Just because you’ve been “had” in the past by a shady auto repair shop doesn’t mean that all mechanics are crooks. In fact, the vast majority of mechanics are in the business to make money honestly and ethically – it’s just those few bad apples that ruin it for everyone. Next time you take your vehicle in for service, remember the signs below to let you know if it’s time to find a new mechanic.
1.) They pull the old bait and switch. Your mechanic offers you a free inspection, and then hits you with a laundry list of things you need to have done to keep your car from careening off the road into a ditch. Disreputable auto mechanics often use the free inspection as an entry point to diagnosing problems you don’t have, making suggestions for repairs you don’t really need, then backing it all up with an admonition that sounds like a page torn from a road-themed horror movie: “Your car could just give out and die in the middle of nowhere.” The trouble is, far too many drivers who aren’t car experts will fall for this type of thing hook, line and sinker. If your mechanic makes dire predictions and warns you to keep your car off the road until you’ve paid them to fix it, consider getting a second opinion.
2.) They’re unwilling to give you a written estimate. Asking a mechanic to put an estimate for repairs on paper empowers you to be able to go get a second opinion somewhere else. And who knows? Maybe you’ll end up taking that printout to another shop where they’ll enlighten you as to the various different ways you’re being conned out of your money. A truly lowdown, dirty rat will rarely offer to let you walk away with the evidence of their schemes in hand. If you encounter resistance to the idea of getting a written estimate, walk away.
3.) They give you no time to think about the repair. “With your approval we can start the repair right away”. You get the distinct notion that your auto mechanic is trying to pressure you into making a decision now. Of course, there could be valid reason for this – say your car had to be towed in, there is a safety issue, the end of the day is drawing near, and the auto repair shop is booking the last jobs for the day. Other than this, there should be no reason for you to feel hurried into making a decision that could cost you thousands of dollars… especially if you have no idea if the mechanic is being straight up with you or trying to bilk you out of your money. If your car is drivable and you’re feeling pressured into making a decision, maybe it’s a good idea to hop back behind the steering wheel and head on over to a different mechanic for a second opinion. We do this with our doctors all the time – why not with our mechanics?
4.) Your auto mechanic makes you pie in the sky promises. Sometimes, dirt cheap maintenance can turn into a bank busting operation. Read the fine print carefully for tip-offs like “extra fees may apply.” And if there is no fine print? Don’t even bother. Turn tail and go somewhere else.
5.) Your auto mechanic gives you a budget-breaking estimate for repairs and then asks if you want to sell your car to him. Your car is over eight years old with just over 100,000 miles. Prior to getting the estimate from your mechanic you asked him if the car was worth holding on to, or if you should just part with it now. The mechanic’s response leads to a host of questions. If the car is not worth holding on to, why is the mechanic interested in it? Most likely, the list of repairs is bogus and they want to flip the car for a quick profit. Walk away and get a second opinion.
Remember, not all car mechanics are out to get you. But there are some out there who could take advantage of your inexperience . If at all possible, find someone to bring along who knows enough about car repair to ask a few questions. Crooked mechanics are far less apt to try to pull the wool over the eyes of people who actually know their stuff.