Getting scammed on repairs?

Hi group!

I am desperately seeking advice on some work I am having done on my 2020 Toyota Rav4 XLE. I recently had some damage from hitting a light pole and went to a close friend who is a mechanic for repairs. He said there was no internal damage and quoted me around 5k for parts and labor and said he may need up to another 1k but not likely. I stupidly did not get this on paper, paid him up front, but do have text message confirmation of this information. He kindly lent me a car to keep until the repairs were done which he said could be 2-3 weeks depending how long parts take to get in.

A month later, he has asked for more money, I gave it to him assuming it was labor he said he may need in addition to the 5k, and my car was almost done. He has not given me any updates on the parts, repair work done, etc. I asked for an update and he said the parts (bumper/fender/headlights) are still being shipped (2-3 weeks out) and I still owe him for all the labor to be done (which technically is nothing if he hasn’t even gotten the parts) and part of this includes personal labor of making phone calls and searching for parts as well as an “I O U” to which I responded asking what that was for and never received any responses after that.

I requested him to send me a receipt with pricing of the parts and estimated labor fees to which he responded he can send me and days later he continues to avoid me when I call and ask for it.

I am feeling very stupid and realizing my mistakes of course, we have been very close family friends for years and he has never been distrusting or ‘greedy’, but I am feeling very uneasy about this situation. my question is: How do I handle this? Do I demand the receipt otherwise is it reasonable to ask for ALL of my money back? If so, and he does not give me my money back, takes the car he loaned me, what then? I will have literally $0 to get my car fixed and then also be out of a car to drive impacting my ability to work and actually make money…

Please be kind in your advice as I know I made some obvious mistakes. I just want to find the best course of action to take moving forward. Thanks so much

Maybe a mechanic will chime in but not much you can do except ride it out. When my transmission guy took seven weeks instead of one, I drove the seven miles over there every other day until I finally got it. Same thing with my snowblower engine under factory warranty. The guy didn’t have the money to pay for the engine then get reimbursed by Briggs. Took 11 months bur finally got it.

Maybe go help him. The problem is he can charge you whatever he wants now. Another $5000 for labor. If you don’t pay, put a lien on your car. I knew a mechanic that screwed his relatives over with no shame. They exist.

When all is done you can go to small claims court for any extra but you didn’t get a legitimate estimate first to know what it should cost, or deal with insurance? As they say in for a dime, in for a dollar.

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Thank you for your honesty, I will see what happens and handle it best I can and have obviously learned a huge lesson.

You had no collision insurance? Were you at fault?

The best advice i can give you is to go see a lawyer.

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Why not let insurance handle this? Why are you paying out of pocket?

Collision repairs are expensive. Parts shortages are everywhere and likely include Toyota body parts.

Given you have a free rental car, I’d suggest you ride this out. I don’t think you have any better options.

You mentioned that you have text confirmations. Texts can be considered valid contracts if they contain an offer (“I can fix your car for $5K”), consideration (cash), and acceptance (“I agree”, etc.). So, it’s possible you have a valid contract which means he can’t charge you whatever he wants now. That can give you a leg to stand on if he asks for even more cash. But, enforcing that will require contacting an attorney. Depending on where you live, that may not be as expensive as you think. Our attorney handled a somewhat similar situation recently with a phone call and sent me a bill for less than $300. Of course, involving an attorney will strain the relationship but I’m guessing that may be beyond repair (pun intended).

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I’ll go a little off-topic . . .

I NEVER do business with close friends

That is the surest way to lose close friends

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All I’m going to say is this reminds me of an episodes of:

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So how much more did you give him in addition to the original $5k?

The key here is “to be done”. There must have been labor involved up until now to disassemble the car, remove the bad parts and perhaps do some straightening of supporting structures that may have been bent in the process but do not need to be replaced. If there has literally been nothing done yet, that is a different story.

I would start by visiting in person. Point out the text you mentioned you had indicating the original estimate and this is what you used to decide if it was worth fixing. If there are now a lot more costs incurred, that changes things and may not be economically feasible for you (this gives you an out if you decide not to proceed). Here’s where it will take a turn or not- next discussion is related to the actual state of the repairs; can I see what has been done? (I want to see the actual state of the vehicle to gauge how honest he is being). What’s been ordered, what’s been received or still outstanding?

