High Price, Poor Work Biggest Car Repair Complaints: Survey

April 23, 2012

There’s nothing worse than having to get a car repair done, and then it costs too much and/or isn’t done properly. Not surprisingly, these are the top two complaints of respondents in a new survey from Consumer Reports.

Wait, there’s more. Of the 13 reasons given for being less than “very” or “completely satisfied” with a repair, after price too high (38 percent) and did not fix problem properly (28 percent), the next three highest were: took longer than expected to complete the work (21 percent), had to bring the car back because the repair did not “hold up” (18 percent), and price was more than originally estimated (11 percent).

In fact, the entire list of reasons for customer dissatisfaction with car repairs reads like a litany of complaints that many a household experiences. We’re all holding on to our vehicles longer, nearly six years, on average. That means more eventual trips to the dealership or independent shop or franchise chain such as Midas or Sears for repair work of a major or minor nature.

In the latest survey, Consumer Reports for the first time recontacted some 5,400 respondents to ask about their specific car repair gripes. Dealerships came out on the worst end here relative to high prices, with 42 percent of respondents, while independent shops were at 32 percent. As for the problem not being fixed properly, the criticism reported was at the same rate for both dealerships and independent shops.

2012 Chrysler Town & Country

2012 Chrysler Town & Country

Another interesting survey finding is that most car owners are taking their vehicles to independent shops for repairs, rather than dealerships. This is consistent with past years’ findings. Who prefers independents the most? According to the survey, owners of Chrysler, Dodge, Jaguar, Jeep, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are less satisfied with dealership repairs than owners of most other vehicle brands.

Reasons cited for ditching a mechanic

Delving a bit deeper into recontacted consumers’ dissatisfaction with a shop, the reasons for switching to another shop was similar to their top complaints about car repairs. Here, however, the number one and two reasons were reversed. Fifty percent said the problem wasn’t fixed properly and 34 percent said the price was too high.

Tied for third place, at 23 percent each, were “had to bring the car back because the repair did not ‘hold up,’ and “sold me unnecessary parts or service.” Next came a three-way tie, at 19 percent each, for “treated poorly by staff,” “took longer than expected to complete the work,” and “price was more than originally estimated.”



What consumers can do to get car repairs done right

It’s one thing to complain about high prices and shoddy repair work, but what can consumers do about it? Consumer Reports offers five tips to aid in getting car repairs done right:

  • Describe the problem fully. Be specific on when, where, under what circumstances, and what you see, hear and smell when the problem occurs.
  • Forget offering a diagnosis. You’re not a mechanic, and you might incur needless repair charges for the mechanic trying to fix your idea of what might be causing the problem.
  • Ask for a test drive with the mechanic – if the problem only occurs when the car is moving.
  • Be sure to get an estimate. This way, you have a base-line for what the repair should cost. Request the shop call you for approval if the repair is expected to go over the estimate.
  • Look at the evidence. Ask to see the old parts, especially if you’re not happy with the diagnosis.

We might add one more point to consider. If you have to bring your car back numerous times for the exact same problem, and it remains unfixed, you must document everything properly, including getting written estimates and copies of repairs performed, so that you have evidence to support a claim under your state’s Lemon Law statute.

Finally, and this goes without saying – but we’ll say it anyway, if you manage to find a mechanic or shop that you trust and that consistently does excellent work, keep using them. Done right the first time and at a fair price should be right at the top of your must-have list for car repairs.

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