How to avoid being ripped off by a mechanic
Assume this- you decide to have your car fixed by a local mechanic instead of your car’s service shop, thinking the charges will be cheaper. You explain to him the problems with your car, he inspects it and gives you a time frame of when it will be fixed. Everything is doing fine, but when it’s time for you to pay for his services the invoice shows an amount which seems incorrect. Sound familiar?
A lot of car owners usually prefer mechanics to repair their car for several reasons. One of the most compelling is that their car is an old (sometimes phased out) model and service centers have no spare parts. But how can you tell when he is trying to charge you more? Here are some valuable tips to help you avoid being ripped off by a mechanic:
Know the repairs or tuning needed
Take a note of everything you need to get fixed and research its “usual cost” on the Internet, at your local repair shop or service center. Have an idea of the price range and keep it in mind before walking into a mechanic's shop. Jalopnik, one of the top-rated automotive websites in the world, listed the top car repairs that often cost more than they should. They include:
- A simple oil or tire change
- Fuel injector cleaning
- A safety inspection that turns into repairs
- Carbon cleaning
- A simple paint fix
- Transmission repair
- Replacing the air filter
Some of these so called fixes can be done by yourself- especially changing your oil and tires. If you don’t have time to learn, you can always ask around for quotes without compromising on the quality of the service.
Watch your language
Whether the mechanic is repairing your car in your garage or in his shop, always watch your language. Do not give away that you are not knowledgeable enough about the damage. Be concrete when explaining the damage and never use words that make you look uncertain such as “I know it’s probably something bad.” This is one way some mischievous mechanics catch their victims.
To know if the mechanic is fishing for victims you can always observe how he talks to you. He will try to be technical and just throw in “mechanical” jargon that may confuse you. Chances are he is trying to gauge if you know about car problems or if you have experience being in an auto repair shop.
Spot unnecessary repairs
Mechanics work on a per “project basis” which means the more parts of your car they need to fix, the more they can charge you. As such, many are tempted to offer their customers repairs that are not necessarily needed. For example, you just want an oil change but the mechanic insists that your transmission needs to be fixed. Because you are very trusting, you agree without knowing that you are being ripped off.
The trick here is to spot unnecessary repairs. Many new car owners fall into this trap. The most basic solution is to take advantage of the experience of car drivers who have been around longer than you. Consult them first and ask for their advice. When you are talking to the mechanic, don’t just agree with his suggestions. Follow up with the question- why do I need this repair and how much more will it cost? If you are not convinced with his explanation, insist that you only need the initial repair.
Don’t pay for incomplete repairs
One of the most common tricks that untrustworthy mechanics do is to actually charge you for repairs that were not carried out. Often, they just invent damages or malfunctions that they say need to be fixed immediately, otherwise it can cause severe driving discomfort. The only way to prevent this is to scrutinize every item they bill you for.
If you are doubtful of the repairs, you can always consult another mechanic, only this time make sure that the shop he works for is more reputable. If you find out that you have been had, you can file a complaint with government agencies, but make sure that it is well documented and is supported by evidence.
One of the sure fire ways of ensuring you won’t get ripped off is to take pictures of your car before landing at the mechanic’s shop. Compare the before and after repair photos so you can be sure that they billed you correctly.
Good mechanic vs. bad mechanic
Like everything else in the automotive industry, not all mechanics are out there to rip you off. There are also those who want to help you by providing quality repair services. So how do you separate the good from the bad? Here are some questions you can ask about the mechanic:
- Does he have many clients?
- have the cars in their garage been there for an eternity?
- What is the shop’s history? Have any of your friends been a client?
- What are their rates? Do they also charge hourly on diagnoses alone?
At the end of the day, the only thing that can save you from being cheated by a mechanic is to be observant and have prior knowledge of some of their schemes.