|Avoiding Car Repair Scams|
by Ron Smith
Ron Smith is the author of SCAMBUSTERS: MORE THAN SIXTY WAYS SENIORS GET SWINDLED AND HOW THEY CAN PREVENT IT , available at your local bookstore.
There’s a saying, “When it comes to small businesses like car repair, money rules.” You would do well to remember that if you don’t want to lose a slice of your bank account, because car repairs is one of the more notorious businesses where consumers, particularly women and seniors, get ripped-off.
A friend told me this story recently at our local senior center: “The five-year-old Chevy my wife and I drive wasn’t shifting gears properly so I brought the car to a local car repair shop expecting that some minor repair would be all that was necessary. When the mechanic told me the car needed a new transmission and it would cost three grand, I almost fell off my chair.
“I was ready to tell the mechanic to go ahead and make the repair, but at the last minute decided I’d like another opinion. I brought the car to another shop, this one recommended by a neighbor. The mechanic there told me a $300 transmission adjustment would take care of the problem. He repaired the car and it drove well after that. Savings: $3000-300 = $2700. The first car repair shop mechanic saw a senior he thought he could take advantage of, but I fooled him.”
Rules of the Road
Here is a list of precautions you can take to avoid a car repair shop that will take you to the cleaners:
Look for a shop that:
1. Has been approved by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or its mechanics certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service (ASE). You’ll find certificates for each hanging on the walls in those car repair shops that are certified.
2. Has a good reputation. Ask around: neighbors, your local senior center, the Better Business Bureau, and friends. Don’t forget to find complaints by typing in the name of the shop in a search engine such as Google and see what emerges. Complaints will often surface on the Internet before anywhere else.
3. Is clean, organized and its service people friendly and helpful. A dirty shop and unfriendly service people are signs of poor work.
* Don’t wait until your car breaks down to find an honest and reliable car repair shop. Do your shopping ahead of time. Let a couple of shops do routine maintenance on your car, and decide which you prefer doing business with.
* Deal with a shop whose mechanic explains what needs to be done in language you understand. A mechanic who uses a lot of technical terms may be trying to fool you into thinking the repair is complicated and therefore expensive.
* Get an estimate of needed work in writing and insist on an itemized list of repairs and charges, not a lump sum.
* Ask what the warranty is on the repair. AAA certified car repair shops offer 12,000 miles or 12 months. If the mechanic hesitates or fumbles around, find yourself a new car repair shop.
* Insist on having the shop save the replaced parts along with an explanation of why they were replaced. If any doubts linger, take the parts, along with the itemized bill, to another car repair shop for a second opinion. If you think the first shop scammed you, there is always the recourse of small claims court. Most crooked shops would rather refund your money and avoid the headaches of court and the bad publicity that accompanies it. In the process you will learn what car repair shop to avoid.
* If you have your car’s oil changed at a tire shop, check the tires’ cold pressure before you hand over the car, then later after the oil change. If the tire pressure is lower afterward, you may be onto a scam, because lower pressure will wear your tires out fast. Now guess who let the air out of your tires in the first place, and guess who’ll be ready to sell you new tires?