How To Protect Yourself Against Repair Rip-Offs

An astounding 40 percent (more than $20 billion worth) of
all car repairs made are unnecessary, according to a recent
U.S. government-sponsored study. To help protect yourself
from being one of the many victims, consider these expert
suggestions from a task force created by the National
Association of Attorneys General (first of two parts):

* WORK FACE-TO-FACE. Find a shop where you are
permitted to talk with the mechanic directly. If you are not
allowed this, the next best thing is to prepare a neatly written
printed or typed page describing exactly what is wrong with
and what you want done to the car. Attach it to the dash or
give it to the person who writes up your service order.

* GET A WRITTEN ESTIMATE. Ask for an estimate
written on shop stationery or a work order. Scribbled
numbers on a notepad are virtually useless in court. The
laws in many of the United States require a written estimate
but you must request it. Make sure you're told how much
the total job will cost and keep your records in a safe
place, for future reference.

* PAY FOR DIAGNOSTICS. Proper diagnostic work
will determine with a high level of certainty that such-and-
such a repair will cure your problem. So be willing to pay
for diagnostic time. Watch out for a Mr. Know-It-All type
who is ready to replace expensive parts without even
looking under the hood or going for a test-drive with you.

* GET A BACKUP ESTIMATE. If the repair is going
to cost more than about $100, consider shopping around
for other estimates. Tell the shop that you intend to do this.
This will put them on notice not to pad the bill.

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