Avoid Being Taken Advantage of by Auto Mechanics

Auto repair rip-offs, frauds, scams are a common practice inside the auto mechanic industry. That is not to say there aren’t any reputable auto repair shops, but according to the Consumer Federation of America’s “2007 Consumer Complaint Survey Report,” the number one category among the top ten consumer complaints is auto.

To not be taken advantage of, here are a few tips to avoid unscrupulous auto repair shops.

Research and Get Repairs in Writing – Understand your car’s problems. Know what needs to be done to improve your car’s overall performance before you have the car repair shop begins any work on your vehicle. Make sure all the quotes worked on your car are in writing for you to know exactly what is done to your car with the complete service and labor cost.

Don’t be Pressured into More Services – The California Auto Body Association estimates 40% of repair bills have some degree of fraud. It is the shops job to tell their clients what else needs to be done in their vehicles, but do not be pressured to have more services done if there is no need for urgency. Be aware of long list of repairs when you only brought the car in for only one service, get a second opinion if needed.

Go for a Drive with a Mechanic – A good mechanic would not mind taking a test drive of your car to accurately identify the car problem pertaining to noise or a problem that comes and goes. Be aware of auto mechanics not taking their time to identify the problem because they are probably wasting your time and money.

Look for Reputable Repair Shop Clues – Finding honorable repair shops might not be as difficult as it may seem. Look for signs that the shop is California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), or “Triple A” approved. Other clues to look out for are professionalism, shop appearance, and personnel.

Get a Guarantee from Mechanics – Ask for the shop’s guarantee of its work in writing if possible. Find out what the guarantee covers. By receiving a guarantee, no matter where you are, the work done on your car is covered under the warranty. If you do run into trouble though, try to work it out with the shop first. Most honorable mechanics should try to make it right for you.

How to Avoid Auto Repair Ripoffs

Auto repair is like any other business-there are some unscrupulous cheats out to take your money. But you can avoid getting ripped off for auto repairs if you keep your wits about you. Here's how to do it.

First, get a referral to a reliable, trustworthy mechanic. Friends are a good source for referrals. Ask them who they've had good experiences with, and who they would avoid. That's probably the best way to find a winner.

But don't simply take a friend's word for it. Check out your mechanic! You can call the Better Business Bureau to see if he's had any complaints. Look for certifications like an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) seal, which means he's at least met some minimum standards for skills and service.

Before you get any work done, ask about labor prices and prices for parts and supplies. Not asking means you really have no right to be shocked if they pad your bill. And be sure to find out about the warranty on parts and labor (don't forget the labor piece of the puzzle).

Most important, get everything in writing. That means the estimate for the work, the details of the warranty on parts and labor, everything. If a mechanic won't give a written estimate, he's either too lazy to do it, or he's leaving the door open for fraud. You don't want to play either game. And once you're armed with the price and warranty information, don't be afraid to shop around to see if you can lower your cost.

If your problem is a little out of the ordinary, such as those annoying intermittent rattles most cars experience from time to time, take a test drive with the mechanic beforehand to show him exactly what you need addressed. Don't make him guess. If you can show him the problem, he might know exactly what to target, which will save you labor cost, and probably save him from making unnecessary repairs.

Before you pay the bill, go for a test drive to make sure the car is fixed to your satisfaction. If it is not right, ask the mechanic to make it right. Even great, honest mechanics who pay attention to detail can miss things. A test drive can bring those misses to light, and probably save you a hassle later.

And speaking of the bill, read it. Check it over carefully. Ask about anything you don't understand, or that does not sound right. If you just pay the bill without checking, it's like signing a mortgage document without reading it. Silly, right?

Finally, pay your bill with a credit card if you can. That gives you maximum flexibility to protect yourself from fraud. If something goes wrong, you can call the credit card company and dispute the charge. Many cards also offer some fraud protection, so you might have another line defense.

As with most things, you can avoid getting ripped off for auto repairs by being informed, and by being careful. If you will do a little work up front to prepare, and take small steps to protect yourself, you can save yourself aggravation and expense.