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How to avoid getting ripped off at the garage

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Unless you have extensive experience of tinkering under the bonnet of your car, the chances are that you find the prospect of taking your vehicle to a garage for repair work daunting. If you don't know what's wrong with your car then there's always the worry at the back of your mind that you're going to get ripped off by an unscrupulous garage employee.

Your best bet at the outset is to call up some local garages in your area, explain the problems you've been having and asking their opinion and what needs to be done to rectify the situation. If they have a good idea over the phone of what the issue is, then you should begin to collect quotes for the work.

Even if you're a complete novice when it comes to anything vaguely technical with regard to cars, don't offer this information to the mechanic while you're on the phone. Try to have all the relevant details at hand when enquiring about having the work done, as even the slightest hesitation could flag you up as somebody who won't realise when they're being overcharged for a simple job. If the mechanic asks you over the phone what size the engine in your car is and you reply ‘hmm, I think it might be a 1.6?' then you'll be a prime target if it happens to be a disreputable garage.

Once you leave your vehicle with the garage, they should only carry out the repairs or maintenance that you have agreed with them. If they discover a further fault that needs to be rectified, they should contact you and get your permission before they go ahead and do the extra work. If you return to the garage to find that they have done expensive repairs that weren't expressly agreed at the outset, then you're well within your rights to ask them to knock off the extra charge if you're unhappy with the situation.

Whether you're a having a minor repair job or major work done that will be covered by your car insurance, it's important that you receive an itemised breakdown of the costs involved as you return to the garage to pick up your vehicle. The invoice should include parts and materials used along with their individual costs, plus with the relevant labour charge.

This should give you some ammunition if you have a sneaking suspicion that you've been charged over the odds, as you'll be able to compare the breakdown of parts against average prices elsewhere - if your suspicions are confirmed, return to the garage and put your point across in a calm manner. Don't allow the mechanic to fob you off with an excuse; stand your ground and explain that you expect a partial refund.

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