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Should I Get a Second Opinion About My Vehicle Repair Estimate?

The scenario: Your vehicle has been acting weird for two weeks. Hard to start in the morning and runs rough before it warms up. Naturally you take it to a shop and they hit you with a $850 repair estimate. This seems a little steep to you and you are unfamiliar with the shop. You finance radar is going off. What do you do?

A. You can authorize the fix and go about your merry way and hope it gets fixed.
B. You do not authorize the fix and wait until it becomes worse.
C. You can get another estimate or second opinion and hope it is cheaper. But what if it is not? This option will probably cost you more time and more money.
D. You can know who your mechanic is and feel good that they will fix it right the first time and at a fair price.

If you think D is the best answer I would agree. So what do you need to know to make an informed decision? Start here and continue with the links at the bottom of the post.

As a vehicle mechanic with 17 years experience and Ford and BMW factory training certifications, here is my opinion:

  • Not all mechanics are created equal.
  • Not all dealerships are created equal.
  • Not all independent shops are created equal.
  • Not all replacement parts are created equal.

I have seen reputable, knowledgeable, fast, and honest mechanics at independent shops AND dealerships. I have also seen the opposite in BOTH places. Communication within any service facility is a big factor. What the mechanic may recommend to a customer may be presented as necessary by the service adviser. Talk to the mechanic, not just the service adviser or service manager, chances are the latter two know nothing about vehicles. Your mechanic should be able to ask every question you have without hesitation–even if your only question is “Why?” S/he should be personable and friendly.

A major difference in cost between independent shops and dealerships is labor and factory parts. Labor is easy to compare. Factory parts are generally (notice I did not say always) superior to aftermarket parts. However this is a large grey area. Fact about both- Things break and/or wear out regardless of who made them or where they are made.

My bottom line is: Find a mechanic you trust and you will never need a second opinion.

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