What deal should I make with the Shop?

Hello all, I have had my car in a professional shop for a month, and the engine still does not work. This is a mid-range car mechanic, better than a run down shop, but not as good as the Toyota dealership. The engine shakes sometimes when it is running. I have spent $1,500 at this shop, and currently there is another unbilled $4,000 of repairs done to the engine.

I am writing this to ask for advice on how to manage this situation. I cannot afford more than the current unbilled $4,000 for repairs, but this shop just keeps failing and the price goes up and up. If I tow the car to the Toyota Dealership, will the warranty for this current shop be voided? That would not be good, I can’t spend a total of $5,500 and receive no warranty that is unworkable.

My question to everyone is, what if I offered the shop to junk the car and cancel the unbilled $4,000 in repairs? The car is only worth $4,500, so I would lose little. I could say to the shop " Here are 2 options, I pay you $4,000 for a working vehicle, or we junk the car and cancel the $4,000 bill, which works best for you?

I must drive to work each day with a rented car for $55. I must find a way out of this situation, thank you everyone for helping.

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That won’t happen, there is no way a shop would do that.

No it’s not, it has engine problems.

And if decide to just walk away from it, they will put a mechanics lien on the car, sell it for $50 as scrap and sue you and win for the $4,000 you owe.

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The engine shakes in a manner that no one would buy the car?

If this is the same carboned up Prius that uses lots of oil, just bring a signed title into the shop, toss in on the counter and say goodbye. And hope they think suing you for the balance isn’t worth the trouble.


55 dollars a day for nothing. Pay the 4000.00 and get your car back. Then trade it on the cheapest new vehicle you can find that will meet your actual needs ( not some great cross country camping trip you might never take ) . Even a lease will be better than what you are currently doing .

  1. The mechanic does’t want your car. They’re not a Used Car dealer and greatly prefer cash payment so they can pay their own bills.
  2. Even more, they don’t want to lien your car, with the added legal expenses and auction costs.
  3. And your car rental costs are neither here nor their.

I strongly suggest that you begin a conversation with them about the unbilled costs starting with, “The costs are beginning to exceed my budget, my ability to pay and the value of the car.” and continuing with, “How much will it cost to complete the job?”

I suspect you’ll reach a compromise but remember that if the mechanic liens te car and only recieves $2,000 at auction, you’ll still be on the hook for the difference.

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Based on @VOLVO-V70 's comment I suspect there’s a thread somewhere else I haven’t seen or don’t remember. But in all of this saga has the mechanic ever given you a definitive diagnosis as to what is wrong with the car? And if so, has the mechanic replaced the part(s) they diagnosed as faulty, but the car continued to have problems?

Give us a better idea of the specifics of how the mechanic “keeps failing.”


You definitely want to stop all work on this car until all the miscommunication is settled. If the mechanic has said (or written) that he can fix your car for X-dollars, and has failed to do so, then you have a case against him. I would not pay a dime more until a new agreement is reached…preferably in writing at this point.


It definitely sounds like any further repairs ought to be covered under the mechanic’s warranty. And, if he claims it is fixed, then give him the car.

The question being asked here is whether the charges/bill is reasonable for the work which was done, not whether or not it makes sense to repair the car versus junking it. What is important is not how much the car is worth, nor how much the customer can afford/thinks they should spend. After all, it costs just as much to do a particular procedure on a $500 car as it does to do it on a $5000 car. For example, it might cost $2800 to have the head gasket replaced on a 19 year old Daewoo Lanos, which Blue Books for $1300, and it might cost that same $2800 to have this repair done on a 2010 Corolla, which Blue Books for $5500.

What is important is that in most industries–including the industry in which I work–customers pay for results, not BS. In other words, if I was foolish enough to waste a bunch of time trying this, that, and the other thing attempting to fix the customer’s HVAC unit, and the problem(s) continued, the company would have to eat the cost of the wasted time and materials. We would not dream of billing a customer big bucks for unproductive repair attempts.

I would argue that the correct course of action depends not on the cost of proper repairs versus the value of the car, but rather on whether or not the mechanic/shop has honestly explained the problem(s) with the car, or is just going on a “fishing expedition” at the customer’s expense. If the shop looked at the car initially, and felt that the engine should be replaced, but you declined, so “we’ll try some cheaper fixes first” then I think you owe the money. If the shop truly could not diagnose the problem(s) and just wasted a bunch of time and parts trying, then it does not make sense to pay thousands of dollars for incompetence.


