Is My Mechanic Being Honest?

Car MechanicDisreputable auto service centers have, unfortunately, become commonplace. And while some scams are easy to spot (“We’ll just replace you’re indicator fluid and rotate your mirrors, and you’ll be on your way…”) others can be nearly impossible for the average person to pick up on. David Sturtz, CEO of RepairPal put it best when he said that “car repair is one of the classic cases where the consumer is at an extreme informational disadvantage.” (CNET.com, Rafe Needleman) Mechanics know more than we do. What’s more, they know that they know more than we do; and a great deal of them have no problem exploiting that advantage. But there are steps that every customer can take to keep from being ripped off by a less than honest car repair job.

For starters, be as specific as possible. Describe the problem in detail, including when the symptoms began, and what, if anything, makes them worse. If the problem only rears its head while the car is in motion, ask the mechanic to take a test drive with you. However, be careful not to mention a possible diagnosis. A less than scrupulous mechanic will implement any and all of your suggestions- regardless of whether or not they will be effective- and stick you with the padded bill.

If your mechanic tells you that a part needs to be replaced, don’t be afraid to ask for evidence. Ask to see the faulty part, and make sure you let them know that you’d like to take the broken part with you. (One of the most common auto repair scams is charging for work that is never actually done. Asking for the broken part and to see the newly installed one can help eliminate this problem)

Beware of the mechanic shop that charges for unauthorized work. Always request a detailed and itemized estimate of all work that is to be done, and let the mechanic know that if they plan on varying from this plan, you would like to be notified before any other work begins. Never sign a work order that isn’t completely filled out, and if you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation. Also, let them know beforehand if you have any kind of special maintenance or   that will be helping to cover the cost of the repair.

Finally, don’t forget a consumer’s most important tool: the second opinion. If a mechanic’s explanation seems vague, or you are unsure about what they are saying, take the car to another shop and see if you get a similar diagnosis. And most importantly, if you find an honest mechanic shop, reward their integrity by staying loyal. Recommending them to friends or acquaintances will let your mechanic know that you appreciate their service.

2 Comments

  • August 28, 2009 - 3:35 am | Permalink

    Have been ripped of lots of times and just wont use that garage again, it would be better if garages were monitored by random government checks and those found to be untrustworthy having their licences removed.

  • RIdGy
    October 28, 2009 - 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I do not recall a time where I have been ripped off my a mechanic…oh wait, sorry, “dishonest”. But I usually ask a friend or maybe look at their ratings to ease my mind.

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