17 Common Car Repair Scams and Rip-Offs To Watch Out For

17 Common Car Repair Scams and Rip-Offs To Watch Out For

Taking your car to a mechanic always requires a certain amount of trust, both in that they know how to repair your car safely, and that they aren’t going to overcharge or rip you off in the process.  

Most scams in this regard follow a similar pattern or premise, so short of training as a mechanic yourself, the best way to avoid some common scams is to learn about how they work. In this blog, we discuss 17 different car repair scams and how to avoid them. 

1. The garage quoting one price, but charging another

If you aren't sure how much something should cost, it's perfectly fine to ask a garage to provide a quotation before starting any work, but make sure you get this in writing, including parts and labour. 

It is important to note that some car repairs take an unexpected amount of time to complete, for instance, if something else is broken that wasn't visible before disassembly, but a good garage should always confirm this with you before incurring more labour fees. 

2. Charging for parts that haven't been replaced 

This is as simple as it sounds, some very unscrupulous garages may try to con you by charging for work and parts that have not been replaced. To combat this, before the work is approved, ask the garage to keep the old, worn-out parts so you can see them.  

3. Incorrectly claiming you need new brakes 

Brakes are one of the most common parts to get replaced when they don’t need to be. This is because on most cars it is not easy to check the wear without disassembly (unlike tyres) and the thought of having faulty or worn-out brakes is not easy to ignore.  

If you’ve had your brakes done recently - most cars can go at least 25,000 miles between brake pad changes - ask to be shown the part in question, whilst your car is still on the ramp. 

4. Inflating the cost of parts 

Garages add a markup to parts to cover the cost of sourcing them, but in some cases, these can be disproportionately high. If the price you; 've been charged sounds high, look up comparable prices online for these parts. A reasonable markup would be 10-25%. 

It is important to note that some parts from local motor factories or main dealers will often be more expensive but of higher quality than those found on popular online marketplaces, so be sure to compare like-for-like on brand quality. 

5. Broken ball or CV joint boots

Suspension components such as ball joints and CV joints have rubber boots fitted to prevent dirt from getting in. These being intact is an MOT requirement and as such some unscrupulous garages have been known to “find” a split or tear in the boot whilst inspecting, requiring a replacement. 

6. Inflating tyres with Nitrogen

Regular air expands and contracts with temperature, meaning the pressure in your tyres will increase as they get warm, and decrease when cold. Nitrogen is sometimes used in racing cars as it expands and contracts less than air.  

Some garages will offer to fill your tyres with Nitrogen, at a much higher price. The fact of the matter is that you don't need nitrogen in your tyres, even when driving a sports or supercar on the road. 

7. Unapproved repairs are carried out

Sometimes new problems crop up whilst the job is being done. Advise the service centre that you want to sign off on any new work that’s needed. Stating the opposite could give some garages the opportunity to charge more than the going rate. 

8. Fluid flushes that aren’t needed

Your car contains many different fluids, including coolant, brake fluid, engine oil and transmission fluid. Not all of these need flushing at every service, often just replacing and refreshing is sufficient. 

Some manufacturers don’t require flushing some systems at all, so be sure to double-check your manual before being up-sold.

9. Problems found on a free inspection or check-up

A common way for garages to drum up new business is to offer free check-ups of your suspension, brakes or the whole car. Whilst most are legitimate and necessary, it would be easy for the mechanic to flag up work that isn't yet necessary.  

10. Tyres that cannot be repaired 

The tyre manufacturers association have defined rules on what can and can't be repaired when it comes to punctures. Give these regulations a quick browse before taking your tyre to be repaired, as some garages will claim a repairable tyre isn’t, just to get the sale of a new one. 

11. Unnecessary air con regassing

Air con systems use a compressed gas to work, over time this can leak from the system and need topping up. Some manufacturers recommend doing this every 2 years, but in reality, a new can will be fine for longer than this.

Before agreeing to a regas - especially if it’s added on to other work - check the prices of local specialists who will often pressure check the system free of charge.  

12. Expensive fluids

When doing a service or interim service, various fluids will be drained and replaced, such as engine oil, coolant or brake fluid. As with many products, fluid can range from cheap to extremely expensive.

13. Overcharging for labour

The cost of parts can be researched online and via car parts vendors, but the labour time required to complete a job is much more difficult to know. Some mechanics may add time to a job that wasn’t spent, meaning you pay more for no extra work.  

To mitigate this, ask for a quote before starting work, and get a comparable estimate, including a labour time estimate from a different, ideally specialist garage.  

14. Telling you your car is dangerous and should not be driven

In some cases, this may well be true, but adding pressure to the situation is a common tactic for unscrupulous mechanics to get you to agree to expensive repairs without getting a second opinion, especially as most of us need our cars to get to work. 

Get your car regularly checked and serviced to help with this, a mechanic may well notice problems before they become desperate, giving you time to consider your options and shop around.

15. Taking the car apart before demanding more money

Another high-pressure tactic is when a mechanic tells you they need to fit another expensive component, and they need you to agree right away, as the car is in pieces in their workshop. Whilst this may well be the case, you still have the right to consider your options.

Ask ahead of time if there are any expensive faults that may crop up during a certain job, to get a feel for how trustworthy the mechanic is. 

16. Unexpected wheel alignment

Wheel alignment or tracking is a vital element to vehicle maintenance but is an easy upsell for a mechanic to charge more than the market rate. Your tracking is done with the car completely assembled, so it won’t usually be cheaper to “have it done whilst you’re here”. 

Check online for a local tyre and tracking company, they will often offer free tracking checks with a printout, and advise their prices online, meaning you won’t get overcharged. 

17. You need new wipers

Yes, wipers are a very important part of keeping your car safe, and they do wear out, but most people - after watching a video online - are capable of changing their own wiper blades, and can buy the same blades from car parts shops for half the cost a garage would charge.

Are All Garages Trying to Scam You? 

It may feel like every garage is an unscrupulous team of con artists, but that is far from the case, like anything bad word travels faster than good.  

Most mechanics just want to help you on your way and make a fair wage. To avoid getting caught out, choose garages with good Google reviews or those recommended by friends or family.  

Alternatively, choose from one of Bumper’s approved partners near you, split your bill into interest-free monthly payments.

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