CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Why do the majority of mechanics rip you off

I have an 04 dodge stratus. It’s running again now the only problem I’m having is water come on the floor while it rains but the engine seems to be doing great.

It just that I find it shameful the fact that most mechanics rip you off with their insanely high prices. I was almost at the point of trying to get a new car.

My car had problems with the engine and overheating. So the first mechanic I took it to only put water in the coolant system and said it was just air filled up. It worked ok for about a week then it started overheating again. So then he replaced the thermostat and housing he calls it, the job was $500. Ok so it works for about a week. I take it back
To him and he says he can look at again but it will cost me again. So at that point I got irritated and just didn’t come back.

The I went to another shop that is more professional. And the guys tells me that it was a radiator problem and water pump which would cost me $1,600 and then it thought it probably was the head gasket also but he needed to do that job first. So i was almost at the point of just going to a dealer and getting a new car and paying monthly payments.

Then my dad thought about a cousin of his that used to work on cars. I went all the way out of the city to get to him. He said it was just the So I didn’t even need a water pump and the head gasket was actually fine! I bought the part for $100 and he replaced it and also my brake line because it was rusted. And now the car is performing excellent. The coolant isn’t leaking anymore and no overheating or anything. And he only charged me $150 but I gave him $200 because I really appreciated his honesty and extremely reasonable price. so my car is fixed for $300?

I know this long but it’s just a shame people rip you off and try to suck so much money out of you. I would have been out of like $2000 or probably more because I was close to just getting a new car.

Just the what?

1 Like

In my experiance I agree that there are crooks out there just like in any other business. But I find the majority of them honest. Some of the honest ones are incompetent. The trick is to find a good one and stick to him. Look for referrals from people you know. Taking your car to random shops is like playing Russian roulette.

5 Likes

Good mechanics are not cheap, cheap mechanics are no good. You visited two mechanics that were no good. They weren’t trying to rip you off so much as they were poor mechanics who thought they were good mechanics. They were convinced they knew what the problem but they did not do the diagnostic work to find the actual problem.

Let me ask you a question. Would you argue a diagnostic charge of $125 or so before the shop would even give you an estimate on the repair? That is $125 whether they fix it or not?

If you wouldn’t go to shops that do that, well, you get what you pay for.

6 Likes

I will add to mustangman’s excellent reply by saying that, at least in my area (NJ) the average shop labor rate is over $100 per hour. Thus, even small jobs can quickly hit $500. This is not a “rip-off” but simply fair compensation for a highly skilled trade.

2 Likes

I don’t believe that they all rip you off…however there are a large enough segment of dishonest mechanics that makes them easy to find. It’s not just mechanics, but many trades as well (Plumbing, electricians, building contractors…). And I’ve met my share of very dishonest software engineers.

At least once a year some TV magazine show does a segment about hiring a mechanic, plumber, electrician…etc and show then be ripped off by them. The last segment I saw a few weeks ago, the news team hired several electricians to fix a small problem. 4 of them saw and fixed the problem correctly. One however really ripped them off by charging for parts and service not needed. It’s a shame they have to do it.

What was replaced? How long as the car run with no recurrence of the problem?

Your dad’s cousin was doing you a favor. I have at times fixed friends or relatives cars abd charged them very little over parts cost. I could not do that if it was what I was living on and paying for a fully equipped shop plus all the necessary business expenses.

In the old days I worked at three different gas stations when all gas stations did repairs. Two of the station owners were hard working, honest businessmen. the third was an out and out crook.

The customers had a lot of reasons to remember the crook. The good guys don’t get remembered as much.

Most mechanics have areas of less competence. The guy I use is honest and pretty competent, but he doesn’t have alignment equipment, do anything with transmissions except fluid changes or swaps.

I would not take him a rare or high end car for diagnosis. He is as honest as the day is long and that puts him high on my list.

1 Like

So in Your opinion $ 1,600 is cheap ?

I understand he knew my dad and was doing me a favor but I just feel like anything over $600 for the job is way too high. My dads cousin did that in one day like cmon. That is just way too much. The 1st mechanic was just full of crap. I felt that he kept doing small fixes so I can keep coming back and he keep charging.

The second place was just way too high. Plus They lied I did not need a water pump and the problem wasn’t a head gasket. Well he wasn’t sure about the head gasket, but just the radiator and water pump (that I didn’t need) was $1,600!

The radiator had to be replaced that was what causing my coolant to leak And overheating and it’s been two weeks now and no problems. That’s longer than the 1st mechanic I went to. Every time he so-called fixes the problem something happened 2 weeks later and it started overheating again.

I’m glad that you and your father considered all your options and found a successful conclusion to the problem at a reasonable price. It’s a shame that there are shops that rip off the public, luckily in my area most are honest.

1 Like

Perhaps it depends on where you live. City of 100,000, I can not think of a shop that people say avoid. I have had random dealings with many and have not been disappointed yet.

