While many auto-repair shops are legitimate, there are always those unscrupulous few that end up sucking thousands of unnecessary repair dollars from consumers. In 2011, BBBs received more than 14,500 complaints against auto-repair services and fielded more than 1.5 million inquiries from consumers looking to find a reliable business in the industry. Many of the complaints received by the BBB fell under billing, service and refund and exchange issues.
Whenever you take your car to the shop, never try to diagnose the problem yourself. Describe the symptoms and ensure that the work cannot begin until you have a written estimate and given your authorization.
BBB recommends considering the following advice when taking your car in for auto repair services:
Check your warranty. If you have a problem with your vehicle while it is still under warranty, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which might require that repairs be made at an authorized dealership.
Ask around. If you are looking for a qualified, independent shop, ask friends for recommendations, or request a list of BBB Accredited Businesses that do the type of auto repair you need. Be sure to check with the BBB about the shop’s reliability. Look for shops that display certification. For major work, such as brakes, transmission or engine repair, you will need to find a shop employing a specialist. I recommend finding a reliable repair shop long before you have a problem, that way you are not rushed to make a decision.
Ask all the questions that you need. Don’t be embarrassed to request explanations. Don’t rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action, and cost of work before any work begins.
Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached and, before you leave, be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.
Get everything in writing. When you pick up your vehicle, get an explanation of all work completed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you. Your repair bill should be itemized so, if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.