Many consumers feel like they are totally at the mercy of others when they need a car repair. Very few people have the expertise to do their own repairs and many people know so little about how their car works and what is wrong with it that they can easily be taken advantage of. So, how do you go about making sure your car will be fixed correctly and for a reasonable price? Start with our guide to auto repair services.
Options When You Need a Repair
Very often, your best bet is to ask a friend or neighbor for a referral to a reputable repair shop. If someone you trust recommends a mechanic or service station, you can most likely count on them to be honest in their pricing and skilled at fixing your car. Whether you get a recommendation or not, you will probably be going to one of three following basic types of repair shops:
Car dealership. When you buy a new car and are getting warranty repairs done, you will want to return to the dealership where you bought your car. However, once the warranty has expired, you may want to avoid the dealership as they tend to be more expensive than other repair shops.
Independent repair shop. A service station recommended by a friend will probably be your best bet. A busy local shop will likely be efficient and good at what they do. However, picking a shop out of the yellow pages could be risky.
Auto repair chain. When you are looking for a specific service, like an oil change, you may want to consider a national chain shop. They often offer discounts and customer loyalty programs. However, they are not likely to be able to diagnose and repair an unusual problem.
Your Rights in Virginia
When getting your car repaired in Virginia, you are entitled to a written statement outlining the following for any repair exceeding $25:
The estimated cost of labor necessary to complete the work
The estimated cost of parts necessary to complete work
A description of the problem or work as described or authorized by the customer
The estimated completion time
In addition, a repair shop may not charge more than 10 percent above the repair estimate for completed work. Always make sure you get a written estimate before leaving your car for a repair to avoid the scenario where you take the car in for one repair and when you come back the cost of the repair is much higher due to extra repairs you never agreed to. If you disagree with the price once the repair is done, however, there may be little you can do about it as the mechanic can keep your car until you pay the bill, once this happens you have to sue the shop and pay the repair bill to the court. Then the shop must release your car. Auto repair shops, like many other merchants, fall under the caveat emptor (“Let the buyer beware”) legal doctrine, so ask for recommendations and get a written estimate before trusting a mechanic with your car.