Is the same car that has apparently never had it’s oil level checked with the carbon problem as well as an alleged head gasket failure? And it somehow costs $3200 to fix?

Did you approve the extra $4k in repairs or did the shop make a unilateral decision on the matter?

What was agreed to when you dropped off the car? What was their original quote on the repair costs and did you agree to it? Did you agree to subsequent repairs? Most credible shops will give you an estimate of what they think the problem is (after diagnosis) and what they think it will cost to fix. If you agree to that, then the repairs start. If something else crops up or is discovered along the way, then they will call you back explain the situation, give you an updated estimate, and it’s your call on whether to continue or not. If you don’t want to spend the extra money, you just pay them for the diagnosis and whatever repairs they did up to that point. A credible shop absolutely will not quote you $1500 for a repair, then tell you it’s going to be another $4000 after the fact. If that’s what they did, then you shouldn’t have to pay for unauthorized repairs.

We’re not getting the entire story here

What warranty? It sounds like they’re wanting to charge you for everything they are doing, and have yet to actually fix the car. So far the warranty is moot as the car isn’t repaired.

The problem with that cunning plan is that a car that needs a new engine might not be worth much more than scrap value. Which would be substantially less than $4500. You’d still be on the hook for the remaining three grand or so. The shop probably wouldn’t want to deal with this scenario anyway. It’s hassle on their end as well. With that said, you should’ve been given a working vehicle for whatever the initial repair estimate was, assuming you didn’t okay any further repairs along the way. If you did okay additional repairs, and they told you before the additional repairs were started how much it was going to cost, then it’s on you.

We don’t have all the pertinent information needed to make conclusive judgement on what to do. You may end up just having to pay whatever it ends up being, and hope no more pricey repairs crop up in the near future. The idea of just giving them the car in lieu of paying them probably isn’t going to happen, because this shop seemingly doesn’t know how to fix the car anyway, and they probably don’t want to deal with repairing it and then trying to sell it themselves.

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The symptom is the engine shakes when it is running. I have brought it in 3 times for this issue, and each time the mechanic is explicit that he is replacing a specific part. Each time I pay and it never solves the issue, and I bring it back in, and the mechanic says he thinks it is a different specific part to replace or repair.

If this car were fully functional without any symptoms, it is worth $4,500 on KBB. The head gasket failed, and it was successfully replaced, but the symptom continues. The operation was a success, but the patient died. I have contacted every car rental and car lease agent in this area and the surrounding areas, and $55 per day for a mediocre car is the cheapest in this region, if I lease a car it will be more expensive. I cannot continue spending money on useless repairs, and I do not have any money to buy a new car, and I do not have good credit to borrow money for a new car.

I noticed user “bcohen2010” writes that he would not pay the bill for $4,000 for an unsuccessful repair, however user “It_s-Me” said to that “Theres no way a shop would do that”. Perhaps the 2 of you should debate with eachother if I am required to pay for an authorized, but unsuccessful repair.

I have waited a month for this mechanic, and I cannot wait any longer. This mechanic may never solve this engine problem. I need a working car, and I cannot get additional funds or loans for a new car. I have $4,000 in cash, then if I pay this bill, I will be broke. What is the best I can do in this situation?

One way or another, you have to settle with the shop/mechanic first.

I’d contact the shop, tell them to stop all work on the car. Tell them you’ve decided to get rid of the car, and ask what kind of final settlement you can make. Whether that’s $4000 or not, I don’t know. They might let you walk away for cash.

Then get the Prius back. From there you can decide to either junk it, (somehow) trade it in on something else, or another option. But you have to settle with the shop first and get your Prius back.

You may “think” you have $4000 in cash, but they have your car. If you walk away from the Prius, you’re still going to owe the shop money.

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You are paying 275.00 a week for a rental or over 1000.00 a month . You can make a new car payment or a lease for a lot less than that . Mediocre car ? What do you think you have now ? You need transportation to keep a job so lower your sights and do something soon before you have zero funds.


