Survey after survey has shown that auto repairs rank first on the American consumer’s gripe list. And many of the gripes seem to be justified. In such a bleak situation, how can the consumer avoid car repair rip off?
First, consumers should be urged to shop around for price on auto repairs. You’re seeking not only to avoid the highest price, but also to avoid unrealistically low prices that mask sloppy work or bait-and-switch tactics.
A number of places, including some national chains and mass merchandisers, are engaged in bait and switch tactics. They may bring you into the shop with an ad for a $49.95 brake job. But that price is impossible. There are also a lot of ads around for a $99.95 lifetime alignment. But a lifetime alignment is an impossibility, even for $1. million.
Another ad often seen promises a transmission tuneup or “reconditioning” for $29.95. That figure is far from realistic, in terms of what you’re likely to end up spending – average repair order at a transmission shop can be around $350.
Of course, the best way to avoid car repair rip-off is not only to be careful on a case-by-case basis, but to find a mechanic whom you can trust. Word-of-mouth advertising from your friends and neighbors can be useful here. In general, experts suggest patronizing an independent shop that relies on repeat business. A shop with a lift, power tools and a neat appearance is usually a better bet than one without those things.
One innovation that has attracted attention is the certification program for mechanics run by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (NIASE). NIASE certification is a very good indicator of a mechanic’s capabilities. The presence of a NIASE-certified mechanic, particularly at a dealership, would indicate that the establishment doesn’t look on repairs as a stepchild.
To avoid auto repair rip offs and to keep down the cost of auto repairs, an increasing number of people are doing maintenance or repairs on their own cars. One recent survey found that some 68 per cent of car owners were handling at least some of this work themselves. Courses on how to take care of your car are increasingly available and very popular.