Auto repair scams and ripoffs are them most common complaint to consumer protection groups. Various studies have shown that more than 50% of auto repair shops are dishonest.

So if you “trust” your mechanic, you may be getting ripped off!

Auto Repair Scams

Repair shops can take advantage of you in a number of ways:

Overcharging. Some shops simply charge too much for basic services, counting on the fact that customers don’t check and compare prices.

Unnecessary Repairs. Shops often find non-existent “problems” and charge you to fix them. Be especially wary if the shop claims a repair is urgent. That’s a good cue to get another opinion!

Padded Charges. Shops may give you a verbal estimate, but when you pick up your car you will find that the final bill is much higher than quoted.

Counterfeit Parts. When replacing parts, some shops use cheap counterfeit parts or used parts, but charge you the full price for new, manufacturer-certified parts. (In fairness, the mechanic can sometimes be the victim of counterfeit part suppliers, who have become very sophisticated.)

Choosing a Mechanic

A good way to avoid being ripped off is to find a reliable and honest mechanic before you need one!

Before choosing a mechanic, visit their shop. Look for a place that is clean, well organized, modern, and busy! (The word gets around if a mechanic is good!)

Ask about training and certifications. Look for mechanics with up-to-date certifications such as the Automotive Service Excellence Seal, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, and the AAA Approved Auto Repair Network certification. If you are considering a dealer repair shop, look for recent training certificates from the manufacturer.

Check online .

Also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints against the repair shop.

Protect Yourself

Whether you are using your regular mechanic or trying a new shop, always follow these basic steps:

  • Learn about your car. Read the owners manual and get become familiar with the recommended service schedule. If your mechanic recommends something other than your owner’s manual, ask for an explanation.
  • Get a written estimate, in advance. Be sure the estimate itemizes the parts (and brands!) and services, and shows a written total. (In most states, mechanics are required to provide written estimates, but not all do unless you ask.)
  • If the estimate seems high, or if you have doubts about the services the mechanic is recommending, get another opinion. Don’t let yourself be rushed into a decision. A high-pressure sales job is a good indication that you are being scammed.
  • Tell the shop that you want to be contacted if the work is going to exceed the written estimate by more than 10%. Put this request in writing. Again, this is the law in most states.
  • Tell the shop in writing that you want the old parts (if any parts are replaced).

If you feel you have been ripped off, don’t hesitate to file a complain with the Better Business Bureau, contact you state attorney general’s office, and post a review at .

(Please see our article on Protecting Yourself When Posting Online Reviews.)

 

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