BBB Advice for Avoiding Automobile Repair Scams

March 29, 2012

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – March 29, 2012 - When your vehicle needs repairs, you don't need a crash course in auto mechanics, but you should know how to find a reliable shop and mechanic. Your Better Business Bureau recommends following a few key pointers to ensure that your automobile gets fixed without a glitch.

While many auto repair shops are legitimate, there are always those unscrupulous few that end up sucking thousands of unnecessary repair dollars from consumers. In 2011, BBB received more than 14,500 complaints against auto repair services and fielded more than 1.5 million inquiries from consumers looking to find a reliable business in the industry. Many of the complaints received by BBB fell under billing, service, and refund and exchange issues.

“Whenever you take your car to the shop, never try to diagnose the problem yourself. Describe the symptoms and ensure that the work cannot begin until you have a written estimate and give your okay,” said Warren King, President of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA.

BBB recommends considering the following advice when taking your car in for auto repair services:

Check your warranty. If you have a problem with your vehicle while it is still under warranty, follow the manufacturer's instructions, which may require that repairs be made at an authorized dealership.

Ask around. If you are looking for a qualified, independent shop, ask friends for recommendations, or request a list of BBB Accredited Businesses that do the type of auto repair you need. It is recommended to get at least three referrals. Be sure to check with BBB about the shop's reliability at Look for shops that display certification. For major work, such as brakes, transmission or engine repair, you will need to find a shop employing a specialist.

Ask all the questions that you need. Don't be embarrassed to request explanations. Don't rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called and have the problem, course of action, and cost of work explained before any work begins. In fact, under the Automotive Industry Trade Practices Regulations, Pennsylvanians are protected in that regulations provide that a repair shop must obtain the consumer’s written or verbal authorization before charging for repairs.

Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached and before you leave, be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees and acceptable methods of payment.

Get everything in writing. When you pick up your vehicle, get an explanation of all work completed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you. Your repair bill should be itemized so if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.

If you decide to eventually sell your car after making the necessary repairs, BBB recommends considering the following:

Communicate with the potential buyer. Don’t rely solely on email conversations. Meet face-to-face and be open and honest about your car’s conditions. Many times buyers are good at vetting a car’s conditions and will turn down your offer if it’s not all you say it is. Keep all records of service so that the buyer can see proof that you have cared for the vehicle.

First impressions matter. Consider getting the car cleaned and tuned up. You’ll be glad you did when the buyer’s eyes sparkle with delight as they accept your offer. Same goes for the buyer – trust your gut. By investing in the time to let them test ride your car, you’ll know that the buyer is serious about making an offer.

Don’t over share. Make notes for yourself that you can refer to while on the phone with a potential buyer. Keep them handy for when it comes time to talk about car’s maintenance history. When meeting with the buyer, meet in a neutral, well lit location. Don’t give them your home address.

Seal the deal. Give the potential buyer ample time to ask questions. This will help avoid problems in the future. Once you feel confident that you have shared all of the nitty-gritty details about the car, it will be time to start talking money. Aim high and work your way down, but always be honest with the buyer on the car’s condition.

For more consumer tips and information you can trust, visit


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BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit for more information about the BBB System.