how to talk to mechanics without getting ripped off
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How To Talk To Mechanics without Being Ripped Off

Auto repair is expensive enough without mechanics trying to take advantage of you. Follow these tips to feel educated and confident in your next car repair appointment.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

If you own a car, there's a good chance you'll need to take it to the auto mechanic at some point in time. Whether it's for repairs after a car accident, or a weird noise in the engine, or something as simple as a check engine light, most people will have to come face to face with mechanics to talk about what's wrong. Unless you're the type of person that studies cars, there's a good chance you don't know much about what's going on under the hood. This dynamic can lead many people, male or female, to be taken advantage of financially by a repairman. College students are especially susceptible to this kind of treatment because the mechanics expect you to be naive about the condition of your car.

It's not uncommon to go to the shop for a run-of-the-mill oil change and be told you need a new transmission. In addition to normal repairs for wear and tear, national statistics show that there are approximately 6 million car accidents in the United States every year. Car accidents can lead to significant and costly repairs on your vehicle. And unfortunately, Milwaukee accident attorneys say the overall number of car accidents has steadily increased over the past five years. But there are some tools at your disposal to help you go into any exchange feeling educated and in control.

Get Referrals

When looking for a trustworthy auto mechanic, your best bet is to find someone other people think is trustworthy. Ask your parents, friends, and co-workers about their go-to repair shop. They may have done some of the heavy lifting on finding a trustworthy repair shop already. Another tip is to avoid corporate repair chains and try to find independent small businesses. Corporate mechanics are usually looking to earn more money rather than build relationships. At smaller businesses, their livelihood depends on repeat customers wanting to come back.

Educate Yourself

Watch a couple of Youtube videos about oil changes and minor repair work on your specific car. Spend a couple of minutes getting acquainted with how things work under the hood, and learn how some of the parts fit together. Additionally, read the owner's manual in the glove compartment. If you go into a shop with at least a little bit of information, you'll be better able to judge if they're suggesting something completely unrelated to the reason you went in and have a better sense of when certain repairs are reasonably due.

Keep Records of All Repairs

Hold on to your receipts from previous repairs. I keep mine in a folder book in the trunk as a reference point whenever new repairs are recommended. If you have all previous repairs on file, you can look back and see what has already been done. This will also help you understand if something was recently repaired or replaced, and the mechanic is making a duplicate suggestion to make a quick buck.

Check the Price of New Auto Parts

A common practice of dishonest mechanics is overcharging for car parts. Most people don't double check the market price for a new part and simply pay the bill. But before signing on any dotted line, it's a good idea to do a quick search on your phone to see how much the part really costs. You can also call your car dealership to see if the charges are correct.

Ask for the Old Parts Back

If the mechanic is shady enough, sometimes they'll charge you to replace parts without actually changing anything. Always ask for the old parts before they begin the repair. If you ask afterward, they may say they've already trashed them. This is useful for two reasons: you'll know they replaced what they said they would, and you'll be able to see what actually broke. You should ask the mechanic questions about the broken part to learn about what went wrong so you're better equipped for the next repair.

Use a Diagnostic Tool

Whenever you bring your car in for some kind of light on the dashboard, the mechanic will probably use a diagnostic tool to read what's wrong in the car's computer. You can buy one of these diagnostic tools for yourself for $20 to $35 online. Just plug it into your car's OBD 2 port (you can learn where to find in the owner's manual). The device will show problem codes that will help you get an idea about what's wrong, and help you identify if the mechanic is telling the truth.

Get Multiple Estimates

Call a couple of local auto shops and ask for a quick estimate on the same job before committing to a repair. Mechanics may try to upcharge you on some of the work, so getting quotes from similar businesses can help you determine if you're being offered a reasonable price. Bonus: if you find a lower quote, try to ask your repairmen if they'll match it. You could end up saving some money.

When I got rear-ended my junior year of college, I begged my dad to come so I wouldn't be swindled into unnecessary repairs or costs. He refused because he wanted me to learn to manage these types of situations on my own. Using the tips listed above, I now feel confident that I can defend myself against auto repair scams. If you have a car, I encourage you to do the same! Auto repair is inevitable, but being taken advantage of doesn't need to be.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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