There’s More to Getting an Auto Repair Estimate Than Meets the Eye
When your car breaks down, it’s usually accompanied by a sinking feeling. You know that it’s almost a certainty that it’s going to be a costly affair which might easily throw a wrench into your budget. If you’re lucky enough to know a dependable and honest auto repair mechanic, at least you know you won’t be paying more than necessary. If not, you might be maxing out your credit card to get back on the road. Here, we offer some information on getting an honest and accurate auto repair estimate.
Just as with any type of business, you’ll find a mix of both ethical and unscrupulous auto repair shops. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to discern which are which in auto repair businesses. It’s a fact that dishonest shops have a number of tricks up their sleeve. For example, some shop owners instruct their mechanics to give an initially reasonable auto repair estimate. Most car owners take this estimate as the final cost.
Once you have your car in the shop, you’re stuck. While the original auto repair estimate was $200, once your car is up on the rack and the repairs are begun, you may get a call from the repair shop, advising you that the problem is more extensive than first thought. What started out as a starter replacement, has suddenly burgeoned into a complicated affair. Not only is the solenoid bad as well, but while doing a routine check on other components, it’s found that your battery is not getting enough juice. Now you also need an alternator. This is what you’re told. The cost becomes $400. You are now in a take it or leave it position. Your car is in pieces.
You can ask to have the bad parts returned to you, thinking that will offer proof that the work was really required. What you don’t know is that the unethical auto repair shop often stockpiles bad parts just for this purpose. The ruined part you receive may well have come from another vehicle! The mechanic, who is instructed by the shop owner to practice such deceit, wants to keep his job and thus goes along with the program.
So, how are you to protect yourself from this type of auto repair estimate scam? Car problems usually turn up without warning. If you have only one car, it’s imperative that you get it fixed immediately. However, you can spend just a few hours and substantially weed out the disreputable repair shops. Get online and Google ‘scams repair-shop-name your-town’. If the repair shop comes up in your results, check out those links. You may find complaints from angry customers on message boards and auto forums. Check the Better Business Bureau records for consumer complaints.
If you know someone who has auto testing equipment, ask them to check your car out. If the testing procedure indicates that your starter is bad and everything else is in proper working order, you won’t be fooled into thinking you need several other costly parts and additional labor.
Better yet, become familiar with your car yourself, before a repair is needed. Buy one of the Chilton’s books and learn the jargon. Study the diagrams. This helps avoid having a mechanic overwhelm you with jargon, faulty reasoning and other deceptive sales talk. You might well save a lot of money if you invest in some basic auto testing equipment that allows you to eliminate that alternator as a problem.
Although it takes a little extra time, it’s worthwhile to get two or three auto repair estimates from different shops. The estimate may vary substantially from one another. Surely there’s a reason. Inquire of each shop why a component has been included, or excluded, if that component shows up on another shop’s auto repair estimate. The attitude of the mechanic and the explanations offered can be revealing.…