The best way to avoid auto repair rip-offs is to be prepared. Knowing how your vehicle works and how to identify common mechanical problems is a good beginning. It is also important to know how to select a good auto repair shop, the right questions to ask and your consumer rights.
- Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual for your type of driving. Some repair shops create their own maintenance schedules, which call for more frequent servicing than the manufacturer’s recommendations. Compare shop maintenance schedules with those recommended in your owner’s manual. Ask the repair shop to explain – and make sure you understand why it recommends service more frequently than the recommended schedule.
- Many parts on your vehicle are interrelated. Ignoring maintenance can lead to trouble.
- Neglecting even simple routine maintenance, such as changing the oil or checking the coolant can lead to poor fuel economy, unreliability or costly breakdowns. It also may invalidate your warranty.
Choosing a repair shop:
- Ask for recommendations from friends, family and other people you trust. Look for an auto repair shop before you need one to avoid being rushed into a last-minute decision.
- Shop around by telephone for the best deal, and compare warranty policies on repairs.
- Check with our office or the Better Business Bureau to see whether there is a record of complaints about a particular repair shop.
- Make sure the shop will honor your vehicle’s warranty.
- Look for shops that display a certification – like an Automotive Service Excellence seal. Certification generally indicates that some or all of the technicians meet basic standards of knowledge and competence in specific technical areas. Make sure the certifications are current, but remember that certification alone is no guarantee of good or honest work.
- Ask if the technician or shop has experience working on the same make or model vehicle as yours.
- Before you arrange to have any work performed, ask how the shop prices its work. Some shops charge a flat rate for labor on auto repairs. This published rate is based on an independent or manufacturer’s estimate of the time required to complete repairs. Others charge on the basis of the actual time the technician worked on the repair.
- If you need expensive or complicated repairs, or if you have questions about recommended work, consider getting a second opinion.
- Find out if there will be a diagnostic charge if you decide to have the work performed elsewhere. Many repair shops charge for diagnostic time.
- If you decide to get the work done, ask for a written estimate. The estimate should detail what is to be repaired, the parts needed and the anticipated labor charge. Get a signed copy.