Having a good mechanic is a crucial part of adulthood. They keep your car in tip-top shape and, by default, help keep you and others safe on the roads.
That being said, it never feels good to be ripped off — and it's easy for a bad mechanic to take advantage of someone's lack of experience with or knowledge of cars. Here's how to you can protect yourself, and your car, from being ripped off or treated poorly.
Ask around before you pick your mechanic
It can be difficult to get an accurate idea of how good a business is in today's world of angry online reviews. Instead of searching on the internet, call your friends, family and co-workers to see if they have any recommendations first. They'll be honest about any overpriced repairs, faulty fixes, or stellar services. Plus, good mechanics know how important word-of-mouth recommendations are and will work hard to earn them.
Understand the basics of your car
The best way to protect yourself is to have some idea of how your vehicle operates. Begin by reading your owner's manual. It might sound boring, but a quick read-through will help set you up with the knowledge you need to identify which problems can be fixed by you and which will need professional attention. It will also help you understand what your mechanic tells you, which could protect you from unnecessary expenses.
Learn how to tell when something is wrong
Because you're the one driving your car each and every day, you're the frontline for keeping it in as good of condition as possible. Spend time driving it slow, fast, in different types of weather and on different types of roads to get a feel for it sounds, feels and handles. From there, you will be able to tell the moment something seems off. And with the help of a car health monitor, you can get alerts when something internal goes wrong.
Ask for an up-front estimate
Avoid dropping your car off and handing the keys over before having a serious discussion, first. When you drop your car off with your mechanic, ask ahead of time what they plan on doing and what the cost estimate is. If the mechanic won't give you an estimate, that's not a good sign.
Naturally, the mechanic may find other problems while working on your car, just ask that he or she contact you first before moving forward on any unplanned work.
Keep your receipts and look up the cost of relevant parts
After a trip to the mechanic, ask for a copy of all receipts, including both parts and labor. Check the cost of parts with an online retailer or the car dealership and make sure the prices are similar. If they're not, talk to your mechanic about a possible refund or if they offer price-matching on certain repairs. You can also tell the mechanic you want to keep any old parts they replace to prevent dishonesty.