Did you ever take your car to the shop for what you thought would be a small repair, only to be told it needs major work that could cost thousands of dollars?
Did you trust that advice?
Auto Repair often makes the Better Business Bureau’s annual list of top 10 industries with the most complaints. And some experts believe nearly one-third of all auto repairs are unnecessary. So it’s no wonder people aren’t quick to trust an unfamiliar mechanic. But how can you protect yourself from unnecessary repairs and costs? Here’s a few tips:
Get a referral
Probably the most popular way of finding a good, trustworthy mechanic is to ask trusted friends. Get a recommendation from someone you trust who has already put in the time building a relationship with a mechanic that they trust. No matter what a mechanic’s ad says, a credible referral is a much more reliable tactic for avoiding dishonest mechanics who will talk you into unnecessary repairs. And be sure to let your mechanic know you were referred to them by your friend. This helps ensure they treat you fairly as they don’t want to risk losing two customers!
Get a second opinion
If your mechanic tells you that your car needs work, but you suspect it really doesn’t, get another opinion or two. Just like with your health, it’s often beneficial to get more than one opinion on what you need to do in a situation. If the auto repair shop is reputable, the mechanic will welcome others insight and opinions. A common scam comes from the dishonest mechanic who tells you your car needs repairs “right now.” Even worse is the mechanic who tries to make something look like a problem when there isn’t one. Some have even been known to cause a problem by puncturing the radiator hose or cutting the fan belt. As much as it may seem like an emergency when your car is out of commission, it is not. Take the time to seek the recommendation of several mechanics and gather a consensus. Not only will this provide you with peace of mind that you are on the right track, but also it might uncover a mechanic who can solve the issues at a lower price. In the end, it will be well worth your time to investigate your options.
Get the proof
Even if the firm is reputable, don’t allow a mechanic to look under your hood without you. Ask him or her to show you the issues: Torn belts, worn out breaks, low fluid levels all can be easily shown. If they are reluctant to show you the evidence of the needed services, that’s a good sign they aren’t transparent. For example, Sears was once sued for talking customers into unnecessary auto services and had to pay $46 million in settlements. Sometimes, repair shops tell customers they need to replace a perfectly good part, then charge for the part and labor, but do none of the work! Before you agree to the replacement, make sure the mechanic understands you expect the original part returned to you.
Get what you came for – the rest can wait
Watch out for the old “bait and switch” routine. In this case, you come in for an advertised special, like a $19.95 oil change. Then you’re told you need new brake pads or other costly repairs. When that happens, thank the employee for their recommendation, but firmly tell them you agreed only to the advertised special and will have your regular mechanic take a look at the car.
Get an estimate before the mechanic begins
Another unethical practice is overcharging, so always ask for estimates up front. If your mechanic’s prices seem out of line, ask why. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, find someone else. Also, some unscrupulous garages will charge tax on labor in addition to the parts. This is illegal, and it just puts more of your money in their pockets. Check your bill carefully before paying to make sure the tax is calculated based upon parts only, not the total amount.
With these tips, you can walk in to any mechanic’s shop with a punch list of items to watch for and things to expect of your mechanic. Like all quality service industries, your auto repair place and your mechanic should be someone you can trust and rely on to give you accurate, fair information. And, when you are upfront with your expectations, it certainly can be.
This article is for educational purposes only. Tulsa FCU makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as legal, tax or financial advice. Nor does the information directly relate to our products and/or services terms and conditions.