The Top 5 Car Repair Scams That Every Driver Should Know About

Having your car repaired at an auto shop or a dealership can be worse than getting lab results from a doctor at times. While you get the car worked on, or at least checked out, it can be nerve-wracking when the mechanic hits you with a large repair bill that you never expected. But did you know that it could be a scam?

Sometimes, it can be. Here are the top five auto repair scams that every driver should know about before taking their car to a mechanic.

1. The old ‘bait and switch’ repair

A mechanic checks underneath a car
An auto mechanic checks underneath a car for any glaring repairs. | Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

When going to a mechanic for routine maintenance, like an oil change, it’s typical for some of them to check over the rest of your car. On one hand, they do these multi-point inspections in order to ensure the safety and well-being of your car. But on the other hand, they’re checking any other repairs that they can hit you with.

That means that your routine oil change can easily become a much larger bill, like for a new ball joint or maybe more maintenance items. While this isn’t necessarily a scam if your car really needs the repairs done, some shady mechanics can easily try and sell their customers on unneeded repairs.

A $40 oil change can lead to a $300 repair. If your mechanic sells you a larger repair, ask to see the worn parts first before they actually work on the car, that way, you’ll know they are being true to their word. If not, then kindly leave and take your car elsewhere for a second opinion.

2. A verbal estimation can lead to costly repairs

When taking your car to some mechanics, it’s common for them to give you a verbal estimate and have you leave your car with them. Later that day, after the car is repaired, they call you with a final bill that’s much higher than the estimate. This is why it’s a good idea to get a written estimate before you leave the shop. With a written estimate, you’ll have an agreement as to what you’ll be paying in the end.

3. An engine flush is usually not necessary

A mechanic checks a car's oil on a car.
A mechanic checks a car’s oil on a car. | Paul Aiken Staff Photographer March 31, 2015

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Some mechanics may offer to flush your car’s engine when you bring it in for a routine oil change. An engine flush is when the mechanic puts an additive in the engine to break down any sludge or deposits left in it over time. While it can be effective, it’s not always necessary and it can be quite expensive. If the mechanic you take your car to offers an engine flush every time, you may want to take your car somewhere else.

4. Some mechanics don’t use new parts

Have you ever wondered if the mechanic working on your car is replacing the old parts with new ones? Probably not. In fact, most drivers just assume that the mechanic is installing new parts. According to Auto Versed, many shady mechanics will replace broken parts with used ones in order to cut costs and time and then charge the customer a new-part price.

Don’t fall for it! Instead, ask the mechanic what part they are ordering for your car and where they are getting it from. You can even ask them to show you the receipt and warranty for the part in order to ensure it’s a new one.

5. The mechanic gives you the runaround

 A woman mechanic explains a car-related problem to a woman customer in an innovative garage and auto repair workshop.
A woman mechanic explains a car-related problem to a woman customer in an innovative garage and auto repair workshop. | AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR

If you ever have a mechanic tell you that your car isn’t ready within the timeframe estimate they originally gave you, he may be giving you the runaround. Of course, the extended amount of time could be due to parts not being available. But if the mechanic keeps telling you non-sensical reasons as to why your car isn’t ready yet, it could be a good time to take it somewhere else.

Don’t get scammed when having your car repaired

The next time you have your car repaired by a mechanic, be sure to get a written estimate with the labor rates and parts cost. By doing this, you’ll know what to expect and cut down on the risk of being scammed. Also, make sure that the work and parts come with a warranty so that you can come back and get the car fixed if anything goes wrong later on.

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