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Special Report: Expert secrets to avoid auto shop rip-offs

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) – A recently released study found that 54% of Americans feel intimidated when dealing with a car mechanic.

Only 19% feel very confident they’re paying a fair price when they take their care to the shop.

If you find yourself in that group, CBS 58 spoke with two pros who can help arm you with the knowledge to avoid auto shop rip-offs.

“A trusted mechanic is as good as a trusted doctor, a trusted babysitter. These are the people that you are entrusting your personal safety to,” Pat Stevens, automotive instructor at Gateway Technical college said.

Finding a good mechanic can be hard to find. Just ask William Napper.

“I don’t know anything about a car,” Napper admits.

Last June, Napper took his truck to get it fixed. He paid hundreds of dollars but the problems didn’t go away.

“I thought it was very unfair you know, every time they would do something they would charge me for it and I didn’t need that,” Napper said.

So what do you need to know when you take your car to the auto shop?

CBS 58 spoke with two experts: Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin President Jim Temmer and Auto Instructor Pat Stevens at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha.

“I impart on my students, because I worked retail, is be honest with your customers. You sell them the services they need. Don’t sell them more than what they need,” Stevens said.

They say to keep this checklist in mind:

First, know the owner’s manual. “There’s information in there that can help prevent unnecessary trips to the repair facilities,” Stevens recommends.

Second, look up who you’re going to see and what other people are saying about them. “Looking for a mechanic is one of our top ten inquiries. People come to us a lot to look for quality mechanics. It’s a great place to start, get things in writing so you’re not left with a surprise at the end,” said. Jim Temmer with the BBB.

Next, get a written estimate before any work is done. “Get a written estimate. Say, ‘what is it worth?’ If there is anything additional you will do to my car, you must ask for written authorization,” Temmer said.

You can also check out an online car repair estimator like one offered by Consumer Reports but only use it as a tool since it may not include auto shop charges.

Stevens also suggests asking for your old parts back so you have proof the work was done.

“You vote with your dollars. You vote with your feet. If you have someone you feel like you can’t trust, don’t take your business there,” Stevens said.

For tips to find a reputable mechanic, visit https://www.bbb.org/en/us/local-bbb/bbb-serving-wisconsin

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