How to Not Get Ripped off by a Mechanic

Wouldn’t it be so nice if a visit to the mechanic was stress-free?

But unfortunately, unsuspecting car owners have fallen victim to dishonest mechanics.

Keeping your car in excellent operating condition is as crucial as keeping those repair costs down. But sometimes a simple brake repair job can turn into an expensive leak job.

Here are some tips not to be duped by a mechanic.


Brush up on the Basics

How to Not Get Ripped off by a Mechanic

If you don’t know what’s under your car’s hood, how will you know if the price is fair? Just take some time to understand the car’s owner’s manual. It will be much harder for a shady mechanic to rip you off if you know your way around a car.


Ask Around

Perhaps the easiest and surest way of a clean car repair job is through a referral. It’s less likely that someone could recommend you to someone who ripped them off.

Ask from your friends and family for suggestions about that honest shop. If your colleagues speak highly of a shop’s service, that mechanic must be reliable.

Not all nationally branded dealerships are entirely ethical. They might look like great places to take your car for repairs, but some of the auto mechanics are not what they seem.

Independent automotive repair shops are better off than big-box shops since they thrive on getting long-term customers.


Get an Up-Front Estimate of the Repair Charges

How to Not Get Ripped off by a Mechanic

Never say to your mechanic: “Do what needs to be done.” It’s like you just gave him the go-ahead to charge you for anything and everything. Know what is being done and how much they are charging for it before you leave the shop.

Also, don’t forget to ask the serviceman to call and ask for permission if the repairs are more than the initial agreement. It’s a great way to ensure you are not overcharged since you’ll have a chance to give the go-ahead after giving it serious thought.

Always ask questions when the mechanic suggests repairing parts that may malfunction in the future. Do not ever assume that the serviceman is giving you sound advice.

When you have a firm understanding as to why a particular repair should be done, it puts you in a good position to accept or refuse the repairs.


Double-Check Prices of New Auto Parts

Any dishonest mechanic will also be keen to overcharge you for replacement parts. If it feels like a new part is overly expensive, check the price online or ask a dealer if it’s correct.

If you think you have been super-charged for the parts, take it up with the mechanic because you deserve a fair price for a high-quality service.


Stay Up-to-Date with Automotive Repair Recommendations

Lots of maintenance advice about older models hold true. But for advanced cars, they can skip some routines and still be fine on the road.

For example, oil change is usually after every 3000 miles for old models. But rules have changed for modern cars. This is because they can have oil changes after 5,000 miles or 10,000 miles.

It’s also important to follow the advice of the car’s manufacturer. If the mechanic is saying otherwise; confront them to get reasons as to why their advice is different.


Never Overpay for Repairs

If your car is still in the warranty period, you’ll first want to call the service department at the dealership. You may discover that the warranty covers the problem. This means you only need to drive the car to the dealer and the technician fixes it.


Ask for Old Parts

How to Not Get Ripped off by a Mechanic

Some dishonest servicemen will charge for replacement parts even if they never actually perform the replacements. That’s why you need to get ahead of such scams by telling the mechanic you’ll need the old parts after the service.

This discourages unethical mechanics from even trying to charge for parts they don’t plan on changing.


Get a Second Opinion

Some mechanics can go over a problem with so many words such that it confuses you. If you are unsure about the information, don’t be afraid to seek an opinion from somewhere else.

Just don’t use the same words the first shop used. Find out what the second shop will charge for the repairs and compare the costs.


Follow the Car’s Manufacturer Maintenance System

Another way to steer clear of being ripped off by a mechanic is to avoid needing the repairs. Maintaining your car according to the manufacturer’s schedule can ensure the vehicle is always in top performance condition.

This way, you can save money while avoiding unwarranted repairs.


Evaluate the Repair Shop

If a businessman cares about developing long-term relationships with their customers, their shop will have a clean lot. This is the first method of high profits by ensuring there are not many cars lining up for repairs.

It indicates the mechanic is genuine and cares about how he treats his customers.

This method works when checking out a new mechanic’s workshop.


Use an OBD2 Scan Tool

How to Not Get Ripped off by a Mechanic

An easy way to know what’s wrong with the car even before you take it to the repair shop is by using an automotive scan tool.

An OBD2 (On-Board Diagnostics) scan tool is a straightforward car diagnostic tool since it plugs into the OBD2 port of your car. It gives you a direct report of the status of the car by reading the car’s computer codes. These scanners also view recorded and live data.

With the information displayed by the OBD2 scan tool, you should be able to know the problems in your car’s hood.

Some advanced OBD2 scan tools also tell you the probable fix, labor, and parts costs in your area.

This will help you know about the repairs beforehand, and it even guides you through the questions to ask the mechanic.


Develop a Sound Working Relationship with the Mechanic

Once you are convinced about a quality service from a repair shop, stick with it. By using the same repair shop each time, you’ll be able to establish trust with that mechanic. No businessman wants to lose money on account of loyalty.

As such, you can expect a more open and honest relationship with one mechanic as opposed to when you change mechanics every time you need the car repaired.


Bottom Line

Be smart and avoid getting ripped off. Do your homework by having this basic information at your fingertips. You’ll see a dishonest mechanic from a mile away.

And remember, before you even drive into a mechanic’s shop, use an OBD2 scan tool to help you get a clear diagnostic of the car. This way, you’ll know what to tell the mechanic and ask the appropriate questions.



About the Author

How to Not Get Ripped off by a Mechanic

I’m Tim Miller, an automotive mechanic and blogger from Denver, Colorado. I’m the founder of, an automotive blog about OBD2 scan tools.
My fanpage is
I’ve had over 10 years experience in car repair and using OBD scanners.
Some of my review articles about car diagnostic tools can be found on my own website





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