One piece of advice we repeat over and over in regards to car repair prices is to ensure that you get it in writing? While this does not necessarily guarantee you won’t overpay for auto repair, an auto repair estimate does give you a break down of the charges (however confusing) to scrutinize.
That said, at times, you may need to pay for the estimate – especially if diagnostics are needed. To this end, the following is part of our Voice of the Technician series. Here’s what Mike, a 15-year repair shop owner suggests (edited for space and context):
If you want an exact car repair estimate, be prepared to pay a diagnostic fee up front. It’s dangerous to rely solely on your own diagnosis (or your dad’s or brother’s), which is usually just a guess based on very little actual experience. You will waste the repair shop’s time and potentially your money. Repair shops are happy to do what you ask, but will the repairs that you think you need actually fix the problem with your car?
There’s an inside joke in the car business that’s rarely mentioned. Mechanics will do the repair a customer requests even when they know it won’t fix the real concern. Sure, some repair shops will warn you up front (to a greater or lesser extent), but others will just blindly proceed. When your diagnosis doesn’t fix the problem, you’re out that expense, plus, now you need to pay for diagnostics.
Solution: Shop for a flat rate diagnostic fee. Make sure that the diagnosis covers the basics: fuel pressure, code scan, injection pulse, ignition, as well as MAF svc, and compression test – these will vary depending on symptoms. Ensure the shop describes and truly understands their diagnostic process. If the person answering the phone cannot adequately describe the above – keep shopping. If a shop gives you an estimate based on your diagnosis, without an offer to diagnose it first, that’s a warning. Unnecessary repairs due to bad guesses is the number one reason people spend too much.
Please let us know your thoughts on this series. We’d love to have your input!
(The Voice of the Technician Series is not necessarily the opinion of RepairTrust)