Leaving your car at the repair shop can be a scary thing, financially speaking. Without being able to keep a watchful eye over the repairs on your vehicle, you're vulnerable to scammers trying to make an extra buck out of your trust. You could end up being charged for services that were never delivered, or you could be swayed into paying for overpriced procedures your car doesn't even need.
Here are a few tips on how to stay vigilant and avoid getting ripped off at the repair shop:
Getting Parts Replaced - When the mechanic says you need to have a part replaced, ask which part in particular needs replacing. Borrow the part and take it to another mechanic for a second opinion. If it's verified that the part needs to be replaced, take note of that part and make sure you can identify it, either by taking a picture of reference or by marking it. Tell the mechanic you want the old part back after repairs - this way, you'll be able to tell whether or not the part was really replaced.
Unauthorized Work - When getting work done on your car, always ask for an estimate that itemizes every service and part. Treat this as a contract detailing the specifics of your transaction with the mechanic, and as such, must be followed accordingly. If a gasket needs replacing, have it listed. If your engine needs cleaning, have it listed, too. The more specific the work order is, the better. Make sure that any and all repairs made on the car were listed on a signed copy of the work order in your possession. That way, costs will stay within a 10% difference of the estimate, and no surprise expenses will pop up when you're ready to settle the bill.
Valuables - It's a well-known rule of thumb - never leave your valuables in the car. Repair shops typically hold no responsibility for loss or damage to items left in your car, making whatever you leave inside ripe for the taking.
Special Offers - Be careful of repair shops that offer repairs for extremely low prices. These offers are usually designed to lure you in for unnecessary and often overpriced services. Opening up with a bargain makes customers more likely to spend on other repairs, since they're saving a huge amount on the other procedure. Double-check on any additional repairs recommended for your vehicle and ask for a second opinion.
Diagnosis - Scammers can sometimes fool you with misdiagnoses. Say, for example, he tells you a certain shudder in you engine means a part needs to be replaced. It's highly possible that he's making this up to try and squeeze a few more dollars out of you. Make sure you inform yourself about the symptoms of your car problems and see if they match with what the mechanic's telling you. Stay on top of things, ask the mechanic for any explanations you might need, and consult your owner's manual and/or another mechanic when in doubt.