How to avoid being duped by a dodgy mechanic
The days of repairing and servicing our cars in the back shed are over, with modern cars requiring more car. But how can we be sure our mechanic isn’t charging us too much?
We all want to know that we can trust our mechanic.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case with over 10,000 complaints lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in a 12-month market study into Australia's new-car retailing industry.
These complaints largely stemmed from consumers being convinced into using dealers over independent retailers for repairs - and not being happy with the final price tag.
So why are so many people upset with the price and quality of service being delivered by their mechanic?
We aren't fixing our own cars anymore
Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) head of technical and safety Steve Spalding said a large reason behind the large volume of complaints was the fact that more people were being forced to take their car to the mechanic.
In years gone by, many basic repairs and services could be conducted at home. But advances in technology means that is no longer possible.
"Vehicles are complex and increasingly expensive to fix. Whereas DIY was an option in the past, many late model vehicles now require a high level of technical knowledge and specialist tools, meaning most motorists are reliant on using a mechanic," he said.
This also means people have less of an understanding of the work involved and the costs incurred.
"Often, a lack of clear communication about what work is to be done, how necessary it is and what additional work needs approval adds doubt in the motorist’s mind," Mr Spalding said.
What questions should you ask your mechanic?
Often, your mechanic is not going to be able to give you an immediate quote.
They will be unable to fully diagnose a problem until further checks or dismantling is done, which can lead to uncertainty in the motorist's mind.
There are some questions you can ask to help ease this uncertainty, Mr Spalding said.
"The best advice for a motorist is to be clear on what they would like the repairer to do and request an estimate of costs. It’s also important they listen clearly to the advice of the repairer and be realistic about expected costs," he said.
"It is important that motorists ensure the mechanic knows to call them and seek approval for any additional work found during a service. Without this, a motorist can return to find an unexpectedly high repair bill."
Mr Spalding also suggested steering away from the dealers and finding a good, independent mechanic—who still enjoy high levels of trust.
“We do hear of some mistrust on mechanics but it’s also the case many repairers have built up their business having very loyal customers,” he said.
“Many independent repairers have worked hard to improve their service to compete with big brand dealerships. Our experience is that overall, the repair trade is trustworthy.”
Try and avoid the mechanic in the first instance
While modern vehicles may be more complicated, they are also less likely to break down and require less in the way of servicing.
Roy Morgan research released in late 2018 has shown that the proportion of drivers needing their main vehicle serviced or repaired three or more times a year has declined from 30.5 percent to just 18.4 percent in 11 years.
But that doesn't mean you should skip out on the services.
"Budgeting and sticking to the vehicle’s scheduled services is the best way to minimise maintenance cost over the long term. By skipping services, a short-term saving can easily result in a big repair bill," Mr Spalding said.