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Don’t Get Ripped Off By Auto Mechanics

This article was written by in Consumer. 12 comments.

Mechanics are salespeople, and like brokers they often have more knowledge about their products and services than the average consumer. Therefore, they are viewed as professionals and without taking the time to learn about cars, customers have no choice but to trust their recommendations are in the customers’ best interest.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Just like in any business, some salespeople will recommend unnecessary services if there’s an opportunity to earn some additional money. As a result of a general distrust that may be due to bad experiences, a feeling of being taken for a ride by a mechanic in the past, or the trend in financial media to warn people about shady mechanics, customers are increasingly wary about their interactions.

Kiplinger offers some tips for anyone needing car repairs. It comes down to education. To reduce the chances of someone taking advantage of you in the auto shop, know what you are talking about and don’t be afraid to ask questions that show you have a grasp of how everything works.

As cars have become more like computers, any driver has access to the same diagnostic information that mechanics have. The article recommends the CarMD device, which seems to be a good value at $99. The device will work with any car made after 1996. Once it is plugged into the car, it will download information from the car’s computer. When complete, you can plug the device into your desktop computer and the software will generate a report.

The article also suggests shopping around and getting a second opinion.

How do you deal with auto mechanics? Have you ever had a bad experience?

Published or updated December 28, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

Great tips flexo. I had a similar problem to this just last week. I had dropped my truck off (well, it got towed there) but after they told me their “54 point inspection” said I needed a new fuel filter (and a recall part, which they ordered). I took it back 1 week later to get the recall work done, and mysteriously, my fuel filter passed the “54 point inspection” just fine, and I didnt do anything to it!

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avatar eric

Good stuff….I’m not very car savvy so I have to rely on others (semi-blindly sometimes) for guidance.

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avatar marc

I view my mechanics as trained professionals the same as my Doctors. I select them using similar criteria. And I will get second opinions.

I believe in preventative maintenance and to have a working relationship with my mechanic. They know me and I know them. Over the years I have saved thousands and have not been stranded by the side of the road.

I know a fair amount about vehicles and other mechanical devices, having repaired my own vehicles and equipment until I no longer had a way to troubleshoot the multiple computers, sensors and other electronics.

I will read the owner’s manual, Chiltons and more to learn about my vehicles. I have set up my own maintenance schedule on a spreadsheet. For me it is not unusual to get over 200,000 miles on my vehicles [caveat: I do not live in an area where salt is used on roads].

For giggles I tried one of the “consumer” OBDII readers and what a joke. I knew enough of the problem at hand to know that the POS was leading me down the wrong road with a faulty diagnosis.

There is some good information in the article, but as an owner of a complex machine, one should learn a little about it. Do you not do the same on your house or other expensive outlays?

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avatar Luke Landes

An educated consumer is the best consumer, no doubt about that.

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avatar krantcents

I get my car repaired and serviced at school. The shop teacher is not motivated to sell me something I do not need and I only pay wholesale for the parts anyway. I try to create this type of circumstance where I can. That is, use whatever leverage or create leverage to get the best deal!

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avatar Tom Dziubek

There’s also RepairPal for people looking for an estimate on car repair. http://repairpal.com/

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avatar LifeAndMyFinances

When I lived in West Michigan, you had to keep your eye out for the shady mechanic, but most of them were great! They actually went out of their way to save you money on repairs. But, now that I live in South Florida, I have to search high and low to find a mechanic that will charge me a fair price AND be able to fix my car properly. It’s been a terrible experience!

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avatar TakeitEZ

I am fortunate to have a very trustworthy mechanic who was recommended to me by my uncle. One time I had some wheel problems and I went to Sear Automotive to get a diagnosis. I was told by their mechanics that I had to replace a stabilizing bar or axle, not sure which one, and it would cost about $700.00. I went to my now regular mechanic and he inspected it and told me that all I needed was to replace the ball bearings in my wheel and it would only cost $115.00. What a difference! It really is great to have a honest mechanic who has saved me tons of money since I have been his customer.

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avatar Dan

best advice I can come up with is
Shop around for maintenance items (oil change, checkup, small things) and determine which shops give you an honest appraisal of your car, you feel comfortable with, and gives you options.

ask people locally who they would take their car to, and who they would not.

avoid Sears (too many bad stories about them)

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avatar N.W.Journey

I trust my mechanic – I originally went to him because he ended up charging me $75 to fix a problem that I paid a previous mechanic over $400 for that he couldn’t fix! Other than that, I make sure I shop around for my own parts to save money. Great tips and good read!

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avatar tigernicole86

When I moved from my home town to where I live now, my car decided it didn’t like the change so much(my hometown was very small, everybody knew everybody including the mechanics)so I had to find a new mechanic and I went with one that my friend suggested. Turns out, he didn’t know much about my type of car and I went elsewhere.I found one right by my work that gave me a free estimate and checked everything out(ran tests and looked for leaks) for free and always asked if I wanted to get the parts cheaper from somewhere else before they installed them. Yup, they lost money from the parts but my business has stayed with them and I always send other business their way.

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avatar faithfueledbennetts

Absolutely get a second opinion! Just a couple weeks ago we took our car in with a problem, spent hundreds of dollars and the car was worse than when we brought it in! We ended up having to ake it to a dealership to pay thousands more to refix what the previous mechanic did. If you ever find an honest mechanic, stick with them!

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