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January 12, 2022

Auto repair shops regularly overcharge: report

As a buyer of gently used cars, I've been dealing with the same small shop for more 16 years. The mechanics are friendly and honest, and I recommend them to anyone whenever I can.

AdIt seems, however, that they're in the minority.

Every so often, the Automobile Protection Association tries to uncover unscrupulous auto repair shops that get people to buy more parts and/or services than they really need. 

In its 2011 test, the APA visited 31 repair shops in Toronto and Calgary for the correction of a simple problem (a deliberately-loosened positive battery terminal) using three specially prepared vehicles and hidden cameras.

Just 30% received a passing grade.

Among those that failed, 10 charged for unnecessary work to replace parts on the APA's test vehicle, or recommended unnecessary work. These services included a new battery (seven times), a new starter, suspension struts, an unnecessary brake service, and replacing the spark plugs.

The big problem, the APA suggests, is that mechanics in some larger shops receive a low base hourly wage, with compensation calculated on the number of hours they can bill to customers, which can be more than the actual clock time spent on the job.

Customer service staff at the counter may also receive an incentive based on the amount of the invoice or additional work sold to a customer.

However, it's quickie oil change spots that are the worst, according to this unofficial rant. The most common practice? Obscene fluid change orgies, according to one disgruntled customer. 

Have you been one of the lucky ones? Or do you have a car repair horror story to share?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...