Five Auto Repair Scams And How To Deter Them

September 30, 2010
In the auto repair business there are unfortunately some bad players. These unscrupulous shops are a very small minority in a very big industry made up of skilled and committed craftspeople. Like any activity performed successfully over time, the techniques of the auto repair scammers fall into patterns. Here are a few to avoid.

Automotive Bait and Switch - Just like there is no free lunch, there is no $89 brake job. Low balling specific jobs is the currency that high volume shops deal in to draw in price conscious consumers. Once the car is on the lift and the wheels are removed any one of a number of conditions can be found to escalate the price and the shop’s profitability in the same stroke. There is nothing illegal about this but it is indicative of some very aggressive marketing that you are better off avoiding.

Selling Up – If the shop you patronize is constantly recommending additional services and it seems like their sales efforts are on steroids, you might want to consider a change. The only foolproof antidote to this technique is to take charge of the maintenance of your vehicle. Make the dynamic prose of your owner’s manual required reading prior to scheduling a service visit. Know what your car’s manufacturer is recommending at specific miles driven and don’t entertain any additional maintenance.

Breach of Contract – There’s a special corner in hell for auto repairers who take down payments and don’t do their jobs. Let’s dissect a fictional transaction. You are leaving your 2002 Chevy S-10 Blazer that, on a good day, is worth $5000 for an intake gasket and this business person is requesting a down payment? This company is possibly poorly capitalized and needs your cash to buy parts or he is trying to emulate Bernie Madoff’s business model by using your money to repair someone else’s car. Down payments are only sought when the cost of the repair exceeds the value of the vehicle.

Outright Fraud – It happens that work described on the invoice is not performed. One way to deter this is to request that your old parts be returned. Most states require that the auto repair facility return the replaced parts to the consumer, if they don’t have to be returned to a rebuilder or for a warranty claim. While no one wants to handle greasy auto parts, you are at least putting the shop on notice that you are checking on their veracity. This should not be considered foolproof since there are always discarded parts around that can be passed off as your parts.

High Pressure Tactics – There are plenty of pressure points that can be applied during the course of an auto repair. Completion time, cost and safety are the most common. Beware of the shop that overplays any of these. There are some jobs that do involve these considerations. A good technique is to probe the salesperson about why the replacement of a part would impact your vehicle’s safety or why you would end up spending more money if you waited to have a suggested repair done at a later date.

Dwelling on evil is never fun, but when knowing what to look for in a sketchy auto repair shop can save you money and aggravation, it may be worth negative vibes.  

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