Monday, May 16, 2011

Tips for Avoiding Car Repair Scams

Probably everyone who drives has overpaid for repairs at one time or another. Sometimes this is unavoidable because you need your car repaired and you don't have a car warranty. So when you take it or have it towed to the nearest shop, it may be one of the most expensive in the area and you have no choice but to pay full price.

If you have time, call around to get estimates over the phone.
Honest owners will give you an idea of the cost of a repair based on the year, make and model of other repairs they have done. For example, replacing a fuel pump for a 2005 Dodge Caravan should be about the same no matter where you take it. Labor in most cities will be fairly competitive. The cost of parts might vary based on the brand. So if one shop quotes you $700 and another $1,200, you would naturally question that price.

Your best defense against this scam is having a good car warranty. But if you don't have a car warranty, a good backup are questions and your powers of observation. For example, does the shop have a business license hanging on the wall? Is the shop a member of the local chamber of commerce or the better business bureau? How long has the shop been in business? What level of expertise does the shop have working on your year, make and model?

Question the labor rate and find out whether or not parts are marked up. Parts often are. Question the technician who is doing the work about exactly what he is going to do and how long it will take. After all, if your doctor was going to perform surgery on your body, wouldn't you want to know everything he was going to do? Treat the mechanic as a surgeon who is doing surgery on your car.

Then get it all in writing. Otherwise it is easy for a shop to claim that your car needed much more than originally thought, giving the technician license to replace perfectly good parts and charge you a lot of money.

Also, beware the fast-talking face man who is vague about the repair and doesn't know how much it will cost. If you feel uncomfortable about the transaction, just tell him that you need some time to consider all you have heard. You may want to get another estimate somewhere else instead of committing.

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