This is National Consumer Protection Week, and among all the complaints forwarded to the Consumer Protection division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, one of the biggest categories is auto repairs. Debra Moore in the consumer office says most repair shops are honest and do a good job, but so many people have cars, there will be a lot of repairs needed and so it’s a large category.
Morre says she’ll check with friends, relatives, and even co-workers when looking for a place to take the car, get their advice about good auto-repairs places, people with good reputations. Then if she finds a "good shop" that seems to do a good job at a fair price, she’ll go back.
If you have a big job, a large, expensive repair that needs to be done, she says it wouldn’t hurt to get a second opinion. Not only do prices vary from one shop to another, but professionals have different ideas on how much may need to be done. If you’re going to invest a lot of money in car repair, it’s a good idea go hear from more than one. She says you shouldn’t get too excited about ads that offer repair or maintenance work for an attractively low price.
"This is true on almost anything." Moore says. "If it sounds too good to be true, it may be not true." Check and make sure the ad’s not just a "loss leader" designed to bring you in to a shop where they’ll find other repairs that are needed, or simply tell you it’s going to cost more. She advises asking questions to really check it out, find out what the low-price special really is and how much your repair is going to cost. If they tell you a figure, you may be able to hold them to it, instead of accepting a "surprise" total that’s higher when the work is done.
Moore says there’s a state law regulating "service trade practices." When you go in to get repair service that’s more than a fifty-dollar job, you have the right under this state law to get an estimate of what it’ll cost — and you can get that in writing. Under the law, they cannot charge you more than ten-percent more than that estimate, unless they’ve contacted you in the meantime and gotten your approval for additional work and charges. She says you should be clear and specific so everyone’s clear on what you want, what you expect to pay, and how they can reach you to discuss the repair job you want.