Top 5 Most Common Car Repair Scams

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Top 5 Most Common Car Repair Scams

Anyone that has ever owned or driven a car knows, eventually you’ll experience mechanical difficulties that may leave you stranded on the side of the road with your thumb in the air. This grim reality of modern-day transportation is to be expected- Like anything else, cars are subject to the ever-changing natural elements, as well as human error… vengeful ex’s, and pretty much everything in between.

While mechanical errors are to be expected- Sleazy mechanic scams are not. Every year millions of Americans entrust their primary mode of transportation to the careful (or not so careful) care of their local mechanic. While it should be said, that most mechanics are on the up and up, it is always important to be extremely wary of possible scams when dealing with some new automotive service providers. The NHTSA estimated that consumers lose about 20 billion annually due to improper or unnecessary repair and maintenance practices.

Just to put that into perspective, if all that money had gone to one mechanic, possibly the king of all the shifty mechanics, that mechanic could theoretically buy, The Island nation of Dominica, 80,000 tickets to space, four Apple headquarters, and… well I’m sure you get the point by now, it’s a considerable amount of dough. And hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be prepared to put a stop to villainous mechanics siphoning off your hard-earned cash.

The Cabin Air Filter Replacement Scam

You’ve probably experienced this scam first hand. You’re driving one day when you realize you haven’t got an oil change in quite some time. No problem, you pull into a service station and patiently wait for an oil change. About an hour or so passes and you are informed that your car’s oil has been changed however they discover that your cabin air filter is dirty.

Cabin air filter replacements

Always be sure to ask to see your cabin air filter before authorizing a replacement. While it’s important to maintain a clean cabin air filter, it should be noted that cabin air filters do not present an immediate danger to the proper function of your vehicle. Not to mention, service providers often charge exorbitant prices to replace an air cabin filter, when there’s a good chance you could save yourself some cash and replaced the filter yourself. Installing an air cabin filter is simple and easy and could save you anywhere from 40-60 bucks!    

The New Tire Scam 

New tires can be expensive, coupled with the time it takes to install the tires, you could be looking at a price tag of anywhere from $500- $800. Believe it or not, you can repair most flat tires, as long as the puncture is not on the sidewall of the tire. Always ask your mechanic if you can inspect the damaged tire before agreeing to a replacement. You can also have your mechanic explain why your tires need to be replaced and break down their cost estimations before you agree to the service. You should never feel pressured to get a replacement. If you feel your mechanic is being a bit pushy with their service, take your car to another, more reputable service provider. Also, refer to our Tire Wear Guide to diagnose the state of your tires from the comfort of your garage!

Tire Tread

The Verbal Agreement Scam

You’re driving along one day and your fender decides it’s had enough and falls off your car. You carefully gather your run-away fender and head to your local mechanic. After careful deliberation, your mechanic diagnoses the problem, estimates the cost, and details when your vehicle should be ready. Satisfied with the price, you grab a rental vehicle and continue on your way, only to find out a couple of days later that, the mechanic had tacked on a couple extra hundred for unforeseen problems with your fenders install. Now you’re liable for the extra costs. This is an example of the classic bait and switch. It is extremely important to document the agreed-upon price in writing. Any mechanic worth their weight in salt, will provide their customer with a repair authorization form, detailing the expected costs. Some mechanics have been known to leave the estimation mounts blank when they ask customers to sign the repair authorization form. Leaving you liable for whatever figure they conjure up, once your vehicle is complete.

This also tends to occur when customers are not physically at the garage and your mechanic provides you with their estimation via phone. While this method is convenient, allowing the mechanic to begin work on your vehicle immediately, as opposed to waiting for you to arrive at the garage to assess the damages yourself. However, this leaves you vulnerable and your mechanic may stray from the agreed-upon price as there is no written agreement guaranteeing the estimated cost. A simple way to combat verbal agreement fraud is to record your phone call with the mechanic. There are plenty of free applications, you can use to record incoming calls. And just an added pro tip, you can use these applications when dealing with any service. Looking for excellent service? Simply inform any customer service representative that you are recording their call and listen as their entire tone and demeanor change.

The Oil Change Scam

Most shops that specialize in Oil changes, like to slap a little sticker on the inside of your windshield- to remind you to come back for service in about 3,000 Miles. While this is a nice gesture, most modern car manufacturers suggest their vehicles can be driven nearly 5,000 miles before needing an oil change. 

Oil Change scam

Save yourself some time and money and consult your car’s owners Manuel to determine when you’ll be needing your next oil change. If you’re lucky enough to have a newer model vehicle, your car should come equipped with an oil sensor that automatically notifies the driver when an oil change is due.

The Unnecessary “repairs” Scam

When’s the last time you had your catalytic converter serviced…? If you couldn’t answer that question you’d be in the same boat as about 97% of vehicle owners today. No one really knows when individual parts on their car had been inspected, serviced, or replaced. Some mechanics will use this to their advantage, claiming an obscure part on your vehicle may need some maintenance, when in reality they’re just adding a few extra hundred bucks to the total bill. This particular scam is one of the hardest to spot and deal with. After all, the mechanic is supposed to be the expert in this situation. You can always double-check the pricing by Googling the problem with your vehicle. Also, you should never be afraid to take your car to another mechanic to get a second opinion.

Finding The Best Mechanic:

Finding the best Mechanic

Finding a good mechanic is a lot like finding a good barber, or a reputable lawyer, more often than not you’ll receive the best recommendations from friends and family. If you’re a bit strapped for friends and family, you can always trust the kind people of the internet to provide you with some insight. 

Products like Openbay provide a comprehensive list of recommended auto mechanics in your area. Once you’re able to zero in on a shop, be sure to look them up on Google and Facebook. Google reviews are an excellent place to find honest reviews of the shop in question. Additionally, an active Facebook following with plenty of customer interactions is also a very good sign when choosing the best mechanics in your area.

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