Robert Krughoff of the Delaware Valley Consumers' Checkbook says, "People are concerned about not getting a fair deal at an auto repair shop and there's good reason for that."
The non-profit Consumer Checkbook had 30-thousand customers rate 451 local auto repair shops. They looked at issues including price, how quickly and how well repairs were performed.
They also used under-cover shoppers, who had the same repairs done at different shops. They found some big price differences.
"For instance, for replacing the brake pads and the rotors, on a 1995 Chevy Malibu," Krughof says, "Checkbook found prices ranging from $270 up to $615. So a pretty dramatic difference in price and that's not at all unusual."
Checkbook found that shops tended to be either higher-priced or lower-priced across the board. But higher prices didn't necessarily mean a better job.
"What you pay at a shop has nothing to do with the quality fo the work, "Krughoff says. "We found that many inexpensive shops are among the best at doing the work properly, doing it on time, etc."
Another surprise came when they compared small, independent shops to dealerships.
"The independent shops do better in terms of customer satisfaction, in terms of getting the job done better, etc.," Krughoff says. "Also, the independent shops are about eight- to ten-percent less expensive on average than the dealership."
Krughoff offers these tips for getting what you pay for when it comes to car repairs:
Be sure to get a written estimate before the work is perfor,ed
Write down a detailed description of the symptoms that need repair
Try to speak directly to the mechanic, not just a receptionist
Get a detailed invoice, including parts and labor, when you pick up your car
Pay with a credit card, so if the repair isn't done write you can stop the payment
If the repair isn't right, contact the shop immediately and in writing.
To join Checkbook.org and get a detailed listing of the auto-repair shop ratings, click here.