How to Know You’re Getting a Fair Deal at the Mechanic

A Girls Guide To Cars | How To Know You’re Getting A Fair Deal At The Mechanic - Sbcautomechanicguyfeature
Watch out for shifty Al. Photo: Creative Commons

Don’t be taken for a ride.

Have you ever been ripped off by a mechanic? It happens, but most auto shops have your best interest at heart. As a female mechanic and auto business owner, I know a thing or two about this topic. Here’s how to make sure you’re not being taken for a ride.

Be a defensive driver when it comes to caring for your  car

First, don’t automatically assume the worst about a mechanic. Lying is not a problem that’s exclusive to the auto industry. There are dishonest doctors, lawyers, and politicians, too – especially politicians! This is important to mention, because a lot of drivers get defensive about the condition of their vehicle.

Here’s an example, a driver came to my shop for an oil change. Even though that’s all he wanted, my staff performed an inspection of his vehicle. We do this for every customer as a courtesy; most auto shops do the same thing. Look at it this way: would you rather know about a problem now (while your car is in the garage) or later (when you break down on the way to work)?

The vehicle’s tires were in bad shape, and he was risking a blow-out. When presented with this information, he got very upset. “All I wanted was an oil change and now you’re trying to sell me a set of tires!” This is a typical reaction. No one likes to spend over $500 on tires. I took him to his vehicle and showed him the problem so he could see and understand it for himself. He calmed down and agreed to the job.

This illustrates the right way to do business. When the driver objected to the repair, I didn’t argue or try to intimidate him. That’s not necessary. If there’s something wrong with a car, you can identify symptoms: an odor, leak, fume, noise, sensation, or visual indicator of some kind. In this case, there were cracks in his tires. That can only indicate one thing: they needed to be replaced.


Female mechanics are the best! Photo: Wikipedia

Ask questions about a potential problem, and ask to see the issue

If you want to make sure your mechanic is being straight with you, ask a simple question:  “Can you show me the problem?” Observe the mechanic’s facial expression and pay attention to body language. Nonverbal cues that indicate dishonesty include:

• Shuffling of the feet
• Touching his mouth
• Failing to make eye contact
• Tilting or nodding of her head

If a mechanic freezes up or denies your request, then there’s probably nothing wrong with your vehicle – or they were trying to sell you unnecessary services in addition to the essential one.


Get the right tools to avoid mechanic scams. Photo: Creative Commons

Dropping off your car?

Asking to see the problem is a simple but powerful approach. Prove it for yourself! However, this won’t fit every situation. You can’t identify nonverbal cues on a phone call. If you leave your car at the auto shop, ask a service adviser to notify you of the cost before any work is done to your vehicle. This is your right, so exercise it. Note: mechanics are busy people. Don’t keep them waiting.  If you can’t answer, call them back ASAP. If you want to be certain the price the mechanic is quoting is fair, open a search engine and look up the average cost of the proposed repair during the call.

Already know what’s wrong? Share your concerns

You might know your transmission or engine needs to be replaced. That’s expensive. In this case, I recommend getting quotes at a few different auto shops before you choose a mechanic. That doesn’t mean price is the most important factor. Remember: You’re not paying for one job in isolation. You’re paying for the years of training and development the mechanic has acquired. Balance out the cost consideration by reading auto shop reviews before you make a final decision.

Master mechanic, automotive expert and teacher, Audra Fordin is the author of End Auto Anxiety, CEO of Women Auto... More about Audra Fordin