How to Avoid Auto Repair Rip-Offs: 10 Essential Tips

There’s probably only one thing worse than having something brake on your car: having the mechanic cheating you out $700 to fix it. The truth is that the line between having a problem diagnosed and getting fixed is a more like a gap the width of the Mississippi. It’s a constant battle between you and the mechanic and in these pressing economic times you can ill-afford to get ripped off. This is why I have compiled these 10 money-saving, rip-off-mechanic-busting tips, to help you get back on the road without losing your shirt.

1. Do Your Homework
You should try to do some reading on your car problem before you take it into a mechanic for diagnosis and repairs. You may be desperate to have your car fixed but doing this background reading is important. Your owner’s manual will be able to give you some insight into what might be wrong. The aim of doing this level of early fact-finding is to at least be able to challenge the mechanic when an attempt is made to fix something that doesn’t need fixing.

2. Communicate Clearly And Set Milestones For Repairs
When you first engage the mechanic take care to communicate the problem clearly. A good mechanic will ask you a few questions and let you develop a clear picture with which to form a judgement on a problem. One that is aimed at ripping you off will almost always ask leading questions, none of which allow them to zero in on the problem. The more you are tell the mechanic about the problem, the quicker they can figure things out and get you going again.

Another important part of managing the engagement and avoiding problems involves setting clear goals or milestones for the completion. The best mechanics will only be able to estimate this timetable but at least get that estimate upfront. This will prevent the mechanic from offering the hackneyed excuse, “the job took longer than expected” and thus will cost more.

3. Get The Scope Of Work Set Out (Clearly) In Writing

The key to keeping track and managing the cost of repairs is to know upfront what things might cost. Parts are pretty static and so if a mechanic says you need a new fuel filter this can be clearly ascertained. The labor involved in fitting it as well as making any other connecting repairs will have some level of dynamism. This dynamism however should not preclude a mechanic from laying out a detailed cost estimate for the entire job.

4. Don’t Take Shortcuts (They Cost More In The Long Run)
If your car is out of warranty then you might be tempted to take your car to a lower-end mechanic in order to save costs. This is seldom a wise move as such mechanics rarely have the expertise to deal with the problem well. Some even botch the job; leading to even greater problems. If the trouble you have requires a sound diagnosis and repair then treat it accordingly by taking it into a reputable mechanic or repair shop.

5. Service History Is Important (Don’t Leave Home Without It)
A good record of the repairs for your vehicle is also an important part of keeping costs down. By presenting a detailed set of records, a mechanic can more quickly run through the problem. Perhaps the current problem is linked to a faulty part that was put in earlier; or perhaps an earlier problem fixed wasn’t done properly and thus now requires redoing. A good set of records also helps the mechanic to make a quicker diagnosis, thus speeding up the repair process.

6. Do A Quick Background Check
These days the internet makes it so easy to find out if a mechanic or repair shop has a good reputation. A quick check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Yelp can let you know if the intended mechanic or repair shop is worth your time.

7. Insist On Authentic Spare Parts
Some mechanics will charge you for parts that are expensive and then turn round and use inferior parts. The thinking is once it is under the hood or welded firmly in place you won’t know any different. Protect yourself against this practice by insisting that original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are used.

8. How Competent Is Your Mechanic?
Knowing the credentials of your mechanic is super important. The most recognizable accreditation is with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (A.S.E). Mechanics have to past a written test and demonstrate at least 2 years of practical experience in order to use the designation. Enquiring about this qualification does two things: firstly it lets them know that you are serious about competence and won’t take shoddy work and lastly, it gives you the peace of mind to hand over the keys and walk away.

9. Does The Mechanic Or Repair Shop Have Experience With Your Particular Vehicle?
The rudiments off automobile repair have certain conventions across most types of vehicles. But the difference between fixing a car and fixing a truck can be night and day—especially if we are talking modern vehicles. If you walk onto the work area and all you see are vehicles unlike your own, you may want find out what level of expertise exist inside the shop with your particular vehicle.

10. Do A Surprise Check-Up
This one is rarely considered by most people but can help a great deal in keeping the mechanic or repair shop on its toes. By dropping by to check the progress of work as opposed to phoning you can see first-hand what’s really going on. At the very least they’ll know you are alert and not very easy to rip off.

Armed with these powerful tips you should be able to confidently select a mechanic and have your car repaired with very little hitches.

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