I Gotta Get My Car Diagnosed. Who's Going To Charge Me More?

I want to save money. They want all the money they can get. Same old same old.

My car’s acceleration hesitates when throttling only.

I have to get an HONEST diagnosis of what the problem REALLY is. Who should I go to for honesty and savings?

A) Regular Auto Repair Shop
B) Transmission Only Shop
C) Dealer

Im just sick of throwing money at guesses. I want to take it to sombody who will know EXACTLY what is going on with the car so I can financially plan accordingly.

A) Well-rated, independent auto repair shop is usually your best bet. There are exceptions depending on the actual problem (you don’t fully explain)
C) Dealer may be a bit more expensive to diagnose and repair the problem but they generally know your car better, especially if it is pretty new (you don’t say)
B) Transmission shop is the worst because EVERYthing looks like a transmission issue to them.

Expect to pay the mechanic for their time for a proper diagnosis. It is well worth the time and money. Your doctor won’t diagnose you for free, don’t expect a mechanic to do it for free either.

Be prepared for the best educated guess if the problem cannot be absolutely determined without some disassembly and very many can’t. Even with the best shops there is no guarantee of immediate success especially for intermittent problems (you didn’t say if yours was intermittent). Live with it.


I fully intend to respect every mechanic’s time by paying them their dues.

Its a 2011 Camry LE 2.5L L4. 6 speed Automatic.

While driving between 1500-2000 rpm the car vibrates in short bursts. Above 50mph/2000rpm the car drives great. Smooth sailing. So should I A, B or C for something like this??

Well an MD is going to be more expensive than a PA or a nurse, so which would you go to? You pay for expertise so you can’t expect the most expertise for less money.

On this particular issue though, you need someone skilled that will drive the car with the computers attached to try to figure out what is happening. I think that level of attention is more likely in a good quality private shop than a dealer. At a dealer you might have trouble getting past the service writer but in a private shop the owner might be the one doing the diagnosis.


This may not be a a cut and dry problem to solve. It might take more than one diagnosis, and therefore, fee, to determine the problem.

Just be prepared for that. Hopefully, with luck, you’ll find a sharp mechanic who can nail the problem on the first try.

I’d also try a local repair shop too.


Agree with @bing… You need a mechanic to ride or drive the car while reading his scanner to capture the problem. A is still the best answer.


50 mph/2k rpm. So you are in 4th gear? Or 5th?
With very light throttle, you might even be in 6th?
4th is 0.98 5th is .76 and 6th is .66.

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When out of town I call a NAPA shop for a mechanic recommendation giving them as much info as I can about the problem.


The most reasonable price would almost surely be from an indy mechanic, but I’m really curious about why the OP believes that an apparent engine problem should be diagnosed by a transmission specialist.

Is there evidence of the transmission slipping?
Is the trans fluid dark and/or burnt-smelling?
Has the trans of this mystery-year Toyota been serviced every 3-4 years?


I believe it starts happening in 3rd gear. The 2011 Camry LE 2.5L L4 has Manual AND Automatic shifting. The vibration happens in both modes. But the vibration only happens when the car reaches operating temperature. The vibration wont happen on a cold start and drive. The vibration/hesitation will stop after 50mph/2000rpm. At idle its normal.

I’d trust a CRNP who’s been a nurse for 20+ years before an MD who’s in his residency personally. And your copay doesn’t change based on who you see anyway.

@ArgosNoble I agree with everyone else, take it to a well-rated independent mechanic. I’m not convinced that it’s a transmission issue.


Thank You! I will do that.

I’ll mildly disagree with that one just based on my experience with dealerships of several makes. I’ve had more misdiagnoses/failure to find the problem from dealerships than I ever had from independent mechanics. To the point that I only take cars that are under warranty to the dealership except for timing belt jobs (which I only take to the dealership because they have more money and can source engines for cost, so if the job gets screwed up I might be more likely to get a replacement engine without having to take anyone to court).

One problem with the dealership is that it’s often difficult to talk to the mechanic who’s working on your car. Instead you’re talking to a service adviser, which is a salesperson who may or may not know how to even change a tire, much less fix a car. Then the SA writes down what he thinks you said and tells the mechanic, and you just have to hope this little game of telephone with an intermediary who isn’t a mechanic managed to get the message across just so the mechanic even knows what he’s looking for.


Our mechanics use the dealer when they can’t figure out a problem, the dealer has not failed us yet. Sure there are good ones and bad ones, guess we have a good one.

My thoughts with that suggestion was if the car was a modern car 4 years old out of warranty with more complicated computer and network systems. But I can understand your experiences with dealers. Mine have been mixed. Some good, some not.


Dealer service departments are no different than any other business–some are run well and some aren’t. There is an advantage that the dealer has in that they are required to have all technical equipment and information resources to fix their lines of car. But having a mechanic experienced and willing to use all the resources is a different question.

If that’s the case the question should be which shop will do that and not the “Who’s going to charge me more?” that you ask in the title of your post. Why is the cost the first question you ask if you’re interested more in the quality of the work?

There’s a shop around the corner that advertises free check engine light diagnosis. We charge $160. Which shop would you go to?


I bet OP will go to free shop.

For the record… There are mechanics who absolutely rip people off so me trying to save money is the motive for avoiding mechanics who rip people off. I would definiately pay a mechanic for their time and expertise. Paying is not the issue. Overpaying is a huge problem. Some mechanics (not all) have done some unecessary sh*t to squeez more money out of unsuspecting customers. If you are a mechanic on this forum, you know what I say is true. You’ve met those ***holes. Don’t act like the problem doesnt exist.

Yes, there are some crooks out there and I’ve worked (briefly) with a few of them. However, the mechanics I know do not want to work around crooks as they do not want to be associated in any way, shape, or form with the dishonest ones. The distinct minority taints the majority.

That being said, I figure the number of crooked mechanics percentage wise is the same as the number of crooked customers percentage wise. Mechanics know what I’m referring to here…


Consider consulting Car Talk’s “Mechanics Files” for local recommendations by customers - click on “Repair Shops” in the menu at the top of this website). I generally concur with their ratings of our local shops and have found them useful during out of town emergencies.

Dealerships vary considerably and some are quite good. However in my experience many (but not all) dealerships automatically charge additionally for their computer scan whereas some (not all) independent shops waive that fee if they end up doing the repair. By checking up front that’s one item where you might save ~ $100 without compromising quality.

As other posters have indicated, don’t automatically assume it’s a transmission problem although it might be. A son’s car had a problem that seemed like the transmission but was solved by replacing some fuel/air management components indicated by a computer scan. There’s no harm in first going to a place that performs simple scans for free, such as some auto parts stores, just don’t assume those scans will tell the whole story.