Know Your Rights Under Auto Repair Laws

All too often someone tell you a story about having taken his or her car to the mechanic only to be charged for something unexpected or unnecessary. Chances are you’ve experiences this yourself. But you can’t swear off mechanics, especially when your oil needs to be changed or when the “check engine” light comes on. But you don’t have to swear off mechanics when you know your rights. Then, you can take your car in to be fixed, not so you can get swindled. Take a look at your rights below so you can go to the mechanic with confidence.

Inspect the Facility

When you need work done on your car, you should always check out the shop in person instead of relying on a website or a phone call, and it would be better if you were recommended to a place by friends or family members you trust. You should make sure the equipment is updated, that the shop is reasonably neat and organized, that the shop’s policies are clearly posted or available for reading, that they answer to some association such as AAA or the Better Business Bureau, and that the manager will happily answer any questions you have. While some of this information can be accessed through a webpage or phone call, not all of it can, so be sure you’re checking in on this location and verifying certain standards. Once you find a place that meets your specifications, make sure you adhere to two of your rights: only work you authorized can be performed and you should keep written records.

Receive an Estimate

Once you find a shop that meets your specifications, only then do you start negotiating the work that will be done on your vehicle. An important right at this stage is that you deserve a written estimate for repairs that will cost more than $100, unless you waive this right. You also have a right to oversee any additional costs or repairs to your vehicle as the repairs cannot cost over 10 percent of the estimate without your permission. The estimation could include cost of towing, the odometer reading, a description of the problem, the reason you chose to bring in the car, the estimated cost, including labor and parts necessary for the repair, and what the tax comes to, resulting in a final estimated grand total for the repair.

Review the Invoice

The invoice could be one of your most crucial rights, not only because you have a right to know how much you were charged and what you were charged for, but because if you have a contestable problem, the invoice is going to be your ironclad document. So, first of all, you have a right to receive an invoice. From there, you have a right to see a list of all of the services performed, which includes any parts that were repaired or replaced, and their cost. Labor should be itemized on the invoice, with its cost. Lastly, you should see exactly how much each item on the itemized list costs, with a grand total and a charge receipt.

Understand the Charges

Don’t forget you have a right to full pre-approval before the shop executes services not initially agreed upon. So, if the shop has performed repairs you don’t agree with, or if what the shop is charging has exceeded 110 percent of the estimation, you have a right to contest it. Now, some shops will keep your car if you do not pay your bill, but you do not have to pay the bill if it the shop has violated either of your previous rights, or if there is no sign posting what your consumer rights are. If these three rights are adhered to, then, yes, you must pay your bill to get your car back.

Contesting a Bill

If you disagree with the services and refuse to pay your bill based on a violation of your rights, you should speak to the manager of the shop first. The manager should resolve your problems, but if the manager does not, you should then speak to his manager, if it’s a corporation. If it isn’t, speak to the association that the garage reports to, like AAA or the BBB. Make sure that you’re organized and you’re ready to negotiate. Your invoice will come in handy here, as well as any notes you may have taken on your interaction with the mechanics or the shop. The association can perform arbitration or mediation on your behalf. If the shop doesn’t comply, they risk repercussions ranging from a bad review to a fine. If that still doesn’t work, you can take the shop to small claims court, the consumer resource center through the office of the attorney general, or your own attorney. Rest assured, if you have a problem with the way services were rendered to your car, you can either negotiate on your own or with support for you get get the exact services you requested.

Be Fair

Knowing your rights is important and knowing you have support for contestation is important. However, you shouldn’t automatically jump to taking the shop to court if your car does not behave or perform as it should. It’s important to write down an account of everything discussed at the shop because if the mechanic suggests an expensive repair that you opt out of, and your car behaves as the mechanic said it would, you can’t say you weren’t warned. If a part has failed, return to the shop and ask if the labor or the part is under warranty (you can also ask this earlier when it comes to receiving your estimate). If there is a warranty, be sure to replace the defective part, instead of blaming the shop. Sometimes when it comes to cars, parts can be just as faulty as people, so don’t claim the garage messed up your vehicle. Always assess the situation for a miscommunication, poor workmanship, or faulty parts.

There are plenty of well-trained, reputable auto repair shops around the country. Your experience with a mechanic usually will not come down to deciding whether or not you need to take him or her to small claims court, but it’s nice to know what your rights are, should a problem go unresolved. Never go to an auto technician you have any reason to distrust. Never pay for anything that is 110 percent over the estimate. Ultimately, stay organized, be confident, and get everything in writing. You are at the shop to get your car worked on and that doesn’t have to mean you get worked over.