How can I protect myself from Auto-Repair Scams?

While according to statistics about 70% of auto-repair shops are honest that still leaves 30 % that are not. Below are some ideas on how to avoid being scammed and how to choose a reputableauto-repair shop.

What are some red flags of a shop that is trying to scam you?

A good shop will be neat, organized and very clean; not only are these qualities important for quality repair work, but they’re signs of management who really care about the impression they make on customers.

Trust your gut. If you walk into a place and are not impressed with what you see or hear, move on.

Also be wary of a shop that can’t give you an up-front estimate. Quoting a diagnostic fee with a repair estimate to come later is perfectly acceptable. Often the shop doesn’t know what’s wrong until they’ve spent an hour or two examining the vehicle. If a shop won’t give you any numbers at all, drive away (if you can).

How can you tell if you’re getting ripped off? What should you look out for?

If you’ve chosen a recommended shop that’s been around a while, and that employs ASE-trained technicians, you’re not likely to get ripped off. Automotive Service Excellence or ASE certification is achieved only after rigorous training and testing, and shows a training commitment on the part of the mechanics and the businesses that hire them.

Most shops are run by dedicated owners with a vested interest in customer satisfaction. That said, anytime a seemingly minor problem like an oil leak or a funny noise turns into a major component replacement (“you need a new transmission/engine”) you’re wise to get a second opinion. You’re also entitled to any component the shop removes from your car (with a few exceptions for what’s known as a “core”, which is a part the shop has to send in for cash credit on a new part). If you think something’s been erroneously replaced, ask for the part and take it to another expert. If that expert contends the part didn’t need replacement, you may have legal recourse.

Some tips to help people be prepared when they walk in to get their cars fixed.

First off, don’t put off repairs. If your car is making a funny noise, get it checked out or the repair bill could be much higher down the road. Ignoring squeaky front brakes for six months can mean that instead of a set of brake pads, you needed a complete front and rear brake job and a $800 repair bill.

Second, your vehicle’s user manual includes a recommended maintenance schedule. If you follow it, there’s a good chance your technician will alert you to potential problems before they become too severe. This gives you the opportunity to replace worn parts before they become a real problem. That said; don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation or to see the part in question before you approve an expensive repair you don’t understand.

Lastly, understand that a good mechanic is a highly trained specialist, and car parts are expensive. You shouldn’t expect his labor or the replacement components to be dirt cheap. Be realistic about what things cost, choose a shop wisely, have some cash stashed for vehicle maintenance and chances are you’ll have a positive repair experience.

How do you choose a reputable auto-repair shop?

The best source of advice recommendations is from friends and neighbors. Choose a shop that employs ASE-certified technicians. The length of time the shop has been in business is also important because a shop that cheats customers won’t last very long in today’s age of instant communication.

Don’t be afraid of using a highly recommended small, independent. Some of the flashy, big-chain repair shops make their money on volume, not quality of work, and they’re more likely to hire minimally trained technicians. A big-chain repair facility may offer a nationally recognized warranty on repairs, but a good small shop will work with you to ensure the work is done correctly and at a fair price. They have a vested interest in keeping you as a customer.

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