Take the scare out of auto repair

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

According to the Iowa Attorney General's Office, car repair complaints always rank high in Iowa, even though most repair shops treat their customers fairly.

The most common complaints are that a repair shop charged more than the estimate, or that the shop did work the customer had not authorized.

Today's cars are computerized and complex machines, so doing our own diagnosis and repair is out of the question for most of us. Here are some things consumers can do to reassure and protect themselves against being cheated in auto repairs.

The most important step is to find the right repair shop and technician:

* Ask for recommendations from friends, family and l others. Word of mouth is often the most reliable way to find a good shop or technician.

*Find a trusted shop and keep going back to it.

*For expensive or complicated repairs, get a second opinion and cost estimate.

*Be skeptical of advertisements for low-price maintenance work. Consumers sometimes pay for unnecessary repairs after shops to the advertised low-priced maintenance.

*You have the right to receive a written or oral estimate for any repair that costs more then $50, and shops must notify you of this right.

*The shop may not charge you a price more than 10-percent over the estimate - unless it contacts you with a higher estimate and you approve the additional cost.

*The repair shop cannot charge you for any repairs that are unnecessary or that you did not authorize.

Disputes may come up even if you follow these tips. Try to resolve your problem directly with the repair shop. You will have a much better chance of success if you document your complaint, so keep copies of all estimates and invoices.

For more information, or to file a complaint, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Call 515-281-5926, or toll-free at 888-777-4590. The email address is . On the Web: .