I get asked this question all the time. It comes in many forms, but this is the most common.
Charles, you are a mechanic. How do I know if I am getting ripped off?
My advice has always been things like:
- Ask to see the old parts
- Ask if it is a NEEDED service or just RECOMMEND
- Compare the recommendation to your owners book
- Get a second or third opinion
- find an auto mechanic
Following that advice will help avoid spending money that you do not need to spend. You can read more about How to tell if a mechanic is ripping your off
The other day I got this question,
How do mechanics rip people off?
This is an interesting way to look at it. If you know how you can be ripped off, you have even more ammunition to avoid it. Here are the most common ways that a mechanic “rips you off”
- Selling service too early.
This is most common. A mechanic recommending a tune up at 30,000 miles when it is not due until 60,000 miles. Or selling a brake job when the car has thousands of miles left on the brakes.
How to avoid this. Ask to see the parts, and compare to your owners book.
- Selling non factory parts as factory parts
This does not really come up at the dealer level. We 99.99% sell factory parts. It can come up in aftermarket shops. If you are paying top dollar for factory parts, you need to be sure you are getting them.
How to avoid this. Ask to see BOTH parts. They should be similar. Understand that sometimes parts are updated, but you can ask about that too 😉
- Exaggerating the need for the repair
“If you don’t replace your air filter, your car will catch of fire” This is an extreme (and insane) example of exaggeration. It is also something that happens all the time. The bad part is, you may actually need the service the shop is recommending. But this type of talk should send up a huge red flag!
How to avoid this. Ask to see the part, and refer to your owners book
- Selling services that do not exists
I am not sure this type of thing really happens, but I need to talk about it. If a service doesn’t sound right, ask more questions. There is no such thing (as of 2013) as replacing headlight fluid, changing the muffler bearings, putting summer air in your tires, and who know what people come up with.
How to avoid this. Ask how it is done. Ask WHY you need it. Ask what will happen if you don’t do it.
- Charging “too much” for a repair
This one can be a sticky situation. A repair is generally assigned a labor time. The labor time is used to create a price for the labor part of your bill. The sticky part comes in when we try to figure out what “too much” means. Auto mechanics get paid on Flat Rate. The easy way to think about Flat Rate is, a mechanic is paid by the job, no matter how long it takes.If a mechanic does a repair that pays 3 hours, they get paid 3 hours. It may take them 2 hours to complete, or 4 hours to complete. The mechanic gets paid 3 hours. You can read more about How mechanics get paid on Flat Rate.So how do you decide what is “too much”? The truth is I don’t really know. There are so many factors that play in to it. The best advice here, ask more questions. Things like “How long will it take to complete?” “Is this a hard job to do?” “What other parts need to be removed?”. It will show that you understand the way Flat Rate works.
There is one other way people get “ripped off”. I didn’t include it on the list because it requires more discussion. Selling repairs to fix your car, that do not fix your car. I have said before that diagnosing a car is a process. It is rarely cut and dry. If your check engine light is on, the computer rarely says “replace this part”. Times like this is when having a good mechanic is vital. If they get the diagnosis wrong, or find other issues, a good shop will work with you.
The other thing about getting ripped off is, each situation is different. You may not be due for a service, but really need it. If you drive at the beach your air filter may be clogged long before the owners manual recommends replacement. Following the tips I gave you will eliminate most of the problems.
What do you guys think? Are there other ways that people can “get ripped off” by a mechanic? If so, post them in the comments below. This is also a great post to share with folks. I tried to make sharing very easy. At the top and bottom of the post, you can click the icons to share to Facebook, twitter, Stumble Upon, Reddit, and Google +. I really appreciate when you guys share the site with others. That is the number one way we grow our community.