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Contents:
  1. How Auto Mechanics Can Rip You Off, and How to Avoid Being Taken for a Ride
  2. Site Sections
  3. Repair Estimate Scams
  4. How to Spot Car Mechanic Rip-Offs - Consumer Reports

The best way to avoid auto repair rip-offs is to be prepared. To know how your vehicle works and to identify common car problems is a start. It's also important to know how to select a good auto repair technician, what kinds of repair questions to ask, and your consumer rights to recourse of action.

How Auto Mechanics Can Rip You Off, and How to Avoid Being Taken for a Ride

Look for an auto repair shop before you need one to avoid being rushed into a regretful decision. Shop by telephone for the best prices, and compare warranty policies on all repairs. Check for current licenses if state or local law requires repair shops to be licensed or registered. Also, your state Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency will record of complaints about a particular repair shop so check before you take your car for repair.

Make sure the auto repair shop will honor your vehicle's extended warranty if you have one. Certification indicates that some or all of the technicians meet basic standards of knowledge and competence in specific technical areas. Make sure the certifications are current, but remember that certification alone is no guarantee of good or honest work. Ask if the technician or shop has experience working on the same make or model vehicle as yours.

Site Sections

Repair Charges: Understanding the Meaning Before you agree to have any work performed, ask shop labor rate and the full price on parts and supplies. Most shops charge a flat hourly rate for labor time. This published rate is based on an independent or manufacturer's estimate of the time required to complete repairs. If you need complicated or expensive car repairs, or if you have any questions about recommended work, consider getting a second opinion from another vehicle repair facility.

Repair Estimate Scams

Most shops have a diagnostic charge if you decide to have the work performed elsewhere. If you decide to have the work done they usually will roll the charge into the repair. If you decide to get the work completed, ask for a full written estimate. What should a full written estimate include? It should identify the condition to be repaired, the parts needed, and the anticipated labor charge. Make sure you get a signed copy. It should state that the shop will contact you for approval before they do any work exceeding a specified amount of time or money.

State law may require this. What should I know about the parts to be repaired or replaced? Your state may require repair shops to tell you if non-original equipment will be used in the repair. Prices and quality of these parts vary. Many manufacturers offer a warranty covering replacement parts, but not the labor to install them. Salvage parts may be the only source for certain items, though their reliability is seldom guaranteed. What do I need after the work is done?

Get a completed repair order describing the work done. It should list each repair, parts supplied, the cost of each part, labor charges, and the vehicle's odometer reading when you brought the vehicle in as well as when the repair order was completed. Ask for all replaced parts. What are the consequences of postponing maintenance?

Many parts on your vehicle are interrelated. Ignoring maintenance can lead to trouble: specific parts - or an entire system - can fail. To help you avoid rip-offs, here are some easy to follow pieces of advice: Choose a repair shop wisely. Instead of flipping through the yellow pages or searching for a repair shop online, ask family and friends first. Satisfied customers are your best source of information.

How to Spot Car Mechanic Rip-Offs - Consumer Reports

Find a decent car repair professional even when your car is still running smoothly. Look for certifications.


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Ask about their past work, have a little chitchat, and try to gauge their personality while doing so Inquire about pricing right from the start. Good car repair shops should be upfront about their pricing. Discuss your car problem and get quotes.