Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on overpriced and unnecessary auto repairs. To get value for your money, become familiar with your vehicle, develop a good relationship with the garage, and examine the bill carefully.
Know Your Vehicle
The owner’s manual provides a checklist and timetable for regular maintenance, along with much useful data on the vehicle. Study the manual, and have it handy at the garage. A well-informed consumer is a small target for auto-repair scams.
Listen to your car’s performance so that you are alert to problems. Make a note of symptoms, which will be useful to the mechanic diagnosing the problem. Let him determine the cause.
Develop a Good Relationship
Find a repair shop that gets positive reviews from family, friends and colleagues. Take your car in for an oil change. If you’re satisfied with the service and comfortable in the shop, develop an ongoing relationship.
An independent garage may have top-flight mechanics and be as competent as the dealers’ repair shops. For common makes of cars, good choices are plentiful. Ask questions that help you to become familiar with the facility and with your vehicle. Avoid hanging over the mechanic’s shoulder while he works.
Get a Written Estimate
Ask for a written estimate before authorizing work. Check whether parts are from the vehicle’s manufacturer or are after-market parts, which differ in quality among makers and countries of origin. Look up the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Call other garages, and compare costs for the same work.
Examine Your Bill
When you receive the bill, examine it thoroughly. Learn to read auto-repair bills. There are good glossaries and explanations online. Pay with a credit card so that you can dispute the charge later, if necessary.