My husband took his car into our mechanic this morning to get enough work done to require a loaner car for the day and an estimate well over $1,000. “I’ll tell them not to change the cabin air filter,” he reassured me. “I can do that one myself.” Now if only he could install and align his own tires, change a serpentine belt and perform our state’s emissions test, we could really save some bucks.
But he can’t, so we are, like most drivers, at the mercy of our mechanic’s word. Does that battery really need to be replaced, or should we wait until it dies at the most inconvenient moment? We’re pretty sure he’s being honest and it really does need to be replaced—mostly because we keep asking if mine, which actually needs to be jumped from time to time, needs to be replaced and he keeps insisting it’s got life left in it.
Customers tend to not trust auto mechanics and it’s not just because we don’t know much about cars; it’s because even auto mechanics don’t trust other auto mechanics. They admit to seeing customers overcharged based on gender, age or type of car. They admit to seeing unnecessary services performed for problems that don’t exist—or problems they caused themselves. Hell, they even admit to seeing other mechanics steal items from customers’ cars, take them for unauthorized joy rides and charge for work they didn’t even do.
Tire Reviews and More conducted a survey of 154 auto mechanics and while the respondents mostly rated themselves as honest (4.7 out of 5), they rated other mechanics as substantially less so (3.2 out of 5). They did offer some advice, though, for finding the honest among them and avoiding overcharges and unnecessary work:
- Use an independent shop, not a chain store or the dealership.
- Make sure to get a second opinion before replacing “everything” one shop suggests.
- Look for a mom-and-pop operation that looks professional, has good references, and has been in business for a long time.
- Check for the ASE Blue Seal and BBB membership.
- Educate yourself and get recommendations from knowledgeable car enthusiast friends and family.
My husband just called—his brakes need to be replaced, too. We’re trusting you, Brett; mostly because you’ve earned it, but also because we followed the advice above.