When it comes to cars, there is going to be a point in time that you have to have repairs done to them. Whether your car is brand new or 50 years old, it is inevitable. I have made so many repairs to cars over the years, I cannot even keep count. From simple oil changes, replacing alternators, radiator, dismantling the entire drivetrain to change the clutch, and even taking on rebuilding the back axle of a jeep.

Achim Prill

Last Friday, I saw on Facebook my sister was having car problems. Her car happened to overheat while she was sitting in the drive through. With good thinking on her part, she took it to the closest mechanic. This mechanic is a nationwide retailer and told her what was wrong. The AC/radiator fan bit the dust. I am glad she was getting it fixed. Those hot Florida days can really do a number on your cooling system.

About an hour later she posts on Facebook “Well fixing my car was WAY more than expected. Pretty sure I'm getting ripped off.”

So, being the big brother that I am, I give her a call and ask her what is going on. She tells me that this establishment is charging her $714 to replace her fan assembly. I tell her to call them on three way so I can hear what they say. While we are waiting for the “mechanic” I look up the price of the fan assembly.

The guy gets on the phone and she proceeds to ask him what is wrong with her car.

He gives the rundown on what is wrong.

She then asks again how much it was going to cost.

He confidently confirms the $714 for the repair.

Then she asks how much the part is.

He rattles off $327 for the special order part...

At this point, I join the conversation….

ME: Hi this is her brother on the phone as well… So you mean to tell me that the part is more than double the price than any other parts store in the area?

You can instantly hear his cocky demeanor turn sheepish and lacking confidence.

Mechanic: Well um, you see, there is an up charge, um , since we, uh, have to get it from another store.

Me: A 20 percent up charge is understandable, but you’re claiming you are ordering the same exact part from another parts store and charging double for it?

Mechanic: I know… Crazy how that up charge is right?

Me: Whatever you say. Would you care to explain the $387 in labor charges then?

Mechanic: Well, you see, this is a very in depth and time consuming process that will probably take a better part of a day and um well, you…

Me: Let me stop you right there. This is a simple, straight forward process. There are three bolts on the driver’s side, two on the passenger side and two plug and play connectors. It would take a half an hour tops, maybe less, considering you are supposed to be ASE certified.

The mechanic begins to get very flustered and tries to tell us that “we can certainly work out the labor costs”…

I told my sister right then and there to go get her car and take it home. I instructed her not to use her AC and if the car's thermostat started to rise above normal at all, pull over and let it cool down substantially before trying to drive it again. She was able to get home without the car's temperature overheating.

Later that night, we ordered the part for $174.99 and she got in contact with one of her mechanic friends who put it in the day the part arrived. I do not know how much she paid him as that is none of my business. I do know that I saved her hundreds of dollars and skirted this so called shop from ripping someone off. If I did not live over 1,700 miles away I would have had this issue solved in less than an hour for her.

I am mechanically inclined, but there have been circumstances where I simply could not work on my car doing simple things. For instance, changing the oil in a vehicle is a straight forward and simple process that doesn’t take much time. However, my apartment complex wouldn’t allow residents to work on their cars or change their oil in their own garage. My option was to take it to an express lube, which I did on many occasions. Some of the techs think that you are bringing your car in because you don’t know anything about your car, so that is why you are there. One had the audacity to tell me that there was more metal shavings in my transmission than fluid and it would be an easy fix for $249. Yeah… Right. I asked him to show me where he checked the transmission fluid and he proceeded to take me to a bolt on the frame of the car. Nowhere near the transmission or the fill plug. I laughed at him… Hard. Another told me that they didn’t have the 5w 30 oil that my car needed, so they put in synthetic and it would be another $55. That is when I demanded to speak to the manager. The tech went ahead and tried to swindle me out of extra money without asking my permission to upgrade my oil. Needless to say, they didn’t get the extra $55 dollars out of me after I spoke to the manager.

Moral of the story is this: If you feel like you might be getting ripped off, chances are that you probably might be right. It pays to protect yourself with a little bit of knowledge. Knowing how to simply shop around and know some things about your vehicle that you drive every day can save you hundreds of dollars.

No matter where you live, there are plenty of good, honest mechanics that will not try to rip your lips off with bad tactics. On the other hand there are plenty out there that are the exact opposite. Consult your friends and family on where they take their cars. It’s better to know where to take your vehicle when it needs a service or a repair well in advance rather than the time you need something done. Don’t be a victim of being ripped off.