New research has suggested that motorists are paying hundreds of pounds more than they need to every time they visit a garage and many are so scared of being exploited that they are failing to have their cars properly maintained.
Most garages arenâ€™t out to con their customers but there are still some simple steps you can take to ensure youâ€™re not paying over the odds.
Asking someone whose opinion you trust where they have their car maintained is an easy way to – hopefully – find a trustworthy mechanic.
Failing that, there are schemes such as the Good Garage Scheme and HonestJohn.co.ukâ€™s Good Garage Guide. The Good Garage Scheme has a strict code of conduct which members must follow while the Honest John guide is based on thousands of recommendations and reviews from car owners.
The Motor Ombusman is the industryâ€™s independent dispute resolution body. You can check if a garage is signed up to its code of practice here.
Do some research
A quick internet search of your carâ€™s symptoms can often offer helpful suggestions as to the problem. If itâ€™s a simple job you might be able to do it yourself and, even if itâ€™s not, the information could help you in dealing with the garage.
Any good mechanic should be able and happy to explain to you whatâ€™s wrong, what needs to be done to fix it and how much it will cost. Donâ€™t let them confuse you with jargon – if something isnâ€™t clear ask them to explain again until youâ€™re satisfied.
Get a quote
Before agreeing to any work make sure youâ€™re given a quote for the completed job, including VAT. Some garages will give a quote that doesnâ€™t include VAT and once the workâ€™s done youâ€™re suddenly faced with a far larger bill.
Question the costs
Garage labour rates vary across the country – and between franchised and independent operators – but Confused.com has come up with a list of the five most common car repairs and the average cost. If you think the price youâ€™re quoted seems unreasonable query it or call round other garages for a quote.
Confused.com’s top five repairs
Repair Avg cost Brake pads and discs Â£180.44 Cambelt change Â£313.82 Clutch replacement Â£442.50 Full service Â£160.80 Head gasket Â£507.82
Online services such as ClickMechanic, MyCarNeedsA.com and WhoCanFixMyCar will even do the comparison work for you to find the best deal locally. Just remember to check a garageâ€™s reputation – cheapest isnâ€™t always best.
Ensure all work is approved beforehand
Sometimes garages working on one job will identify other issues. Sometimes these are legitimate problems, other times it could be a dodgy mechanic making work for themselves.
Make clear from the start what work you want carried out and emphasise that you want to approve any extra work before it is done. If they do suggest other work ask how urgent/important it is – it may be something that can wait for a month or two. And if youâ€™re unsure this will give you a chance to get a second opinion.
Ask to see replaced parts
If youâ€™ve paid for a part to be replaced youâ€™re perfectly entitled to see the old part after itâ€™s been removed to prove the work has been carried out.
Also check whether parts are original manufacturer, new third-party or second-hand parts. Manufacturer parts are usually more expensive but sometimes aftermarket or even used parts may be good enough. Just ensure youâ€™re getting what you pay for.
Get a receipt
An itemised invoice shows you exactly what work has been carried out and how much different elements cost. It means you can see where your money has gone and, should something go wrong with the repair, could help your claim to have it put right.
Also check if the work is guaranteed. A good garage should be happy to stand by the quality of its parts and workmanship.