Trips to the Auto Shop: A Necessary Evil? Brace Yourself for the Unexpected Expenses, Stress, and Potential Upsells. Whether it’s a routine oil change or a sudden car breakdown, navigating the mechanic’s realm can be a challenging experience. Fear not, here are 11 savvy tips to safeguard yourself and your wallet from unnecessary expenses and ensure a smooth ride through the world of auto repairs.
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Bring Your Paperwork
One of the common ways a mechanic may try to get you buy something you don’t need is by convincing you of an unnecessary repair.
Keep records of all the work you’ve had done on your car to avoid this scheme.
One commenter in an online forum says, “I keep all my records of the maintenance I’ve had on the vehicle and refer to them.”
Sounds like a good strategy to avoid getting ripped off.
Visit the Same Shop
Unless your service is terrible, frequent the same shop. This will give you a record or history at a mechanic and avoid being ripped off by someone who can recommend a repair you can’t easily show you’ve already had done.
One person says, “I also tend to go to the same locations.
So the oil change guy can’t claim I need my air filter replaced if I already recently replaced it.”
Talk to Someone Knowledgeable Before Agreeing to Repairs
If you don’t know anything about cars, find someone who does who you can trust. This may be a friend, co-worker or family member.
One person says, “I call my dad lmao. Literally stand there with him on speaker like TRY MEEE. Twice he’s told me to leave and take it somewhere else and turns out they were totally trying to overcharge me.”
Even if your trusted source isn’t a mechanic, run the advice you’re getting by them and see if they think you need the repair.
If they don’t know how to help, get a second opinion from a different mechanic before agreeing to the repairs.
Bring Your Car’s Manual With You
Every new car comes with an owner’s manual. If you bought your car used or secondhand, or you’ve lost the manual, do a search online for the manual of your make and model.
If you’re still making a car payment each month, reach out to the dealer for help finding a manual.
In the back of the manual is a section on recommended service, including a schedule of when you should have various things done to your car.
When you take your car in for an oil change or a scheduled maintenance, compare what the shop is recommending against what the manual says.
Bring a Man With You
It’s unfortunate that this has to be said in the 21st century, but women are still often easy targets for mechanics who assume they know nothing about cars.
As one person says, “If I take the car in for an oil change, I get called ‘sweetheart’ and they try to overcharge me for the oil and try to convince me every single time that I need a new air filter or my tires need to be rotated or my wipers need to be replaced, and it’s exhausting.
“If my husband takes the car for an oil change, they change the oil and send him back on his way.”
Trust Your Gut
You may know nothing about cars, but still know when someone is trying to take advantage of you. Pay attention to what your instincts are telling you about repairs a mechanic is recommending.
Demand explanations of why it’s needed and what will happen, specifically, if you don’t make the recommended repair.
As one person says, “I only go places where the mechanics treat me with respect and seem honest.”
Ask For an Estimate
Finding a good mechanic can be as frustrating as trying to buy a car with cash, but it’s worth the effort.
Instead of taking the mechanic’s word for it, ask for an estimate and take it to other shops for multiple opinions and estimates on your repairs.
As one person puts it, “If you know what’s wrong with the car and can get a hold of a ballpark fair cost for the repair, then I say tell the mechanic you are out getting estimates.
“The last place quoted me $320, just wanted to see what your estimate would be.”
Don’t Go First
When you’re at a new mechanic and trying to gauge whether or not you can trust them, one person recommends waiting in line to see what kind of repairs are being recommended.
“Let people go ahead of you…Listen to customer service making calls to other clients that have their car currently in the shop (and sometimes even those in line ahead of you).
“9/10 that extra that your car ‘needs’ is something being recommended to literally everyone else.”
Get a Second Opinion
Never be afraid to get a second opinion or estimate on repairs being recommended to you by a new mechanic.
One person recommends, “I get a second opinion when the quote seems excessive. I also avoid flashy outfits.”
Ask to Keep the Old Part
Want to make sure a mechanic doesn’t charge you for work not performed? Ask them to give you the old part that they changed out. If they resist, insist on it. If they refuse you can contest their services.
Go Where The Police Do
One person recommends taking your car to the same place the local cops and ambulance drivers do.
“Find out where police and ambulances get repairs done in your area. The shops do that work could lose the contracts for it if they got a reputation for ripping people off.”
Fair point and worth a try. Just apply the other tips mentioned to ensure you’re at a solid shop.
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This thread inspired this post.
I’m Nicole Schmoll – a master’s-educated professional writer, mompreneur, and co-founder of Frugal Rules.
As a freelance copywriter in Omaha, I still believe that writing is an artistic expression. Every time I strike the keys, I intend to evoke a response from my listeners. I left my full-time career as a senior copywriter for an insurance agency to start my own freelance writing business.
I love watching and writing about TV (and how to stream it!)