The Shady World of Mechanic Fraud

Since August is Fraud Awareness Month, we’re going to take you to a side of repair shops that reputable mechanics don’t often like to talk about­­—mechanic fraud. We want to help you avoid fraud and choose a trustworthy mechanic instead of going with the first one available, regardless of reputation.

Detecting Mechanic Fraud

Protecting yourself from these types of shops and scams can seem intimidating if you aren’t sure how to look for problems or aren’t familiar with common ways shady mechanics will try to dupe you. We’ve got a few ways to help you determine if you’re dealing with a reputable shop, how to handle the situation if it isn’t, and how to find a reliable mechanic.

Repair Estimate Scams

Have you ever gotten a quote from a shop and dropped your car off only to be hit with a major bill that looks quite different from the estimate once work is completed? You might have been the victim of a repair estimate scam. A company will bait you in with extremely low estimates to get you in the door and not honoring the price when you come to pick your car up. Any reputable shop will honor the quote. And if more work is required than originally expected, they’ll give you a courtesy call to let you know what the difference will be and let you decide if you want to proceed.

Recommending Needless Repairs

Recommending needless repairs is a common way for these shops to squeeze as much money out of you as possible. You might only need an oil change, but they might try to say that you need extra parts or other services in addition. It’s possible that this might not be a scam, but you should always ask to see the part they are recommending replacement for. If they won’t show it to you, find another mechanic. You can also get a second opinion by taking your car to another repair shop. You’ll be able to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary repairs by comparing the recommendations and estimates from each shop and decide what is best for you.

Counterfeit Parts

Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult forms of mechanic fraud to detect because of the closely imitated counterfeits on the market. Oftentimes, these parts will be swapped in for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ones, costing the shop much less to buy and leaving you with the regular part charge on your bill. The only way to tell that the part is counterfeit is by looking at the labels and quality of the part closely or to read previous reviews on the shop. A lot of times, previous customers will try to warn others of scams by posting on message boards or review pages.

If you suspect fraud for any reason, get a second opinion from a shop that has good reviews online from a trusted website. If you aren’t able to remove your car from the shop, ask a manager see the areas they repaired and have them explain the work they completed. If you aren’t happy, tell management about your problem. In extreme cases, there are lawyers who specialize in fraud cases and the Better Business Bureau will take your complaint.

Finding a Reliable Mechanic

When looking for a reliable mechanic, it’s always best to trust your gut. If you feel like they’re being dishonest or withholding information, there might be something going on. To ensure you are working with a reliable mechanic:

  • Ask your friends and family members for their recommendations
  • Get a written estimate
  • Go online and read the shop’s reviews
  • Ensure your mechanic is certified by a recognized professional organization, like National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)
  • Visit their BBB page
  • Shop around for quotes

You don’t have to work with the first shop you find. Search until one feels right. If you need an auto repair or collision quote for your vehicle, contact us today! We always give written estimates and are all our technicians are ASE-certified.