Among the many complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission and also tracked by the Consumer Federation of America, anything to do with automobiles ranked highest. Those complaints included buying a car, leasing a car, problems with towing companies, false advertising and leasing problems. Also receiving much attention were car repairs, an entirely manageable problem if you know how to address it.
1. Find a good mechanic. Even better, find a reliable garage. They are out there and can usually be discovered by word of mouth. They are also the places you drive past with parking lots filled with cars and multiple bays busy getting the work done. Look around online, check out local reviews and ask people you know about their experience with the shop.
2. Review shop licenses. To work on cars, repair shops must be licensed by the state and meet local laws. You want its technicians to be certified too, holding Automotive Service Excellence certification. If you are an auto club member, you can find out if the shop is approved. Generally, seek out shops that are experienced working with your type of car. A German auto shop, for instance, would have experience working on a range of vehicles including Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen and BMW products.
3. Obtain shop rates. Most shops publish their rate information prominently in keeping with state law. You also want to know how close an estimate is to the final price. Some states require garages to give you a published estimate for repairs, requiring shops to contact you if their price exceeds that estimate. Find out if the shop uses original equipment manufacturer parts, reconditioned parts or third-party parts.
4. Shop around and compare. Estimates for minor repairs should be similar, with oil changes and transmission flushes costing about the same wherever you go. The more expensive repairs such as replacing cylinder heads, fixing a transmission or installing a new exhaust system can vary greatly. Get at least three estimates to compare before making your decision.
5. Get your repair bill. With the work now done, you want to review the repair bill to see what you were charged for parts, for labor and for disposal. Add these costs up and include taxes. If there is a discrepancy, let the shop owner know about it. Many shops also provide the old parts for your examination. This can be a good procedure when using a new garage.
If you get ripped off, attempt to resolve the matter with the garage owner. If a reasonable solution cannot be found, then notify the Better Business Bureau and your state attorney’s general office of the problem. Generally, you can avoid car repair rip offs provided that you are informed, proactive and hold your ground.