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Avoid Extra Charges from Unscrupulous Mechanics

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 5 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Avoid Extra Charges From Unscrupulous Mechanics

Sometimes, having to take your car to visit a mechanic is unavoidable. Although there are lots of things you can do yourself to make sure that your car stays in the best condition possible, it's never going to eliminate servicing and maintenance entirely. We've all heard stories about unscrupulous mechanics taking people for a ride and charging them for things they shouldn't be paying for - so how can you protect yourself against ending up in a similar situation?

It's believed that UK motorists spend more than £300 million per year to fix messed up repair jobs or problems that a mechanic has missed when fixing another problem. This works out at costing us around £500 each per year.

Many people have had unnecessary parts fitted to their vehicles, and in some cases, they've paid for parts that haven't been changed or fitted at all. Women and young drivers are the most likely to fall foul of rogue mechanics, due to a perceived lack of knowledge or experience when it comes to cars and motoring.

Ideally, you should find yourself a good car mechanic or garage before you need one. There are plenty of great mechanics and garages out there, and when you find one, you can breathe easily. When you need one, it's really too late and your back is up against the wall. Talk to friends, relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, and take on board their good and bad experiences, both with local independent garages, and the bigger chains. Word of mouth and recommendation is the best way to find yourself a good, reliable mechanic, and make sure that you don't get ripped off.

Steps to Finding a Good Garage

  • Check out your local dealerships - get some quotes for both what will need to be done and also how long it is going to take.
  • Look on the Internet, in the Yellow Pages or in the local paper for garages in your local area. Find out how much they are going to charge you for the same work, what kind of parts they use, and how long they are likely to take to carry out the job.
  • Try to find a garage that is approved by the Office of Fair Trading, or other industry body.
  • When you have some quotes, ask people you know whether they have experience with these places, and if so, take their recommendations. This is especially useful if the person you ask has the same type of car as you as some mechanics may be more qualified in working with 4x4's, some with older vehicles, and some with newer, more sophisticated, high performance cars.

Keeping on Top of Charges

When you've chosen your garage and mechanics, get a written quote before you put your car in for any repairs. Ask for a full diagnosis and ask the mechanic to explain fully what the problem is and how much it is going to cost to fix. Find out the cost of any parts needed beforehand, and if you want to try and keep the cost down, ask about the possibility of getting the parts yourself and providing them to the dealer. Ask about whether or not you get a guarantee included in the price, or any follow up checks. Also find out what happens if the problem reoccurs, or leads to another issue.

Always remember to keep any paperwork that you get in a safe place. A good garage should give you a fully itemised bill where you can see how much you've paid for parts and how much you've paid for labour.

Arm Yourself with Knowledge

Remember that one of the main reasons that unscrupulous mechanics get away with ripping people off is because the people hiring them don’t know anything about the car that they drive. It doesn’t take much time or effort to get a bit of basic information on your vehicle before you visit a garage – and if it makes you seem more knowledgeable about your car, then it’s less likely you’ll be taken for a ride.

At the very least, make sure you know your model name, the engine capacity, the oil you use and when the car was last serviced. Don’t tell the mechanic that you know nothing at all about cars because by doing that, if you have scored yourself a dodgy workman then you may as well write them a blank cheque! Be confident and firm, and don’t be bullied into accepting anything you’re not happy with. Make sure you are consulted before any repairs are made, and that you are given any prices in writing (you can have them faxed over if needs be), before any work commences on your vehicle.

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