The shops he went to don’t necessarily appear “cheap”. $500 for a thermostat replacement doesn’t seem cheap? Maybe the thermostat is particularly hard to get to on this particular engine? My experience is fairly limited on thermostats. I’ve replaced them on 6 or 7 different engines, I suppose. But it generally doesn’t take over an hour or so to change the thermostat, refill coolant, etc.

Depends on what it is. That is reasonable for a head gasket, a water pump and a radiator, expensive for a thermostat.

Is what you wanted a cheap fix for an old car? A cheap old car.

Maybe he gave you that number because he realized he did not want your business and that would make you go away.

2 Likes

I can say I’ve had more bad experiences than good with mechanics over the past 35 years of driving. Most of the bad experiences were just like the OP. Too many mechanics have no diagnostic skills or maybe too lazy or rushed to do it. I’ve run into a few outright crooks but the biggest problem is just incompetence. $120/hr for someone to guess and throw parts at it. I can do that myself. No offense to the good mechanics out there.

Other than the new owners of a previous repair shop that had the car for a week, threw parts at it until it started then declared it fixed. When we went to pick the car up it was like Moe,Larry&Curly fixing cars and on the 3rd or 4th attempt got the car started and we drove off with our fingers crossed. Worked for a week and then we were back where we were. That was a last effort to keep the car going so we ended up with a brand new car that stuck around for 19yrs.

Several shops have opened and closed in that space and now someone’s selling used tires out of the building. We’ve been using a shop not that far away for 26yrs and counting.

It sounds like you’ve solved your problem by using your cousin. Be sure to do him some favors on your part too; you can trade favors and that way everybody wins. Cooling system problems can be difficult to figure out. It’s like trying to figre out why a tire is leaking. Try this, try that, etc etc. It may be the shops would have done a better job for you had you offered to pay them up front their normal rate for 2-3 hours of diagnostic time. Otherwise they figure they can save you money by just replacing stuff, hoping it would fix the problem, and thinking that if it doesn’t solve the problem you probably would have needed to replace that stuff anyway fairly soon, so no harm done.

If you need to use a shop again, the best bet is to ask everyone you know who they use, then interview a couple of those shops to make sure they work on Dodges. Best to do this in advance, before you need the shop’s help. When you tell the shop you are coming there because Joe recommended them to you, the shop owner has an incentive to do right by you, b/c you’ll tell Joe otherwise and Joe’s business may be lost too. You’ll be using some leverage to get good service.

I’ll add that I ran into this same problem around 1980, and my solution was to take adult night school classes in automobile repair, tooled up, and haven’t visited a shop since, other than for required emissions testing & tires (and one automatic transmission rebuild). So that’s another solution, become a diy’er. Finding an adult night school class in auto repair is probably the problem with that idea in this day and age. It’s extremely helpful to have somebody show you how to do a procedure right there in front of you the first time. After that you can usually do it yourself, with perhaps looking up some info in books & on the internet, asking at forums etc.

I disagree that the majority of mechanics are crooks. There certainly is a percentage of them that are low life weasels and a slightly larger percentage that are incompetent or poor at a diagnosis.

The majority I’ve worked with have been honest and competent. I will say that many of my friends in the field did not like having a crook in their midst because it reflects on everyone including the honest ones. If someone gets raped by a crook they usually don’t say that Mechanic A ripped me off. They say so and so shop or car dealer ripped me good; implying everyone there is dishonest.

Granted some repairs are costly but that shop or dealer has a lot of expenses to come out of that pie. The slices are many. I went through an epidural in my problematic back a few years ago. Not counting the hospital the doctor’s bill was 2500 bucks for just stabbing me with a needle.Even worse, I walked out no better than when I walked in.

As for thermostats, some are not so easy to change. Try doing one on my Lincoln Mark VIII. The thermostat stuck on my wife once while she was in Texas and the shop charged her 2 hours labor for that T-stat. Well worth every penny. When I do one I go through most of the profanity library pretty quickly while suppressing a desire to strangle the guy who designed it.

4 Likes

There are tons of rip off mechanics out there but I’ve been told before I charge to much but my excuse is your paying for what I know my experience,yea you can pay your average Joe pennies on the dollar or even try to put in the part yourself it may work it may not ,it may only take you 2-3 days to fix it meanwhile it may only take me 20 mins, not everybody owns a ohm meter or a diagnosis reader or even a torque wrench ,not everyone know sometimes critical bolts have reverse threads or know how to get the oil pump out without yankin out the engine these are main reasons people who don’t work on cars & think that just cause a part costs 30 bucks at AutoZone that it should cost about the same to install which is the furthest from the truth ,if your oil pump went out I could find you a brand new one with the account I have for roughly 20-25 bucks but putting it in is not even a fraction of that cost

1 Like