Car problems are always dreaded because repairs tend to be expensive, and few people are able to recognize when their mechanics are overselling them. While most auto technicians are trustworthy, there are exceptions. Some mechanics will recommend unnecessary parts and services; others will submit low-ball estimates knowing the customers’ final bills will far exceed them. These and other ploys have made consumers wary about repair garages.
In this article, we’ll explain how you can avoid being taken advantage of by your mechanic. While the following five tips cannot guarantee a problem-free service experience, they will help minimize the chances of your checkbook being exploited.
Organizations such as AAA and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certify car repair shops that meet their standards. These standards involve a shop’s customer service and satisfaction, level of training, cleanliness, experience, and other criteria. When you visit a repair garage, ask whether the facility has been approved by AAA or ASE. Also, ask if the mechanics on staff have been certified by either of these organizations. Approval and certification is a good sign of reliability and high-quality work.
Auto technicians realize that most consumers want estimates regarding the total cost associated with any given repair job. Some will present low-ball estimates in order to encourage customers to approve the work. Then, once they are under the hood – or, beneath the undercarriage – they “discover” additional parts that need to be replaced.
When you’re given an estimate, ask the auto shop employee to provide it in writing. Clarify how much room they have to work with in the event they find other problems. Also, let the person know that you expect to be called before the technician starts working on an item you have not specifically approved. This forces the garage to narrow their estimate, making it more reliable.
Many technicians are more adept at fixing automotive problems than communicating the nature of those problems to customers. For example, your mechanic may recommend that you replace your water pump while having the timing belt changed, even though the pump is working well. At first, it may seem as if the technician is merely trying to pad the invoice. But the recommendation may be a good once since the pump is often buried behind the belt. If you don’t understand the reason given for a recommended service, ask the person to clarify.
Most auto repair shops will recommend additional service items after inspecting your vehicle. Realize that such suggestions are usually made with good intentions. A trained mechanic will have developed a keen eye for parts that are working well, but showing signs of excessive wear. Realizing the customer will likely want to avoid another visit in the near future, he’ll recommend replacing such components.
For example, while working on your engine, he may notice your brake pads are worn. Or, while replacing your fuel pump, he might suggest replacing the fuel filter.
Sometimes, these recommendations are made for the sole purpose of increasing the shop’s profits. Ask whether you can postpone the work. If the technician attempts to pressure you, find another garage (and get a second opinion).
The worst time to look for a repair shop is when you desperately need repairs. At that point, your options may be severely limited due to a lack of time and transportation. Start your search while your vehicle is running well. Test a few garages by asking the mechanics to perform small maintenance items, such as changing the oil, spark plugs, and brake pads.
Note their professionalism and pricing. Are they fair? Do they treat you with respect? Do they apply high-pressured sales tactics, or do they make helpful recommendations? When the time comes to have major repair work performed, you’ll know where to take your car. Most importantly, you’ll have confidence that the technicians will not try to take advantage of you.
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