Always Get a Written Estimate
Written estimates are crucial when your car needs service. Most states require mechanics to give you a full written estimate, and if for some reason they go over your numbers down on paper more than 10 percent, they are obligated to contact you and let you know. Sometimes it’s not always required for mechanics to ask permission to go over the estimate and do additional work—if that’s the case, always make note on your service sticker for them to contact you immediately before proceeding with the job.
Get Multiple Opinions
As with any medical diagnosis, it’s always good to stick with the same mechanic do to all your car work because you trust them. However, if they seem to diagnose your car for having severe problems that’s going to cost you more than you can afford, definitely seek another opinion just to play it safe. Having that second opinion done is always a good idea to protect you from getting ripped off. If the second opinion matches the first, then go back to your original mechanic to fix the problem.
Keep up with the Labor Rate
Another state mandate requires auto body shops to post hourly labor rates for services. Each customer initially charged the same flat rate and then placed in a “labor table” to calculate how long each job should take. The overall estimate for your work will most likely be based on the booking time from labor table—but be aware of different versions and understand which one you’re mechanic is using. If the labor rate seems too high, ask someone at the shop if there’s a different labor table they can use that may lower your cost. If not, it’s good to know that these labor rates can be negotiable.
Be Conscious of your Parts
It’s your right as the customer to be notified if new parts were installed and to be able to keep your old ones. Inform the mechanics that you want the old parts back so they know that you know what you’re doing. Always ask if the parts have any “core value;” you might be able to rebuild and sell them on a secondary market. If for some reason the mechanic wants to keep the parts, asked to be compensated for their value. After all, they were your parts.
You may get a Free Ride
If you follow all the precautions to not getting cheated at your auto body shop, but still run into problems there are two legal options you could pursue. First, you can pay for the bill on a credit card and fight the bill with your credit company. Although policies differ from company to company, it’s very possible you won’t have to pay the bill. The second option is filing a small claim suite at your local courthouse for the price of your repairs. The law varies, but if the mechanic chooses not to file, you will automatically get your money back.
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