By Lisa Copeland
AUSTIN, Texas (Oct. 2, 2015) — Nobody likes to pay for auto repairs, especially incredibly expensive ones.
So how can you tell if the work a repair shop recommends is really necessary or if they are just trying to dupe you?
I've compiled some tips that, while they can assist consumers in making better choices about auto repair, may also help shops stay on the straight and narrow and communicate more effectively with customers:
- Do your research before you go in. Having a good idea of what to expect before even setting foot in a repair shop is being a smart consumer. Check the hourly rates of different shops, as they can vary dramatically. If you need a specific part for your vehicle, check with different shops — one might be able to get a better price than another. If the repair is considered a big job, find out how long it will take to complete the job as this can vary by shop.
- Reputation and certifications. If you think you've found the perfect place to get your car serviced, think again. You'll want to do your own personal background check before guaranteeing your business to that place. Ask your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers about their experiences with the service center — and even look for online reviews on Yelp or social media sites. You'll also want to ensure that the facility is AAA-certified — or certified by the equivalent of AAA — adheres to the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) Code of Ethics and employs ASE-certified technicians.
- Know your car's suggested services. Be sure to check when your vehicle will need certain services — like an oil change or sparkplug replacement — so that you can have the mechanic perform those actions only when necessary. If he or she tries to do something prematurely, ask for a detailed explanation why.
- Get everything in writing. No service should be agreed to unless it is put in detailed writing. Approve every bit of maintenance with your signature before allowing a shop to do anything. It will be very clear what you are agreeing to have done, and you should receive an accurate price estimate at this time.
- Ask to see old parts. If a mechanic claims to have replaced a part with a new one, you have every right to ask to see the old part to ensure that he or she actually did replace it.
- Understand that repair costs are going to be high. There's really no avoiding it. Parts are expensive, and they will be marked up even higher by the service facility so that it can make a profit. Labor costs are also expensive but vital for the service facility to do business. You may not want to pay for 10 hours of labor, for instance, but having the mechanic do a terrible job in half the time is the only other option.