Avoid getting Ripped Off on Car Repairs

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Several years ago, while traveling through a small town we were unfamiliar with, our car's transmission went out, leaving us stranded. A quick search of the Internet got us to a mechanic's shop. One week and nearly $4,000 later, we were back on the road. Did the local wrench pad the bill a bit for out-of-towners who were down on their luck? Very possibly.
 
While this scenario offers the perfect storm for a mechanic who might be less than honest, it is also quite rare today. The miraculous oracle of the Internet provides a selection of possible shops to take your car to and reviews from consumers on their experiences with the mechanic, both good and bad. After all, leaving a few bad reviews can severely impact a business. A company's online reputation means everything.

Research

A quick Google search will show you many of the auto repair businesses in your area, complete with reviews. Make sure your mechanic has been in business locally for a number of years, has a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau, and has positive reviews regarding their honesty and the quality of their work. You will often find reviews that include stories about how the mechanic went above and beyond to be helpful, even coming in after hours to get a customer's problem solved.
You want to know that your mechanic has had proper training. That's why all Lithia Motors dealerships have ASE-trained technicians who have to pass ongoing ASE Certification tests to work on your car. Because today's autos include many high-tech components, you want to make sure your mechanic is constantly updating their training.

The bottom line is that you need a mechanic you can trust. Ask family members, friends and coworkers who they use and their experience with their mechanic. Remember that the best mechanics rely on word-of-mouth to get new customers. They are conscientious when it comes to providing good value for your dollar and would like you to have a positive experience and tell others. Once you have found a repair company you want to try, there are ways to make sure your repair is on track and that you aren't getting ripped off.
Get an Estimate Up Front

Today's cars utilize on-board diagnostics (OBD) computer systems to monitor performance and analyze repair needs. Your car's OBDII port is usually found on the underside of the dash on the driver's side of the car. The Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) recommended this standardized diagnostic connector to read test signals in 1979 and the system became standard in new cars since the late 1980s.
 
OBDII helps mechanics diagnose problems in your car's engine and aid in their ability to give accurate estimates on repairs. Have your mechanic read any "fault codes". Such codes recently let my mechanic know that the water pump in my car needed to be replaced.



Woman on phone
Tell your mechanic what is going on with your car and ask them to diagnose the problem. Make sure to get an estimate of the repair costs up-front, before they begin work that could involve switching out parts. Have the mechanic call you to get your permission to proceed with repairs. Many mechanics today provide the estimate via email so you can approve the repair.
 
The estimate will show you the cost of the parts being replaced as well as an estimate on the hours it will take to get the job done. The estimate will include the cost of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts from the automaker, made for your car. Depending on your budget, you may ask the mechanic how much you could save by using cheaper non-OEM parts from a third party or used parts that have been revitalized.
 
If you are worried about the number of hours it will take to repair your vehicle, ask the mechanic what the process entails. A good mechanic will be happy to explain, for instance, that the front bumper and body panel have to be removed in order to get to the part that needs to be swapped out. All that takes time and expertise. The more you know and understand about the repair, the more well-informed you will be regarding the costs of the estimate.

Honestly Souvenir
Some dishonest mechanics will charge you for parts they never replaced. A good mechanic will show you the part they are replacing and explain how it ceased to function properly. When you pick up your car, they'll give you the old worn part as proof that it was replaced. Think of it as an "honesty souvenir."
Know Your Car
If you have absolutely no knowledge about how your car works, a dishonest mechanic can spot your inexperience from a mile away. Don't know where your motor oil dipstick is? That's a bad sign. It is important to know your way around your vehicle. Read the owner's manual from cover to cover. Open the hood with your owner's manual in hand and familiarize yourself with where everything is. There are also lots of videos online that explain how to repair and service your make and model of car. The more you know about how your car functions, the harder it will be for a dishonest mechanic to rip you off.
Check the Price on Parts
If you think the price for an OEM replacement part is unreasonable, check online to see if it is correct. I once had a touchscreen go out in my car and the OEM price for a new screen was thousands of dollars. I found a company online with tons of positive reviews. I worked with my mechanic to take out the old screen. We shipped it to the company that repaired it for $300 and mailed it back. My mechanic reinstalled the repaired screen in less than an hour and I was on my way with major savings!
Let Lithia Help
A good mechanic will not mind if you ask questions about the price of parts. You have a right to fair prices and quality service. If you do your homework, you'll have a good, honest mechanic for many miles to come. With over 75 years in the business of providing personal transportation solutions and over 270 auto dealerships from coast to coast, Lithia Motors has your back when it comes to the service and repair of your car. Our ASE-certified technicians provide peace of mind when it comes to solving your vehicle's mechanical peccadillos. Find the Lithia Motors dealer near you right here.