Fraudulent Auto Repairs and Insurance Scams Cost Drivers Money, Time and Safety
November 4, 2015
Finding a reliable auto repair shop is important for all drivers. A good mechanic can prevent serious accidents by detecting problems early and can also help a vehicle owner save money. Although most auto shops are honest, some dishonest ones cast a negative shadow on mechanics everywhere. It is important to know how they target drivers and how to fight back.
With this scam, a shop worker offers a customer a reasonable initial estimate. However, the final bill shows costs greatly exceeding that estimate. Another method is leaving the estimate box empty on a work authorization form. When the vehicle owner signs the form, the mechanic can write in an inflated number and try to use the form as proof of authorization.
Mechanics may perform repairs that are not necessary. They usually suggest repairs that are pricey and beyond the common knowledge of most drivers.
Using Fake Parts
Using counterfeit parts is a dangerous practice. Some shops use these parts or salvaged ones instead. In addition to this, a shop may actually charge a customer for a new part but use a salvaged part.
Poor Work Quality
While some mechanics may perform substandard work, others may not perform any work at all. Customers are still billed for the shoddy work or nonperformance of necessary work.
Discounts And Maintenance
Many repair shops advertise low prices for a specific service. When customers arrive to take advantage of the special, they are often conned into buying additional services or find that the discounted price is a base price that excludes several required add-ons.
Consumers Pay The Costs
Poor-quality repairs are costly to drivers and their families in many ways. Some people unfortunately lose their lives because of faulty repairs or issues that are ignored by mechanics. Substandard repairs can also cost people thousands of dollars in damages. One real example involved a driver whose steering column was fixed using only a flimsy coat hanger. When it broke, the car veered into a house. In such an incident, the driver is the at-fault party, and the driver's insurance company must typically pay for the damages. The faulty work could result in an insurance premium hike for the driver. Since the costs of fraudulent mechanics are passed on to insured motorists through increased premiums, this is another way fraudulent repairs affect insurance costs. In addition to monetary and physical damages, shoddy repairs can cause people stress and waste their time. It is frustrating to take a car back to a shop multiple times for a simple issue.
How To Fight Back
The best way to avoid these problems is to find a trustworthy mechanic, build a good working relationship and use that person's services on a long-term basis. This is a good way to get better prices as well. To find a good mechanic, ask friends, family members and coworkers for suggestions. Check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against any mechanics who are being considered. Always ask a mechanic for a written estimate when something is wrong. The estimate must include both labor and parts. Do not sign the form until the estimate is agreeable and is written clearly in pen.
If a mechanic suggests a plan to waive a deductible, turn it down. This usually involves fraudulently billing the insurer for a new part but using a salvaged one. Keep in mind that the cost of fraud is passed on to all insured drivers through higher premiums. Look around the shop when visiting. Awards and certifications are important to look for. The Automotive Service Excellence Seal is one example.
Lastly, ask to examine the repairs before leaving. A good mechanic will be glad to point them out and explain what was done and why it was done. To learn more about finding a good mechanic or for local recommendations, discuss concerns with an agent.