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How to avoid overpaying for car repairs

February 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
For some motorists, taking the car in for service is like being called in for a tax audit. It is no fun because nobody wants to be taken for a ride.

But according to one recent survey, car owners overpay by at least 10 percent at the repair shop. There's a website that can help you get a fair price the next time your car needs work.

When Amorena Cervantes of Aliso Viejo needs to take her car in for service her heart beats faster and her stress level rises.

"I'm really hesitant when I need to get it done right away, which is a bad thing," said Cervantes.

But what's really bad is the last time she took a car in for service it ended up costing much more than was first quoted.

"We got in there expecting it to be $299 and left with them saying they would call when it's done," said Cervantes. "When we got back they presented a bill of $500."

Does her story sound familiar, or do you have one of your own? Most motorists do. In a recent survey by AutoMD.com, an online auto repair resource website, its president, Shane Evangelist, says 88 percent of car owners felt they were overcharged on past car repairs.

"The fundamental issue is transparency," said Evangelist. "You just don't know how much it will cost to get your car repaired so when you drop it off you feel like a sacrificial lamb."

And that's where auto repair websites like AutoMD.com can help keep you from getting overcharged or from having work done your car doesn't need. With a few simple clicks of the mouse you can determine what the repairs might cost and you can even diagnose your vehicle's problem before you take it in for repairs.

"You can go online and figure out what's wrong with your car on the diagnosis section. 'It smells like,' 'it feels like' -- they actually have how-to guides to help you figure out yourself," said Evangelist. "But if you are not that adventurous then you can go to our cost-test tool to figure out how much it will cost to get your car repaired."

Tracey Virtue is operations vice president at AutoMD.com and says women who feel uncomfortable going to car repair shops can really benefit from doing a little Internet research.

"What I've found and what my friends who use it have found, they go in and have the confidence so they don't get a lot of that upsale happening," said Virtue.

But no matter if you use the Web or not, there are a few things to keep in mind when you do get your car repaired.

"Get your parts back, never pay for work that was not authorized, and ask what brand-name parts they are using," said Virtue. "These are the three things whether you use AutoMD or not."