Car owner shaking hands with his mechanic

How To Ensure You’re Not Being Ripped Off By Your Mechanic

No one wants to be ripped off on anything they buy. It’s your hard-earned money and you deserve to keep as much of it in your pocket as possible.

People especially don’t like it when their mechanic takes them for a financial ride, shall we say. It happens far more often than you might think.

Sure, like all people, most mechanics are genuinely nice and have no intention of ripping you off whatsoever. But there are always those bad apples you have to watch out for in any industry. Once you’ve gone to a mechanic 4 or 5 times and have a feel for how they do business, you should feel confident you’re getting a good service at the right price.

Even so, you should always follow the tips below to ensure that you’re not getting ripped off in any way.  Even the smallest of scams can add up to quite a bit of wasted cash.

1. Use the labor guides

There are nationally published labor guides that show you how many hours it should take your mechanic to complete each job.

It’s really simple. You look up the jobs they are quoting you on and add up the hours. You ask them what their hourly shop rate is and multiply it out. Then compare your quote and check to be sure they match.  If they don’t, point out the discrepancy to them.

This one tip could save you hundreds or even thousands in labor costs.

2. Check for double labor costs

Mechanics love jobs that overlap in billable hours. This means that doing an entire job is covered by one set of hours. But they then charge you for a separate task that was already covered.

One of the big ones involves the removal of belts, such as your timing belt. If they need to replace, say, an oil pump and you see the pump replacement hours there on your bill and you also see belt removal and replacement, then you were likely charged double hours. The labor guide builds in the time to do the belt into the hours they allot for the oil pump job also. If you pay for both, you’re likely paying for overlapping hours.

This is a classic way mechanics get extra income and most people will never know.

3. Ask to see the parts

After the job is done and you go to pick up your car, ask to see the parts they replaced before you pay your bill.

There are two things you’re looking for here: 1. That they actually did replace it. Some shops count on you not ever wanting to see the old part and don’t even replace it. Or there was nothing wrong with it in the first place.

2. Then, you want to look for wear on the replaced part or have them show you how it broke in the first place. Checking your mechanic’s work will let him know you’re not a sucker that they can take advantage of or rip off.

If the mechanic can’t show you why the part failed, then chances are it’s not broken. If they can’t produce the part entirely, then there is a good chance they didn’t replace it at all.

Be sure to follow the above tips to save money the next time you need a mechanic.

About Chad Ina

7 comments

  1. I agree.
    As a mechanic, I come across so many inflated quotes given to customers, who then come to me. This is good advice.
    However though, there is instances where extra costs are incurred during the job as you can only see exactly what is wrong once the part has been dismantled, but again, the customer should always ask to see what was wrong etc to prove the cost was actually needed..

    • Hi Derek,

      yes, i totally agree. Often an honest mechanic will go through what was wrong and why he/she had to repair it.

      Rodge

  2. Thank you for this information. Insightful. I am a retired engineer (Royal Navy 36 years as an artificer and engineer officer) and fully appreciate how a job can escalate. It is good to know that there is a table of estimated job hours to look at and I would be interested in seeing that.

    On a service some years ago (VW Polo 1.6 saloon) I trusted the garage completely. When I got the car home I opened the bonnet to find the decorative bolt head covers were missing. Silly me, I didn’t follow it up.
    The following day I went to start the car……dead. Engine turned over but would not start. The garage pitched up and took it away. The report was that the electronic unit that provided the spark had ‘died.’ Strange, but they replaced it and I paid. Funny how things happen. I never know if I am paying too much but it always seems ok. Maybe I should look more closely…..

  3. While on a backpacking trip, my transmission failed to shift. (Old 65 Chevy air cooled trans) Luckily I thought a national franchised auto trans shop was across from the restaurant. Once on the rack the helper was overheard (by me) saying that’s the problem – pointing to something. While I’ll never know if the owner reached under my car and pulled the vacuum line off while we were eating, at O’dark 30 and I’ll never know if the helper was fired, he was whispered at to shut the heck up – and after arguing with the owner over no thanks I’ll tow it home (300 miles – I’ve had a very reluctant position trusting shops. Now that annual inspections are the law, I publicly give a thumbs up whenever I can. p.s. I pulled up on a curve and reconnected the vacuum line and caught up with the hiking group and took my passengers back that night.

    • A lot of the franchises are independently owned and have slim profit margins. It can be with good intentions of a shop owner and/or mechanic and what happens. Thankfully online platforms like Yelp, Google and Facebook allow you to checkout & review a shop by looking at the reviews to help make a better decision, based on prior customer experience & feedback.

  4. Well, if that franchise’s name began with the first letter in the alphabet, they were famous for pulling that kind of stuff. When I was a new owner, I took my car there for some issue and was quoted $1,000+ to fix it. Then I took to the guy who worked out of his garage and he fixed for $70.00.

    • Wow, I think I’ve also had similar experience with this same franchise…

      Where a simple automatic transmission fluid flush & oil change went from a $250 job to a $800 job! Supposedly once they got the car on the lift, I was advised that a prior shop used epoxy for the oil drain plug & it could not be removed & the whole oil pan needed replacing. They even sent me a photo of a oil pan with a sealed oil pan plug. I told them I wanted to come in and check it out. I received a call not too long after that they were able to break it loose with an impact gun – like why wasn’t that tried in the first place? Picked up car & it was just the $250. Got it home and looked at the oil drain plug and it had no sign of glue or epoxy.

      End of day, they probably have daily and monthly sales quotas to meet for maintaining operations. I’m sure a lot of not knowledgeable car owners do get overcharged unfortunately.

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