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Surprise Second Bill

Recently I had a lot of work done on my vehicle. I spoke to the mechanic early on and got an estimate for about $2000 to fix all the problems.



The mechanic called me to let me know the vehicle should be done the next day, and asked me to call him the next day to be sure. I called him at confirmed that it was done and said I’d be by at a specific time.



When I arrived I got the bill for the amount of the estimate, nicely broken down into parts and labor for each repair.



Then I was presented with a second bill for $250. The mechanic said he took the vehicle for a test drive [part of the work was ball joints] and it started shaking. He said that he “could not return the vehicle” in such a condition and replaced a velocity joint. I was told that it would be ok to take “a few weeks” to come up with the payment.



At the time I thought that it was great that he did this. I’m now thinking that I’ve been either scammed or at least treated unethically. The mechanic clearly had my phone number and did not try to call to talk about this last minute problem, so there was no way for me to authorize this work.



Do I pay this second bill? How do I handle this situation? My gut tells me to pay for the part and tell them I am not paying for the labor, but I have no way of knowing now, days later, if I really did need the part. [I live in SE Michigan, if that matters.]

The mechanic gave you an “estimate”. This means that the bill could have been a little higher or a little lower. Pay the bill and find another mechanic if you don’t trust this one. The mechanic should have tried to call you in any regard. That’s just common courtesy and good business in my book.

Maybe I didn’t explain my point properly.

He gave me an estimate for work on X, Y and Z. When I showed up, he said, “By the way, I also fixed W.” I didn’t know W was bad and wasn’t informed about it until after the fact.

If he’d said, “Gee, it turned out that fixing Y took an extra hour, so it’ll cost another $hour more” that’d be different.

I understand your reasoning and he should have called you before the work was performed. With this said…there is also a thing called a mechanic’s lien. You might have one attached to your vehicle title if you don’t pay. If it was $2500 I would call a lawyer…for $250 I would just write a check.

Translation: The mechanic damaged or broke the CV joint when the front end was torn apart to replace the ball-joints. Was the vehicle “shaking” when you brought it in? If the boot was torn exposing the CV joint, that would have been discovered when they started working on the front end and they WOULD have called you.

Since replacing an axle was not part of the original estimate, and they did not call you to get authorization to do this extra repair, you are not obligated to pay it…

I agree he should have called you but if I didn’t have any other reason to suspect this mechanic, I’d just take his word that you needed the CV joint and that it was bad enough that you definitely would have approved it. I don’t think he would risk ticking off a $2000 customer just to scam them out of an extra couple hundred bucks.

I still give the guy an A+ as opposed to an A+++. He didn’t charge any more for the other work and he legally could have charged more, Then he could have reduced the price of W to make it seem that he was doing you a favor.

You wouldn’t have liked that either. Seeing as how it’s mostly good and the car is fixed, he can be paid and you can still be happy.

I would have paid it on the spot if I could have, but I understand your concern. Since it’s been so long, maybe it’s best to just pay the 250 and file this under “wish I’d handled that differently.” Good reason to ask for all your parts back (there’s usually a checkbox for that) so even if they don’t actually replace a part, they at least have to come up with something that looks like it.

He definitely should have called you first.

My opinion is that it’s pretty bad form to perform a repair without calling, advising you of the problem, and asking for your approval in advance of any repairs.

This could be a slippery slope to start with. What if this 250 dollar bill was a grand?
He should have called even if the cost was 25 bucks.

I’m not certain of this at all but doesn’t Michigan have a state law about adhering to the estimate or whatnot?

Thank you for the suggestion. I don’t know why I didn’t think to look this up before. http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1585_50410_50412-33494--,00.html clearly states that you must be informed of any additions beyond the original estimate. I think this mechanic is trying to get around this by giving the extra work as a second bill, but since I never got an estimate for that second bill, I’m pretty sure the law is on my side here.

For what it’s worth, I’m a tech by trade and would never consider doing one thing to anyone’s car without their prior knowledge and approval; even if it was an unforseen 5 or 10 dollar thing.
For 250 dollars there is no way they should take this upon themselves to just have at it and hit you with the bill later.

I’m also in agreement with you that he likely knows full well what the law states and is skirting it by making a secondary bill. Wonder what he’d say if you firmly asked him to figure this amount into the original? :slight_smile:

He can’t figure it into the original. Further research says it’s against the law in MI to up the bill by more than $10 or 10% of the original estimate, whichever is LESS.

Mechanic’s liens only apply to real property, not automobiles. Don’t let the word “mechanic” fool you, lest Charles Bronson and/or Jan Michael Vincent show up on your doorstep.

Bad info on Cartalk.com? Nah, never happens.

I imagine this Bravada is old as Olds disappeared a while back. It is very plausible a CV joint can fail on an old vehicle in the course of repairs or simply time.

In general mechanics should call you for extra repairs they find for good business besides law.

The sticking of this $250 repair without prior approval is not cool. However walking away and saying I don’t have to pay is not cool either. Compromise somewhere in the middle. You gained. Maybe paying for part only is fair as their is markup within.

Do you like your mechanic besides?

I’ve never used this mechanic before. And whether I’ve gained is irrelevant. What they tried to do is flat out illegal and can cost them their license.

Sorry. It’s still known as a mechanics lien in a lot of states but most are now referred to as “repairmans liens”. I have not filed one in several years so I was lax in the terminology. The fact is in over 30 states you can still file a lien on a vehicle including motorhomes, motorcycles, boats, cars, trucks and farm equipment.

A repairman’s lien applies only to personal property and is created by long-standing common (judge-made) law. It most commonly arises with motor vehicles, but it applies to all items of personal property. The lien is created automatically when anyone makes repairs to personal property. It exists only as long as the item repaired is in the repairman’s possession and the debt is unpaid in most states. The repairman may hold the property until such time as the lien is repaid. This lien even takes priority over the lien held by a bank that financed the item, so that the bank cannot repossess the item from the repairman without first paying the repair bill. This makes sense because it is only fair that the bank pay for the repairs that improved the value of the property is it repossessing.

A faulty CV joint will have one or more of the following symptoms.
Vibration, click or knocking (may only do this in a turn), or the grease boot is torn.

If the car did not suffer from this prior to taking the car in then I will agree with Caddyman that it’s possible this problem could easily been caused during the repair of the ball joints, etc.

This shop knows what the law is and is trying to skirt it. What I would do is not ask, but demand this repair be put on the original bill and also let them know that you know what the law is. They may suddenly decide to make this a freebie.

If the shop is unethical enough to skirt the law when a simple phone call to you about this (alleged) new problem would have prevented their violating the law then I would not necessarily believe what they said about the CV joint suddenly turning bad.

The bottom line is… this was not part of the original estimate so it doesn’t fall into the 10% total of the bill.

He did additional repairs without your consent… you don’t pay.

Now you could offer to pay whatever his cost was on the CV joint and no more.

I have a problem with a velocity joint failure that was not even noticed by the customer when they dropped off the car but the became an issue that the mechanic 'could not let the car be driven" in urgency. Something is not right,

Velocity joints don’t fail this wat either.

Ask the mechanic why he did not call and also ask why he did repair work not authorized by you.

He clearly knows that he made an error and let you go with a request to pay. My guess is that he does not expect payment. He should not be able to use a mechanics lien as he has no written permission from you to do the work.

If your car has a lot of miles, you might keep in mind that at least one of your CV joints should never fail for the remainder of the car’s life and so you got some value.

Compromise and offer to pay half.