How to Give Auto Repair Estimates


Perhaps you or your friends don't know enough about cars to say if the mechanic's estimate for fixing the latest problem is fair or not. Don't despair: Even if you don't know an alternator from a hole in the ground, you can still learn to make your own auto repair estimates and compare them with what the mechanic tells you.

  • Find out what repairs have to be made, whether you know how to make the analysis yourself or wait to hear what the mechanic diagnoses as the problem.

  • Ask your regular auto repair shop or dealer what their labor rate is, and how long they think it will take to fix the problem. You probably won't get an exact number of hours, but even a limited range will help you make your auto repair estimates.

  • Learn the cost of replacement parts. If they're "original equipment manufacturer" items--made by the car manufacturer--you don't want to pay more than the manufacturer's recommended price. Used part prices have a wider range, so request the garage pick something from the middle of the pack.

  • Make sure you understand exactly what the mechanic is going to do. If you take your car in for routine maintenance, your auto repair estimate might be an underestimate if the dealer decides to flush coolant or rotate the tires a couple of thousand miles early.

  • Check out all parts of the bill. Miscellaneous charges can cover rags used on your engine or hazardous waste disposal fees, but they can also be used to add a few extra dollars to the total.

  • Ask questions about anything on the bill that you don't understand, whether it's illegible writing, incomprehensible techno-babble or services you didn't request. Once you have all the facts, make your own auto repair estimate and see if what you're being billed looks too high.

Tips & Warnings

  • The best way to avoid being cheated is to deal with an honest mechanic. Ask your friends for recommendations and check the local Better Business Bureau for complaints.
  • Nobody enjoys being treated like a crook. Unless you have good reason, don't be confrontational toward your mechanic. Keep things calm, so that if there isn't a problem, the garage will be happy to keep you as a customer.

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