and choose one near you that has lots of reviews and a high average score. Read through them, paying particular attention to those written by women. We’re sure you’ll find one you like!

Do you have your own story that you’d like to share?

We would love to hear about your own experiences with garages, whether you are a woman who has felt particularly uncomfortable in a local garage or have been grateful for the efforts made to make you feel at ease. Go ahead, now is your chance to tell the world about what happened to you. Feel free to leave your comments below!

Mandy Weston

Mandy Weston

Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.

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