Most car repair rip offs start with one of three elements:
- Charging you for work that was never performed
- Selling customers unnecessary repairs
- Misdiagnosis of the car repair problem
Here are 4 scams you could could fall prey to and ways to avoid them:
* Unnecessarily replacing parts
If the mechanic states your car needs a replacement part, ask to be shown which part that needs replacing. Use a marker or some means to distinguish it later. If you’re still mistrustful, you can always get a second opinion by another mechanic to make sure the repairs are needed.
* Charging for unauthorized work
Always request a car repair estimate or work order that itemizes everything you’ve authorized. Don’t approve the work order unless you understand what it is covered. Generally the cost of the repair should vary above the original estimate by no more than 10% to 15%, mostly due to taxes or shop supply costs. Before authorizing even more work, make sure you know the exact dollar amount of the original estimate. Never tell your mechanic, “Do whatever is necessary.”
You can find out how much car repair shops in your area are charging for common repairs and maintenance. A few dollars one way or the other is not a big deal but $100 or more is a call for concern. If one shop is using the cheapest parts on the market vs. original equipment parts (OEM)of course they will be at a higher cost.
* Charging for unnecessary work
Beware if your mechanic’s idea of “scheduled maintenance” does not reflect the recommendations in your owner’s manual. Some car repair shops may recommend extra and often unnecessary procedures, or try scheduling some tasks prematurely. Do NOT omit the maintenance schedules that are provided in your car’s manual. Your goal is to keep your car in proper working order. Not get ripped off.
Always keep records of each service performed and find out about the warranty on repairs. This will save you money if something fails and also adds value at re-sale time. Good record keeping provides proof to any prospective buyer which will translate into extra $$$ in your pocket.
Be especially concerned if the car repair shop makes every recommendation sound like an emergency with out showing you the color of the fluids (flushes) or broken or worn parts.
* Misdiagnosis of a problem
When a mechanic provides a diagnosis of your car’s problem, ask questions. Make sure the diagnosis agrees with the symptoms. If your engine alert light is on, ask what causes that problem. Check temperature and oil pressure warning lights immediately. If you’re unsure, read your owner’s manual and don’t continue driving until you understand the warning’s significance.
A good defense to prevent any car repair scam, expecially for expensive car repairs is to get a second opinion. This is important for automatic transmission repairs where it’s difficult to tell if the mechanic is being honest about repair work. If you can still drive the car, just take it to another shop and see if you get the same diagnosis. If the second shop suggests a different repair, you should ask about the repairs recommended by the first shop–it could be a case of something being overlooked by the first shop, the second one, or both. Also there are auto repairs that are difficult to diagnose due to auto electrical problem or the part is not easily accessible or visible.
Even the best car repair shops can make mistakes, so every bad repair isn’t necessarily an attempted rip-off. If you suspect it is a rip off, ask for the manager or owner. If the problem is not getting resolved as quickly as you think they should, avoid angry confrontations. Be certain to let the right person know that you’re following the proper procedures and have been frustrated in your efforts. Remember, every shop is not going to be perfect every time. Mistakes happen in life, it is the level of customer service that follows that keep you wanting to return.
Have the mechanic justify the initial repair. Even if it was an honest misdiagnosis, the shop will probably show good faith by offering a future discount . If the mechanic gets the diagnosis wrong again, stop replacing parts and replace the shop.