How to Protect Yourself During an Automotive Service Appointment

The story is all too familiar. You bring your car in for a routine checkup. After a few hours and a couple coffees, the service technician appears. It seems they've found some issues with your vehicle...issues you weren't expecting.

The service technician tells you it's going to cost "X" amount of dollars to fix. And while you've got some money put away for a rainy day, you definitely had it ear-marked for something different. After a few minutes of humming and hawing, you decide to go ahead with the suggested repairs. But you're not happy about it.

The reality is, this happens to people all the time. No one wants to hear bad news, especially when it involves their hard-earned money. So even if the service itself is great and the vehicle is properly repaired, a customer's dissatisfaction can still remain.

This is why you see so many poor automotive service provider reviews online. Because even though the problem might be fixed, it meant spending money you didn't want to, or maybe didn't even have.

Rights and Responsibilities

Some of the dissatisfaction vehicle owners feel after dealing with automotive repair shops is

 justified. While it is unfortunate, the reality is some repair shops are simply dishonest. They can overcharge, suggest unneeded repairs, or fail to properly communicate with a customer about the work that needs to be done. It sucks, but it happens.

However, the age-old saying "one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch" can be applied to automotive service providers, too. There are honest, hard-working service technicians out there who have your best interests at heart. That includes your safety and that of your passengers.

So. How can you tell the good ones from the bad? How do you protect yourself from being ripped off?

There is a wealth of information available online. All a vehicle owner needs to do is take a few minutes and soak up the practical knowledge and suggestions that are available. That way, the next time you take your vehicle in, you'll not only know what your rights are as a customer but what the repair shop is required by law to do.

Vehicle Owner's Rights

Recently, there have been some changes made to the laws and regulations that govern vehicle repair shops.

For example, a licensed repair business cannot exceed an estimate by more than 10 percent and that 10 percent increase cannot add up to more than $100. Here are some more...

Customer Responsibilities

You have a responsibility as an automotive owner to be informed. Keeping track of what's factual and what your rights are will go a long way in keeping you protected.

  • Get the estimate in writing, including all promises made. Remember, a business can only exceed the estimate by 10 percent to a maximum of $100. You must agree to additional services and added costs before the work is started.
  • Save all the documentation you receive. This includes bills, receipts, and any type of paperwork.
  • For larger repair jobs, it's always a good idea to compare prices against other repair shops.
  • Ask about manufacturer, supplier or other warranty information and get all documentation in writing.
  • Ask if additional fees and charges apply and how much they cost.
  • Never be afraid to ask questions. Especially if you don't fully understand what you're agreeing to.

All of this information is available online at the home of the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council at By familiarizing yourself with what is required of repair shops-by law-and what your responsibilities as a vehicle owner are, you protect yourself against dishonest shops and mechanics.

Repair Shops Requirements

  • Get a customer's consent before using salvaged parts.
  • Get a customer's consent before subcontracting repair work.
  • Offer to return parts removed from the vehicle.
  • Provide information on the parts installed. This information should include whether they are original equipment manufacturer's parts or from another source. This information should include whether they are new, used, or reconditioned.
  • Only represent that they have the ability to perform a specific service. They can inform you that they have the equipment, tools and expertise necessary to complete the work, but they cannot make you get the work done there.
  • Get a customer's written consent for any work that does not conform to, or exceeds manufacturer standards.

How to Protect Yourself During an Automotive Service Appointment

Remember, your money is hard earned. If you keep the above in mind and make sure to deal with only AMVIC licensed facilities, you can feel confident the next time you go in for a service.

You still might end up having to spend more than you were planning to, but at least you know it's for your safety and the long-term health of your vehicle.

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