Consumer complaints resulting from automotive repair scams are rising. Although most auto repair shops are honest, as the economy has worsened more mechanics have begun engaging in shady practices in an effort to rake in more money.
Car Sales and Repair Scams
Crooks and scammers are some of the most creative people on earth. Therefore, it would be impossible to describe all the automotive repair scams that are being used to cheat honest consumers out of their money. However, some of the most common maintenance scams are described below.
- Repair Estimate Scams – This auto repair ripoff scam typically occurs when the customer receives only a verbal cost estimate when he drops his car off at the shop. Once he returns to pick up his car, the final cost is significantly higher than the verbal estimate he originally received. The best way to avoid this auto repair scam is to always request a written estimate and instruct the service department not to make any repairs other than those you've discussed without first contacting you.
- Misrepresentation – Intentional misrepresentation of what repairs are needed is one of the most common automotive repair scams. Unethical mechanics are able to get away with misrepresenting what problems a car has because most people have very little automotive knowledge.
- Preventative Maintenance Checkups – Some shady repair shops offer preventative maintenance check-ups at what appear to be reasonable rates. Customers pay for these check-ups in advance and typically the mechanic will intentionally damage a vehicle to increase the customer's repair bill.
- Replacement Parts and Counterfeit Parts Scams – Another common maintenance scam used by mechanics to cheat their customers is the replacement parts scam. This scam involves charging the customer for parts that were not used. The counterfeit parts scam involves using cheap, knock off parts rather than quality parts and charging the customer as though quality parts where used.
- Bait and Switch – In the auto repair industry, the bait and switch scam usually involves an offer of a specific repair job at a great price. Once the mechanic has your car, he notifies you that he's discovered several other very costly repairs that must be done in order to ensure that your vehicle is safe. These additional problems are usually non-existent, but the mechanics uses your fear and guilt over not adequately maintaining your car as leverage to get you to agree to the additional repairs.
If you have been the victim of an auto repair rip-off, you should contact a consumer protection attorney who will evaluate your case and advise you as to your legal options. Be prepared to provide your attorney with receipts, photos, and any other documentation you have which supports your case. You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or the Office of the Attorney General in your state.