How To Avoid Garage Rip-Offs

Posted on: 02 July 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

How many times have you heard friends recounting tales of the local mechanic taking them for a ride and leaving them with empty pockets?

Our tips will hopefully save you some money and keep you out of trouble.

Follow recommendations

Use a garage where friends or relatives have received a good service - recommendations are priceless and good mechanics are like gold dust.

Find a mechanic or garage you feel happy with BEFORE your car needs a service - this will save you having to choose one in a hurry.

Shop around

Shop around for the best price. That VW garage could be twice the price of Alan the mechanic - with 20 years VW servicing experience - down the road.

Make notes

Put whatever work you need doing down on paper and give it to the mechanic before they start. Keep a copy for yourself too.

Check the quote

When you get a quote - make sure the price includes VAT, all parts and labour. Some dealers may add these later on top of what you think is an inclusive quote.


Ask if all parts and labour are guaranteed - if not take your business somewhere else.

Arm yourself

Try and learn a little about your car. Even leaving a Haynes car manual in your car will suggest you know a little about your motor and won't be an easy target.

Keep an eye on your parts

If you know that parts are to be replaced try marking them just to check they have been, and ask to dispose of the old parts yourself.

Note any damage

Note any scratches or bangs on your car before you take it into the garage and take photos if you want to - if it comes back with any additional marks you'll know where they've come from.

Use Test Centres

If you need an MOT, take your car to a test centre not a workshop.

It should mean you get an unbiased opinion.

Women beware

It's a sad fact that women seem to be targeted more than men when it comes to car repairs so do your homework and don't be afraid to ask about anything or get a second opinion.

Maintenance costs

You might want to consider any repairs or work you might need from the outset, like when you are buying the car in the first place.

A little research will let you know which models and years are reliable and give you an idea about maintenance costs.

When's your next service due?

Your car manual or log book should tell you when your next service is due, or when wear-and-tear parts should be replaced.

Don't take anyone else's word for it.

Beware the growing repair list

If the list of repairs starts to grow be very suspicious.

Get a second opinion: going in for new tyres shouldn't mean you come out with new shock absorbers and brakes.

Independent service

That old but still eye-catching Porsche that you have will probably be much cheaper to service at a small independent than at a large franchise.

They'll probably be doing it for the love as well as the money too, so shop around and you might get a bargain.

A stitch in time...

Sort out problems straight away before they get bigger.

Windscreen chips can quickly become cracks - get them filled; bald tyres may explode as well as being illegal; rust spots will spread unless you treat them.

Check your parts

Check if the garage is using new or reconditioned parts to fix your car.

If they're using a reconditioned part (which is often perfectly acceptable), make sure you're charged accordingly.

Test drive your car

Don't be afraid to ask for a test drive before you pay for any work.

If it has not been fixed you will be in a strong position to get what you want done.

Don't pay cash

Pay by cheque or credit card - not cash. You can always stop a cheque if there's a problem and the garage disputes it, and some credit card payments are protected against fraud.

Look beyond official service centres

Even if you're car is under warranty it doesn't mean you have to use a franchised service centre for your car.

Work can be done elsewhere providing what is outlined in the log book is carried out.

Ask questions

If you are not sure what you are paying for, ASK!

And don't worry about looking ignorant. It's not your job to know how your car works, so don't let them blind you with jargon, make them explain in plain English.

After the work is done make sure you are provided with a full list of the work broken down into parts, labour and VAT.

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