We all like to think of ourselves as savvy shoppers. These days, researching a product requires just a few keystrokes, delivering a plethora of knowledge and vendors competing for your business. Unfortunately, the car repair world doesn’t quite work that way. For car owners in need of a quick repair job, most of us are at the mercy of whatever mechanic is kind enough to take a look at our vehicle. While the vast majority of repair shops out there are good businesses that simply want to keep you on the road and smiling, there are a few bad apples out there. Here is DriverSide’s list of three common auto repair rip-offs.
Padding the bill
A tried-and-true trick for less than trustworthy shops is to pad your bill with many excess charges. Let’s say you bring your car in for a brake job. A mechanic looking to make a few more bucks off of you will come back with a laundry list of life-or-death repairs and do their best to convince you the work absolutely must be done. How much can this cost you? While it shouldn’t be more than $100 for brake pads, a few quick additions can have your bill sitting pretty at over $500 if you aren’t careful.
The best way to protect yourself from extended repair time and unnecessary work is get everything you want done in writing before leaving the shop. If the mechanic still comes back with a massive list of extra work, keep an eye out for anything that seems bogus. Trust your gut. If it sounds odd, don’t hesitate to call up another shop or the dealer from which you purchased your car and ask for their opinion.
Closely related to padding the bill is overselling. Some shops run service specials -- say, an oil change for $10 or complete A/C service for $30. Those would-be deals are just an excuse to get you in the door and your car in their garage. Once there, anything and everything that could need replacing is worked up into an intimidating document that makes your car look like it’s on death’s doorstep. That $30 deal is suddenly costing you over $300 with all of these would-be repairs. Less scrupulous shops will simply go ahead and do the work, sticking you with a bill that’s many times what you saved over having your car serviced somewhere reputable.
The easiest way to keep yourself from getting stuck with massive repairs you didn’t need to begin with is to simply pass on these too good to be true deals. Again, trust yourself and stick with the dealer from which you purchased your car. If the shop is offering the same service for less than half the price, there’s probably a reason, unless they mailed you a coupon for customer loyalty. You’re better off going to a shop you know you can trust, even if it looks like it may cost you a little more.
Repair by replacement
Today, most well equipped shops have an arsenal of diagnostic tools at the ready to help quickly and accurately figure out what’s wrong with your vehicle. That said, not every shop will have the latest and greatest in equipment to detect your problem, which is why sticking with your dealer is usually your best bet when it comes to car repair. Still, those that don’t may attempt to cure what ails your car through a guess and check system, replacing parts that are common problems until they hit on a solution. Needless to say, this can result in perfectly good bits getting tossed in the trashcan and your bill, complete with hours of excess labor, swelling to eye-widening proportions.
If you suspect your vehicle is in a repair by replacement shop, get it out as soon as possible. Odds are you won’t be able to get your money back for the “repairs” that did nothing to fix your problem, so minimizing the amount of unnecessary work is the best you can do. Get your car and take it to the dealer or a reputable mechanic as soon as possible.