There are a countless number of ways you may end up at a mechanic. Maybe that subtle clanking noise suddenly turns into an aggressive roar. Perhaps that dripping you always thought was condensation from the air conditioner has now taken on that distinctive rainbow glow. Whatever the reason, heading to a mechanic you’re unfamiliar with can be a nerve wracking experience, especially for your wallet.
Auto repair estimates are designed to inform both the mechanic and the customer about the kind of work needed to repair a car after an accident or normal wear and tear. There are several kinds of auto repair estimates available. Some websites offer repair estimates online. The sites take into account the year, make and model of the car as well as the extent of the damage.
An online estimate, however, is not a replacement for an auto repair estimate from a qualified mechanic. When you bring your car to a repair shop, you should expect that a reputable mechanic will provide you with a detailed estimate that includes the cost of parts, the cost of labor and a time line for the job. Some mechanics may insist that they cannot provide an estimate until part way through the job so that they can examine the extent of the damage, but a reputable mechanic will be able to provide you with an outline of the expect repairs before extensive work is done on the vehicle.
Written estimates protect both the mechanic and the customer from potential problems. When you sign off on an estimate, you are agreeing to pay reasonably within the figure you’ve been quoted. If a mechanic performs the repairs in the estimate and charges you around the same amount as the estimate, you cannot insist that you did not know how much the repairs would cost as a means of avoiding payment.
Likewise, mechanics must be held to the amounts listed in their estimate. States issue their own guidelines for adhering to estimates, but a standard rule is that a mechanic cannot perform repairs that would result in more than a 20 percent increase in cost without your expressed consent. That means that if a mechanic quotes your $500 for a repairs, he cannot perform any work that would end up costing you more than $600 unless he specifically gets your consent to do so.
If you are looking for a mechanic, move on if he attempts to avoid offering you a written estimate for repairs. Reputable mechanics understand the value of a written estimate and should incorporate them into regular business practice.