Ohhh, the “I don’t understand what you said and so you must be autistic” guy. I remember now! -eyeroll-

There’s a passage in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where the author talks about trying to fix a motorcycle when he breaks a screw, and the motorcycle can’t be fixed without extracting it. He points out something interesting:

Normally screws are so cheap and small and simple you think of them as unimportant. But now, as your Quality awareness becomes stronger, you realize that this one, individual, particular screw is neither cheap nor small nor unimportant.

Right now this screw is worth exactly the selling price of the whole motorcycle, because the motorcycle is actually valueless until you get the screw out.

With this reevaluation of the screw comes a willingness to expand your knowledge of it.

In other words, your car is worth a lot less than $4,500 because malfunctioning parts have significantly reduced its value. Remaining fixated on the idea that it is a $4,500 car is misguided.

They’re both right. I would refuse to pay as well. And the mechanic would probably sue me or send me to collections to force me to pay. And then I would have to choose whether or not to fight it.

Tell the mechanic that you feel you should not have to pay him to not fix your car. He might give you a break, at least. Otherwise, your option is to pay, pay and then sue to recover your payment for services not rendered (which is not guaranteed), or not pay and hope the mechanic does not come after you (which is also not guaranteed).


The first rule is to stop digging. You don’t let a bill get to $5000 on a car only worth $4500. We don’t what the original issue or conversation was with the mechanic besides it shakes or doesn’t run well. The mechanic very well might have said they will take a look but no guarantees. You can’t assume that the mechanic had a clear charge and failed to fix the item.

Now if they did have a clear instruction and failed, you need to provide them the opportunity to correct their problem, then you can take it somewhere else and have it repaired and then try to recover your expenses.

You owe $5000 in repairs and now want to take it to Toyota to have it repaired or whatever. This is insanity. Some stuff just can’t be fixed which is why cars end up in junk yards.


This is irrelevant. People routinely spend way more than a car is worth in order to have it repaired. In fact, just a proactive timing belt replacement could exceed the KBB of some cars. Still, it’s way cheaper than buying another car, or having to replace the engine.

It sounds like the head gasket was not the problem then, or the shop which did the repair failed to correctly do the job. There is a lot more to a head gasket job than just taking the engine apart and swapping the gasket. The cylinder head should be taken to a professional machine shop, who will remove the valves and camshaft(s), chemically clean all parts, resurface the mating surface, re-grind or replace the valves and valve seats, etc, then test the valve sealing under pressure and under vaccum. Once the head comes back, proper cleaning of the engine block mating surface, use of new bolts, and proper adherence to the head bolt tightening procedure must be done, or the result will be poor.

I am very much struggling to believe that this is true. There are, on average, 22 work days per month. At $55 per day, you are spending over $1200 per month to drive a “mediocre car”. People don’t pay that much to lease very expensive luxury cars. They certainly shouldn’t be paying that kind of money to drive a “mediocre car”.

If indeed, your finances are so poor that buying a different car on credit is not an option, then it sounds like you need bankruptcy in addition to a different car. It sounds like you should take your $4k, buy a cheap used car on Craigslist ($3k or less), do whatever initial repairs/maintenance it needs ($1k or so), and then declare bankruptcy. You will eliminate all of your unsecured debts, including the debt owed to this shop, which failed to properly repair your Prius.


Obviously, car rental rates are going to vary somewhat from one locale to another, and one person’s idea of a mediocre car could be very different from someone else’s perception. But, for the heck of it, I checked Hertz rental rates in my area, and their cheapest car–a Ford Fiesta–costs ~$40 per day if it is rented by the week. If the OP has made the mistake of renting by the day, and if that “mediocre” car is a mid-size one, it is entirely possible for it to cost $55 per day.

Mustangman provided a link to previous queries about this car and it certainly refreshed my memory. My opinion at the time was that the car was essentially junk.

As for the current problem what comes into play here is your quite likely authorizing a number of go-nowhere repairs. This means you are on the hook for it unless you want to scuffle it out in the legal arena. Always start with a limit when it comes to sorting out a problem.

Quite frankly, I’m appalled at such a large bill with no definitive answers. There is no way this should happen or ever been allowed to even come close to happening.
Run a compression test first step. Compression bad; THEN it’s decision time.