Consumer Publications List
Baltimore man took his car for repairs after it failed its emissions test. The
shop replaced some valves and a hose for $149 and said the car would pass. It
didn't. When the man brought the car back, the shop said the carburetor would
have to be rebuilt for $566. The consumer took his car to another mechanic who
said the carburetor only needed a minor adjustment. He fixed the car and it
A Takoma Park
man took his car in to a repair shop for some work, which the mechanic told him
would cost around $680. He did not ask for a written estimate. When he picked up
his car the bill was $971. Since he had nothing in writing, the shop owner told
him he had to pay the full amount.
Car repair problems
are a major source of consumer complaints. Repairs can be very costly and no one
likes to waste money on shoddy workmanship, a misdiagnosis, bad estimates or
unauthorized repairs. Your best insurance against these kinds of problems is to
find a reputable repair shop. Look for a repair shop before you need one, so you
don't have to rush into a decision when an emergency arises. Here are some
recommendations. Talk to friends and family who trust their mechanic. Ask your
auto insurance agent, auto parts salesperson, or other business people you know.
2. Check the repair
shop's complaint records with the Consumer Protection Division and the Better
Business Bureau. The shop you select should have few complaints registered
against it and a good track record of resolving those complaints.
3. Look for a
mechanic with experience working on the same automobile model and make as yours.
4. Seek out a
mechanic with good credentials, updated knowledge and skill. Some shops display
ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification, which indicates the mechanic
has met basic standards in a specific technical area. You can also check for
shops that participate in the AAA (American Automobile Association) auto service
program. But be careful. A mechanic who has passed an ASE test or received other
certification may not necessarily be outstanding or even honest.
mechanics. Are they willing to answer your questions? Do they convey a positive,
6. Ask the shop for
the names of customer references. Then call those references.
7. Look for a shop
with a clean and well maintained repair area.
For any major car repair, you
should always get a second opinion. Then get repair cost estimates from a couple
of other shops. Some facilities charge for estimates, so ask if there will be a
Under state law,
you're entitled to a written estimate for all repairs costing more than $50 and
you can't be charged more than 10% over the written estimate without your
consent. If the mechanic finds that the repair will cost more than 10% than the
estimate, or that additional repairs are needed, the shop must contact you to
get your authorization.
You also can't be
charged for repairs you didn't authorize. Before signing a repair order, read it
carefully. Ask for clarification of any item you don't understand.
You have a right
to keep your replaced parts. Tell the shop ahead of time that you want them
returned. Keep them until you are confident the repairs made were necessary and
performed properly. If you encounter any difficulty, these parts may assist you
in resolving your problem. However: you may not want your part returned if the
shop says you will have to pay a "core charge." This fee is charged when you
receive a rebuilt part for your car, but do not surrender your part to be traded
back to the rebuilder.
The invoice you receive should list
all work performed, all parts supplied and any surcharges. Any used, rebuilt or
reconditioned parts must be identified. Keep your invoice as a record. It may be
useful if you need to return to the shop because the repairs weren't
find that the shop charged them much more than the estimate, and the two parties
disagree over whether the consumer authorized the higher cost. If this happens,
the shop has the right to hold your car until you pay. In that case, you have
two choices. You can pay the bill in full, noting that the amount is in dispute,
and take your car home. You may then file a complaint with the Consumer
Protection Division or with District Court to try to get the disputed portion of
the bill refunded to you.
The other choice is
to leave the car at the shop and petition the District Court to issue a writ of
replevin. However, this is a costly and time-consuming process. You will have to
post a bond for twice the disputed amount before the court orders the shop to
release your car. You will then get a hearing in District Court to determine who
is responsible for the disputed portion of the bill.
Most auto repair shops set their
fees for repairs by using a flat rate manual, which lists the cost of a specific
repair for your make, model and year of car. However, it doesn't hurt to try to
negotiate a lower price. Many shops will match a competitor's estimate.
Auto repair shops
often advertise special prices for services such as tune-ups or alignments. Call
and ask if the advertised price is what you will be charged. A shop advertising
a service for $49.95 may offer that price only for cars with four-cylinder
engines, but charge $79.95 for cars with six-cylinder engines.
Always ask if any
price, including an advertised price, includes all fees. Some shops charge "shop
fees" or "environmental impact fees" that can add a few dollars or a percentage
of the total cost to the final bill.
Taking the time to
find an auto repair shop with a good reputation, getting second opinions, asking
for written estimates, and asking ahead of time about additional fees can help
you have a satisfactory car repair experience.
Consumers who have
need help resolving a dispute with an auto repair facility can call the Attorney
General's Consumer Protection Division mediation unit: (410) 528-8662.
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TDD: 410-576-6372