Depending on the outcome of that viewing and discussion, I would decide if I was going to cut my losses. Once you see how much work has actually been performed, you can understand how much of your $5k could actually be recovered through litigation. Courts will not give it all back if work has been performed and you should look at it this way too.

Forget about friendship, this is now a business transaction. Frankly, based on what you wrote, he is not operating as a trustworthy friend at this point so why should you pussyfoot around about it either. But hear him out first. Maybe he significantly underestimated the amount of work or costs. Only by talking about it and seeing first hand can you make any accurate judgement.

I get you’re over a barrel since you gave him all your money. But throwing more good money after bad isn’t wise either. If it isn’t going to work out, you pull your car back, take any materials he has on hand that were ordered using your money and seek restitution for any amount above that, not consumed by his labor to date.

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It’s also the best way to find out who are actually close friends and deserve your friendship. Frankly, I would prefer to know the true nature of those I consider close friends. If the relationship is never tested, you’ll never know until it’s too late and they abandon you in times of real need or conflict.

He finally sent me a receipt quoting me the following for parts: The parts sound super expensive since when I look them up they are nowhere near the price listed. Can I request for receipts for each part he ordered to confirm?

You have to be careful on pricing parts. For example, when you look up a front bumper cover- if it is new from Toyota OEM parts, that will not be painted. So the cost has to include the materials and labor to paint it to match your car. I see there are pre-painted new parts that are in the range cited. Of course, insurance wouldn’t pay for a new part if an appropriate used part was available- which it appears may be the case. But again, matching your paint may be difficult with a used part.

Some other parts may be more easily price compared- like unpainted sheet metal. However, the used vs new pricing still applies.

~$2500 in parts there. Is he doing any painting or farming that out?

Yes he will be painting, so he’s estimated $2645 for parts and I believe included the painting with the labor (although I may be wrong). Labor is estimated at 3507. He told me it will likely be more for labor but that is what he is estimating right now.

So this does sound reasonable then?

I’ve had a couple other shops quote me around 4-5k total so I’m just wondering, thank you!

I’ve done some work on the side and never got any money until the job was done, period. If I bought the parts, I paid for them. Sometimes the part would be provided for good or bad. Didn’t fit, two left hand instead of a right and left, etc. never charged for phone calls or the Saturday morning 100 mile drive to the dealer to exchange parts. You know what kind of person you are dealing with. On the other hand bargain hunters sometimes get burned. On the other hand other hand body work is filled with surprises.

I do understand things don’t always run what’s expected. Any part ordering, phone calls, traveling, etc I was more than happy to do myself which he knew and told me not to worry about that. He said, “I doubt it’ll be over 5k, maybe another 1k max but 90% chance not”. He never communicated any updates, avoided me at public outings, and delayed giving me a receipt making comments that it would be on my carfax record and good luck when I go to resell my car. I never indicated I wouldn’t want documentation so not sure why he said this. He knows I am I a financial bind and ensured me he would do everything he could to keep costs low as a friend which I guess is why I’m upset when shops of people I don’t even know are quoting me 4k-5k and here he is now with almost a 7k estimate and will “likely need a lot more for labor” making comments such as I owe him for personal labor of phone calls and ordering as well as an I O U to which he never responded when I asked what he meant. If I knew he was going to hold this over my head I would have gone elsewhere. I’m willing to eat my mistakes and learn from this experience, but just wanted to make sure what he was ballpark estimating me for at this point was at least fairly reasonable.

He doesn’t want to give you a repair invoice because this is income for him, and he is not paying income tax.

He may also be in violation of county/city restrictions of operating a body repair shop, is this repair being performed at his residence?

My guess, if you just wait it out, this situation will resolve eventually. You still have the loaner car, right? Just use that in the meantime. I expect your mechanic is having trouble securing the required replacement parts, which is a pretty common thing these days. Another mechanic would likely have the same delay. Even family members of the Car Talk team report having the Covid-era supply-chain problem.

I expect you’ve already learned it is best to do this sort of business w/an actual pro-mechanic, who operates legally out of a well-managed shop, and is in accord with all the various regulations. Get a written & signed price/repair-time estimate before handing over your keys.

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be careful with this thought process. Estimates for crash damage are not at all accurate if the estimator hasn’t looked at the vehicle. Once you start peeling back outer damage, all kinds of stuff pops up. A phone estimate or one from pictures cannot really be trusted if damage is more than surface level.

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Definitely will make better choices going forward