Getting a Car Repair Estimate in Columbia MD
Brian England, Wed, Jul 08, 2015
Once the auto shop has had a chance to diagnose the problem, they will give you a call back with your service estimate. Pull out your list to make sure that everything you’ve asked for is being addressed in the estimate. Additionally, be sure they provide you with the total price for the auto service including labor and parts. At times, your auto repair shop may call you back to indicate that they will need more time to diagnose a repair problem. If this happens, wait until you have a complete picture of the needed auto services before authorizing any work.
When the shop is reviewing the recommended service or repair plan with you, be sure to ask that they prioritize the work based on the following:
- Safety – If there are safety issues with your vehicle, it’s important to address these as soon as possible. Never skimp on safety.
- Reliability – Clearly, we need our cars to perform when we need them. No one wants to be sitting on the side of the road, in the driveway, or in the garage when we need to be somewhere else. If you can afford it, be sure to have any reliability issues addressed.
- Preventive Maintenance – These are the services that will really help to maximize the life of your car. If you are planning to keep your car for several years, preventive maintenance is essential, but at times you may have some leeway in exactly when that maintenance is performed.
- Future Issues – Whether it’s the battery, brakes, or another vehicle system, often times good mechanics can see signs that a system will need work. They can tell you whether delaying a repair can increase the potential expense, so be sure to ask what will happen or the consequences if you wait on these “future issues”.
Sometimes when you are bringing your car in for a scheduled service or preventive maintenance, the process may be a little different. You may get a price up front and only get a call if there is a problem that the service technician has come across while he is performing the service. But if they do notice a problem, and give you a call back, have them follow the priorities stated above.
If there is something that you don’t understand, and you don’t feel comfortable, you may want to have a friend or relative who is better versed in the technical aspects of car repair call the auto service center to discuss the issue. Even if this is the case, it’s important to remember that there may be some issues that arise that only experienced auto technicians really understand. Also, if you don’t understand a word, or have never heard of it, have the service adviser spell it out for you so that you can look it up online. There may be information online with photographs that can help you better understand what the auto technician is talking about.
Once you have had a chance to review the recommended services, tell the shop exactly which services you would like to have performed and ask for the total cost of these specific services. Make a record of the amount and whom you spoke with. It’s important to remember that the cost the shop provides you with is only an estimate, but you should also know that Maryland law requires that the estimate be within 10% of the final price you are charged.
If you want to compare the estimate you received with an online source or another shop, be sure that you are comparing apples to apples. We have found that there can be a wide range of difference, not only in price, but in the actual work being performed by various shops addressing similar problems or services. Even with something as simple as an oil change service, the actual ancillary services performed can vary from shop to shop.
Once you decide what and where you would like to have the work done, be sure to clearly communicate the work that you are authorizing. If you can, send an e-mail. That way everything is in writing and there’s just a lot less room for error. Even if you authorize the work over the phone, you can follow up with an e-mail. Then the auto shop can give you a call back if there was a misunderstanding in the phone communication.
And lastly, when you come in to pick up your car, compare the final bill and work done to the estimate. If you follow this process you’ll find that taking the time to prepare, pay attention to detail, and communicate what you want goes a long way towards getting from the car repair estimate to a successful auto repair or service. It also goes a long way toward developing and maintaining a good relationship with your auto service provider.