Car repairs can be costly. According to a survey conducted by AAA, car repairs come with an average price tag between $500 and $600 per visit. To make matters worse, if an auto repair shop is less than scrupulous, it can often cost significantly more than it should. Luckily, there are things you can do to find an honest mechanic. If you want to locate a car repair shop that won’t rip you off, here’s how to go about it.
Learn About Your Car
There is a reason people say that knowledge is power. By having a solid understanding of your car’s basic functions and components. You are better prepared to speak with a shop about your car repairs.
Many dishonest shops will prey on those who don’t understand what their vehicle needs. While you don’t need to become a full expert on your car. You should know what belts you have, what tires it uses, and other basics. This ensures you can follow along when the mechanic speaks with you and catch any potential attempts to rip you off.
Look for Ratings and Reviews
Thanks to the internet, you can find ratings and reviews on just about every kind of business, including automotive repair shops. Do a quick search on platforms like Yelp and Angie’s List to learn about shops in your area and see what customers thought of the service they received and the prices they were charged.
Focus on ASE-Certified and ASA Shops
The Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is a voluntary program that shows that a shop meets ASE standards. Technicians have to demonstrate their technical knowledge to qualify, so you have an indication of their level of expertise.
While an ASE certification doesn’t guarantee a shop is honest, it is still worth researching. It increases the odds that the quality of your car repairs will meet your expectations.
Similarly, an Automotive Service Association (ASA) affiliation is also a good sign. The ASA is a non-profit trade association with a variety of standards that members must follow, including giving fair estimates and quality customer service.
If the shop is AAA approved, that’s another good sign. AAA doesn’t partner with just anyone, so the shop has to meet their standards to get on the approved list.
Take a Look Around
While a car repair shop will rarely be spotless, simply because of the nature of their work, if the shop looks cluttered and overly dirty, that could be a red flag. Similarly, if areas the customers use – like bathrooms, waiting areas, and parking lots – are clearly unkempt, that may suggest a lack of professionalism. In contrast, an organized shop with clean public areas shows that the owners care about their business, and the impression they make, increasing the odds that ripping you off isn’t their goal.
If you aren’t sure that a shop is charging you a fair rate, it’s okay to comparison shop. Begin by requesting an itemized estimate from the first shop. Then, go to another and make the same request.
Don’t share the first estimate with the second shop. If you do, that may influence their quote. The idea is to get estimates without letting them know that you’re shopping around, as this will likely give you a better indication regarding their typical rates.
However, don’t assume that the lowest cost place is the best deal. If you obtain two estimates that are vastly different, take a look at each line item to identify areas where the charges are noticeably different. If you are still in doubt, consider getting a third estimate, as this will give you more information to cross-compare.
Labor charges can vary dramatically, both in a cost-per-hour sense and the quoted number of hours the shop says the repair will take. By looking at these closely, you can see if a shop is saying a job will take longer than it might in reality. Additionally, higher-quality parts come with bigger price tags. By comparing several estimates, you can learn a lot about the going rate for the parts needed for your repair.
Finally, take it a step further by doing some research online. Since you know what needs to be fixed at this point, you can use websites that provide estimates or average the cost in your area more effectively.
Do you have any tips that can help people find a car repair shop that won’t rip them off? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.