3 tips to help you avoid auto repair ripoffs

PHOENIX - Have you ever felt your car was being held hostage until you pay some price you never agreed to?

Many of you have been letting me know about your car repair horror stories.

They can end in disputes that are hard to solve. Often there is a lot of he said, she said--and no proof of who's at fault.

Arizona has no laws or agency that regulates auto repair shops. That means anybody--regardless of level of training--can open a shop and claim to be a mechanic. It also means you have to do some homework.

I always tell people to follow the 3 C's: Credentials, Complaints and Contract.

When I say Credentials, I mean are the mechanics ASE certified? Does the shop belong to the ASA or are they AAA approved?

Each of those associations require levels of specialty training, have and standard code of ethics and you can file a complaint with them if something goes wrong with your repair.

You also want to see if they've been in business for more than a year or two.  Fly by night shops generally won't have a long history or qualified technicians.

Check for Complaints about the shop online using the word "complaint" or "reviews."

Also search websites for the Better Business Bureau   and Ripoffreport.com .

Finally and perhaps most importantly, you need to have a contract with everything spelled out. No verbal agreements ... ever.  

Everything between you and the shop must be in writing, including what will be done, all costs, how long repairs will take and that if anything changes, you will be notified before work is started.

It's not always the repair shop's fault because things can change once they actually inspect your car.

But, you're best protected if you follow those rules, get a couple of estimates, and rely on friends recommendations.

That way, you should find one of the many good repair shops out there.

E-mail me with any consumer problem you want solved or "like" my Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about it there.

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