Tuan is co-founder of philo, and had recently moved from Boston to San Francisco. When his car needed service, Tuan weighed his options, and tried Openbay’s auto-repair marketplace to book service with Chow’s Automotive. We gave Tuan a call to learn more. Here’s how it went.
Where do you live and what do you drive?
I live in San Francisco and drive a 2006 Subaru legacy GT.
How did you find Openbay?
I used to live in Cambridge, MA, and had worked together with Sara (who oversees Openbay’s finances). She’d left philo after we had moved our office to San Francisco. I was catching up with her and she mentioned she was working with Openbay, which sounded interesting.
I had moved recently and didn’t know where to find a good mechanic. Living in San Francisco is very expensive. So when the time came to have work done on my car, I was having a little bit of sticker shock, in terms of the labor costs.
Prior to Openbay, I had used Yelp to find the highest rated mechanic near me to replace my brake pads and rotors, and looking back, I wish I’d had the ability to have easily compared options beforehand. I had been doing it manually – it was really tedious and unreliable. You can only visit so many shops.
How did it go at the shop?
Everything went super smoothly. I dropped the car off, and had already discussed the work being done and the pricing beforehand.
I had been considering just having struts, and had requested OEM (manufacturer-branded) parts. Then Chow said, “For the same price, you can get upgraded struts from KYB. They’re higher quality and will probably last longer.” So I went with his recommendation.
How’d you know you needed struts?
I’m kind of a car guy, so I pay attention to what my car needs. When I was living in Boston, I’d taken my car in for a wheel alignment, and the mechanic said I should consider replacing the struts, and then a succession of other mechanics had confirmed it. So I did some more research online, and that’s how I knew I’d needed them.
When you first heard about Openbay, what interested you about it?
I liked the idea that I could get a fair price by actually looking at the whole market.
That clicked right away. Everybody has this issue where they’ll talk to a mechanic, who will throw out some number for what a repair should cost, but I prefer to look more closely at exactly what’s being done, and how good the business is before picking a shop. As someone who’s savvy with cars – even I have uncertainties – I’m still uncertain about what the labor rates are supposed to be to get certain jobs done.
Typically, I’d go online, and search forums to see how long a particular repair is supposed to take, and what that labor costs. But even then, there prices will differ, depending where you are in the country. In Massachusetts, I would have known what the strut replacement were supposed to cost. But here in San Francisco, I have no idea. All I noticed was, “Wow – it’s a lot more expensive.”
Has Openbay delivered as you had expected?
Yes. And another thing I liked about Openbay is the communication. It may have been my own bias, because I’m used to asynchronous communication. I liked having the ability to message various shops before committing to one. I used Openbay to ask multiple mechanics a specific list of questions about the struts. That was a unique feature to Openbay that I liked.
Before booking with Openbay, I had also considered a mobile-mechanic service. It was super “cookie cutter” in terms of the work being done and the prices they charged. They just have a rate card they go off, and because I had requested it, they would have put in OEM, or the OEM-equivalent part. But, ahead of booking through that other service, I didn’t have the option to speak directly with the mechanic who’d be doing the work.
In this case, working through Openbay, it was useful for me to message with Chow, who was able to provide far more specific information than what the mobile mechanic service would have given me the power to do.
I like the fact that I’d gotten upgraded struts – the mobile mechanic hadn’t given me the choice, and Chow’s recommendation for better parts, along with the ability to message with various mechanics, was ultimately what made me go with Openbay.
Would you book with the same mechanic again, and if so, would you do it through Openbay?
Yes, I’d go to Chow again, and I would go through Openbay again. Why not? The tool is easier than the alternative, which would mean I’d have to drive over to the shop, or call him.
I like being able to go through Openbay’s form, and shoot it out; that experience is more convenient. And as a user experience, Openbay delivers the full info from everybody else. Why wouldn’t I use it again?