Avoiding Auto Repair Scams

Across the nation, auto repair scams lead as a top consumer complaint. From bait-and-switch techniques to shoddy repair work, disreputable auto repair shops often leave customers in a vulnerable position. Avoiding these auto repair scams can be difficult, especially when faced with a car that won’t run and a limited supply of reputable auto repair centers. There are ways, however, to ensure that your repair work is done in a professional and ethical manner.

Be Proactive
Don’t wait until the engine falls out of your car before you find a mechanic. Doing so ensures that you will be at the mercy of whatever repair shop you take your car to-and therefore more vulnerable to auto repair scams. Ask friends and family members to recommend auto repair shops.

In addition to friends and family, look for endorsements. Groups such as AAA and ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) recommend and endorse auto repair shops that meet their stringent guidelines. For example, ASE certified mechanics are required to pass comprehensive exams and recertify every five years.

Investigate Complaints
In this day and age, it is much easier to research prospective mechanics than in the past. Once you’ve chosen an auto repair shop, don’t be afraid to check its credentials and reputation. Contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against your chosen auto repair shop. In addition, your State’s Attorney General may also provide valuable information.

Request a Written Estimate
Okay. So you never got around to finding a good auto repair shop, and your car is broken down. Now what? Are you destined to be the next victim of an auto repair scam? If you find yourself with a car that won’t run, ask the mechanic for an itemized written estimate. Make sure that the estimate specifies what is to be repaired, parts and prices, as well as anticipated labor charges.

Get a Second Opinion
Once you have your written estimate, take your car elsewhere for a second opinion-and a second estimate.

Ask for Your Parts Back
Did your auto repair shop replace any belts, hoses, or filters? Was the alternator bad? No matter what you have repaired, make it clear to the mechanic that you want your old parts back (unless they are environmentally unsafe) so that you may inspect them. If the mechanic refuses, find another shop.

Get Your Receipt
Once work is completed, make sure to get an itemized receipt. This will not only help ensure that you don’t pay for repairs not made, but also offers some recourse should the repairs be unsatisfactory.

While following these tips is not a necessarily a guarantee that you will avoid auto repair scams, they will help. Taking a proactive, informed stance is key to ensuring that your car is professionally repaired-and that you avoid auto repair scams in the process.

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