Car repairs happen from time to time. Finding an honest mechanic at a fair price is not always easy for everyone. Worse yet, it is difficult for most people to identify mistakes or short cuts that are taken by mechanics. That is, at least until something goes wrong!
Becoming an informed consumer is one of the best defenses. This article focuses on legal and practical issues about car repairs.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of where you should get your car repaired. Ask:
Often the best way to find a reliable and affordable mechanic is through word of mouth or reading online reviews.
Car repair shops can be categorized as one of three main types. Each has its strengths and weaknesses:
Several states require mechanics to provide consumers with a cost estimate before they begin any car repair work. Most repair shops are more than willing to provide one anyway.
Some repair shops charge a fee for estimates since car owners often shop around for deals and will not necessarily use a given repair shop for the actual work. These shops must notify you about any such fees.
Many laws say the final cost may not exceed the estimate over a certain percentage. For example, Illinois' Automotive Repair Act provides two options for vehicle repair facilities:
The Illinois law goes into additional details about how labor costs should be calculated, estimates for suggested repairs, reassembly charges, and so on.
If you decide you do not want to pay for the services provided by a car repair shop, the shop may be legally entitled to keep your car.
The owner of the shop would obtain a mechanic's lien, provided they comply with any applicable laws requiring estimates. A lien is a legal claim for property that has been improved or otherwise serviced.
The mechanic may keep and ultimately sell your car if you do not pay the bill on time. This applies even if your car is an $80,000 luxury vehicle that received a $35 oil change.
All states have some kind of law addressing consumer protection against unfair and deceptive acts and practices (sometimes referred to as UDAP). They can vary from one state to the next.
These laws address a wide variety of practices, including things like:
Some shops fail to meet states' requirements under UDAP laws. Contact your state attorney general's office if you believe your car repairs or how they were handled was illegal.
If you have an older car and not much money, you might get work done on your vehicle that is considered crucial and let some other problems go by the wayside.
If the mechanic makes unauthorized repairs and demands payment, you may be able to sue the mechanic. This applies only if the other fixes were completely unrelated to the original problem.
But, you may not have a case and may need to pay for repairs if:
Let's say your mechanic fails to put in an oil filter after an oil change or fails to properly install a part. Failing to put in the proper part(s) falls under the category of unauthorized repairs.
To get money for an auto shop or dealer's error, you must show your car was damaged because of their negligence. Learn more by contacting an attorney in your area.