How Avoid Being Scammed By Your Mechanic
When it comes to auto repair, people tend to feel vulnerable. And why shouldn’t they? The vehicle repair industry is not regulated in British Columbia, which means there is no official association or governing body protecting consumers specifically from shoddy work done by some auto repair shops.
Pair this with the fact that most people are overwhelmed by what’s under their hoods, and you’ve got a nervous consumer base when it comes to getting their vehicles repaired. This feeling is intensified by the fact that now more than ever, cars and trucks are getting fancier and fancier, with their multiple built-in cameras, sensors, gizmos and gadgets.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know how it all works just to save yourself from getting taken for a ride at the repair shop. Just follow our tips for making sure you’re not being scammed when it comes to maintaining your vehicle.
Know What to Look For
First, start by recognizing the ways you might fall victim to a scam. There are a few general ways a mechanic might try and take advantage of you, without even having to get too creative.
Some places might go as far as damaging your car on purpose and then reporting to you that some parts need replacing, while others might sneak in some hidden fees onto the work order, or worse, refuse to present you with a formal work order, or neglect to call you before proceeding to fix something else they “found wrong” along the way.
Other shady techniques include recommending repairs well before the car’s manufacturer calls for them, or suggesting ways you can save a few bucks by going through the insurance company when there is no claim to make.
Are these all scams, per say? No, not all of them, but it’s all sketchy stuff.
How to spot the rotten apples before taking a bite:
- Get Recommendations: If you can sense a big repair on the horizon, ask your friends and colleagues if they can recommend places, or if you can recall any of their recent horror stories, ask them to refresh your memory.
Put a call out on your social media pages or groups. Get a conversation going about who is good and who isn’t. You specifically want to know if their last technician stuck to their quoted price and completed the work on time and in good form. More importantly, how’s their vehicle running now?
- Get Researching: Now that you have a short list, it’s time to research your top choices for the job. This includes reading online reviews, which may or may not be comprehensive. Remember, online reviews can be falsified, and bad ones removed, so take them with a grain of salt.
Better yet, check to see if the places you’re looking at have had any activity on the Better Business Bureau. How long the shop has been around for is another good indicator of how reputable it is.
- Get Out Your Warranty: Your vehicle might still be under factory warranty, or covered by your extended coverage purchased at the time of sale. Dust off this information and find out if the work you require is covered. If so, you’re in luck!
That extended warranty might just end up paying for itself after all. Now make sure the shop you are looking to hire is authorized and experienced in dealing with insurance companies and warranties.
- Get a Work Order: This is a big one. A signed work order allows the shop to proceed with the work you have essentially hired them to do. Always get one, and read it closely! There is a lot less room for a shop to pull a fast one on you if there is a signed work order binding them to stay on point.
See that the work order outlines what is to be repaired/replaced, and the timeline of the work. Find out what brand names will be used, and are they new or used parts? Also make sure you verify the cost break down, and whether you’re looking at an hourly rate or a flat fee.
- Bonus Tip: Never, ever show up and reveal the top dollar you are willing to put towards a repair. For example, if you sense something is horribly wrong with your car and tell a mechanic you only have $1,000 to put towards the repair, the wrong person might just find ways to bring your bill up that high, even if all you needed was a new battery and some spark plugs.
- Get a Second Opinion: Once you’ve got a quote (work order), find out if its numbers are on target before signing. For example, find out how much a new set of premium winter tires SHOULD cost. Look up how often a timing belt ought to be replaced before blindly paying for it to be done. You’ll feel more comfortable reviewing a shop’s quotes if you have an idea of what they’re talking about. Knowledge is very powerful in these situations.
That’s it, then! You’ve done your research, now all that is left to do is trust that you’re in good hands. If you’re still feeling shaky, many mechanics will take you into the shop and show you exactly what is about to go down.
Once the work is done, save your paperwork so you can keep a tally of what wearable parts on your vehicle have been replaced and when. Also find out how long the work is guaranteed (under warranty) for.
With today’s informed consumers, it’s pretty tough to get away with scamming customers, but the sad truth is that it still happens. We hear horror stories from time to time, yet recognize it won’t take long for the bad reviews to start circulating, and then eventually, that’s it for the scammers. They are forced to shut their shops.
At Searles Auto Repair, we are proud of our great reputation that has helped our business thrive for more than three decades. We are fully authorized to perform warranty-approved maintenance on all makes of vehicles and look forward to helping you with your next auto repair. Call us today!