Whether it’s unfair pricing, shoddy workmanship, or improper diagnoses, don’t let auto mechanics take you for a ride.
Getting scammed is a fact of life. It happens to everyone. From health care to auto repair, upselling and overpricing can be found everywhere.
But the more you know, the less likely you are to be hoodwinked. Unfortunately, most people have very little car knowledge and experience. After you buy a car, it’s important to find an auto repair shop that you trust as soon as possible. This will give your mechanic time to get to know you and your vehicle. It will also help prevent breakdowns and save you a lot of money in the long run.
This article is all about how to avoid getting scammed by mechanics and auto repair shops, but the information can also help you develop a fraud firewall for all sorts of snake oil salesmanship.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed by Mechanics and Auto Repair Shops
In addition to online reviews and testimonials, ask your family and friends for recommendations. Finding a full-service repair shop is preferred, but there are four main types of shops:
- Auto Repair Chains
Once you find a shop, check for the following:
- Years in Business – The longer the shop has been in business, the less likely you are to be scammed.
- Better Business Bureau – Look up the business on the Better Business Bureau, state Department of Consumer Affairs, or the Attorney General’s office. It’s also a good idea to check social networks and online consumer sites.
- Appearance and Amenities – A clean shop and professional appearance can be deceiving, but it can also give you a general idea of the shop’s attention to detail and customer service.
- Posted Credentials – Look for ASE and AAA certifications in the shop or on their website. If they aren’t posted, ask about them.
- Warranties – Reputable shops will offer parts and labor warranties on their work. Ask about warranty information before agreeing to any service or repairs.
- Commissioned Employees – Avoid shops that pay their mechanics and employees based on commission. There is simply too much pressure to upsell and suggest repairs that aren’t necessary.
Swing by Local Auto Parts Store for Free Check Engine Light Service
If your check engine warning light comes on, don’t automatically drive to a mechanic. They will most likely charge you an engine diagnostic fee and recommend services you may not need. Many auto parts stores will run a computer diagnostic test free of charge. The computer diagnostic test is a good way to get a quick and free assessment of your vehicle. Call the auto parts store before you go to see if they offer this service.
Always Deal with a Reputable Mechanic or Auto Shop
Recently, there was a story on WSMV Channel 4 about a Craigslist scam after a self-professed “mechanic” asked a car owner to buy $170 worth of parts only later to sell them at AutoZone.
If you didn’t already know, never turn to Craigslist for work on your car (or home for that matter). While you can still get scammed from mechanic and auto shops, there are more avenues for you to complain and get your money back if the job goes wrong, such as the Better Business Bureau.
When you are dealing with strangers, you have no idea who you are dealing with. Similarly, it’s also a bad idea to buy a used car from Craigslist or any other private seller. The lesson here to is always use a verified company for all of your car services.
One way to avoid a bad mechanic or auto repair shop is to ask your friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. If they felt ripped off by a mechanic, it’s best to stay away.
Look for an ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) or AAA (American Automobile Association) Certification
Use the AAA approved auto repair facilities search to find information on over 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Also, visit AAA.com/Repair for nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities.
Auto repair is an extremely demanding, and increasingly technological job that requires ongoing training and certification. In order to receive an ASE certification, mechanics must pass a written test and demonstrate a minimum two years on hands-on industry experience. Every five years, the technician must get retested to remain certified.
Those who pass all eight core tests of mechanical automotive repair are given the title of Certified Master Automobile Technician.
Usually, auto repair shops will post technician certifications and credentials in the shop or on their website for easy viewing. If you don’t see any certifications, ask about them. They should be happy to tell you all about their credentials. If you get a roundabout answer or unsatisfactory response, take your business elsewhere.
Check Owner’s Manual for Maintenance Schedule
If you are wondering how often you should have your car serviced, don’t automatically trust your mechanic. The answer is very simple: CHECK THE OWNER’S MANUAL.
This alone can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs and service costs.
Your owner’s manual will also tell you where and how to change your windshield wiper fluid, coolant, and oil. If you want to save yourself some money and learn a little about how your vehicle works, check the owner’s manual for simple instructions on how to change the air filter, motor oil, tires, and much more.
Shop Around – Go in for a Minor Job First
Don’t trust a major repair job to a mechanic or shop you don’t know. Like most things in life, it’s a good idea to shop around first before making a commitment.
After checking ASE/AAA certifications, social media, family, friends, and complaints on the internet, test the shop with a simple oil change or tire rotation. This will give you the opportunity to speak with the shop employees, inspect the shop, and get a general feel for their quality of work.
Be careful about the infamous upsells. Don’t go in for a simple oil change and leave with an engine flush, new fuel injectors or spark plugs.
Be Prepared with Information Before You Go
For the best service from an auto repair shop, write down all of your symptoms and observations, including what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Unless you are familiar with cars, avoid any technical jargon. If you have ever listened to CarTalk with Click and Clack, you know that a simple description of symptoms, sounds, and smells can often yield a correct diagnosis.
Gather as much information as possible. Even if you think some observations may be irrelevant, list them anyway. Clear communication is key when it comes to receiving the best and most efficient automotive care.
Once you tell the mechanic what you have observed, ask them to explain their diagnosis. They should be able to give you details about the part in question and how the car is supposed to work. If they are having difficulties explaining how your car works, alarm bells should sound.
Get Quotes in Writing (Upfront/Straightforward Pricing)
A reputable auto repair shop will always give you the price in writing before any work begins. If there are any unforeseen costs, they should always get your permission for the additional parts and labor costs.
After you get the quote, it’s a good idea to do your research before agreeing to the costs. Never agree to extra services without some research first. For instance, always compare the mechanic’s recommendations with the information in the owner’s manual.
A written quote also enables you to dispute the final cost if it is a different amount. If you don’t have this piece of paper, you are at the mechanic’s mercy.
Maintain Good Records
No matter where you get your car serviced, keep records of all your auto-related services and repair. This is a good idea for many reasons, including selling/trading in your vehicle at a later date and making sure all of your warranties remain valid.
Keep Up On Regular Vehicle Maintenance
Again, check your owner’s manual for your vehicle maintenance schedule. This includes regular oil changes, tire care, and other fluids and maintenance schedules.
By keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, you can avoid expensive trips to the mechanic and be better able to detect scams.
Voice Your Complaints
Speak out if you’ve been wronged. This can help others avoid a similar fate in addition to helping you get your money back. If you are dealing with a verified company, you can report your case to local and state consumer protection offices, the BBB, and the Federal Trade Commission.
When you appeal to these resources, there’s a good chance of getting some or all of your money back.
Auto Simple Mechanics
The in-house mechanics at Auto Simple know a thing or two about auto service and repair. We subject all of our vehicles to a thorough 180-point quality inspection. By controlling the quality levels and meticulously reconditioning our vehicles, we hope to exceed all your expectations.
We also offer FREE OIL CHANGES every 90 days for the life of your loan!*
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our car experts at Auto Simple:
Chattanooga, TN – (423) 551-3600
Cleveland, TN – (423) 472-2000
Dayton, TN – (423) 775-4600
Dalton, GA – (706) 217-2277