With the complexity of today’s vehicles, it’s nearly impossible to repair them ourselves. So we increasingly rely on mechanics, some of whom don’t always have our best interests at heart. That’s why Kentucky and other states have consumer protection laws.
As Joe Bartunek, owner of the Union Street Garage in San Francisco, stated in Mintlife Blog’s article on avoiding car repair scams, “Many car repair shops are in the business of selling auto repair, not the business of repairing autos.”
Needless to say, many people are worried that their mechanic may gouge them by overinflating a repair cost, or recommending needless repairs. Let’s first review how to ensure that your mechanic doesn’t gouge you:
- Ask for recommendations about reputable mechanics from people you trust.
- Review your owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with the services recommended at each mileage level.
- Only go to a mechanic who is ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) or AAA (American Automobile Association) certified. Membership in the Better Business Bureau and licensing by the state of Kentucky are also recommended.
- Inspect the garage to ensure it’s well-lit and well-maintained. The staff should be friendly, polite, and willing to fully answer all your questions.
- Request an itemized written estimate listing the specific work to be done. Never accept a verbal estimate or extremely vague written estimate (“Fix engine – $800”)
- Never make a generalized service request (“I need a tune-up”) to an unfamiliar mechanic. You’re giving him an opportunity to perform unnecessary services.
- Make sure you receive a detailed invoice listing all work done and parts supplied.
Assuming the worst case scenario does happen, and you’re billed an amount that you consider excessive. What should you do?
First, talk to your mechanic and voice your concerns. If he is reputable and interested in further business, he’ll probably be willing to work with you. If he insists his charges are accurate, consult another mechanic to verify whether the fees assessed and services performed were reasonable.
If you’re still unsatisfied, tell the mechanic you plan to contact the Better Business Bureau. Whether he’s a member or not, he’ll likely want to avoid a negative BBB rating.
If all else fails, contact a lawyer familiar with Kentucky’s consumer protection laws. While mechanics do have a right to charge what the market will bear, those fees can’t be unconscionable, especially for services that were unnecessary.
When dealing with mechanics, you – as the buyer – should beware. You need to take every precaution to avoid being ripped off.
But, if you do get gouged, there is help available.
Now it’s your turn. Have a story of a mechanic ripping you off? What did you do? (For privacy’s sake, please don’t name names, but tell us about it in the comments.)