Special to the Times
As many women have experienced at some point in their driving lives, it is a pretty vulnerable feeling when you have to take your car in for repairs. Not knowing if the vehicle really needs what the mechanic is recommending, it leads one to wonder if she is seen as an easy target, going to be overcharged, or if the repair is even necessary at all. "For the most part, it can be a daunting task for a woman to go by herself to take a car in for repairs," explains Barbara Terry, author of the new book How Athletes Roll (Comfort Publishing, 2010), which showcases athletes and the cars they drive. "It is probably one of the least appealing things for women to do because they fear they are going to be taken advantage of." • There are some things that you can do in order to help minimize being ripped off at the repair shop, including:
Educate yourself. The more you know about your car and the repairs, the better off you will be. Knowledge is power. Get to know your vehicle, so that you are familiar with it and the owner's manual, which will come in handy in understanding basic maintenance needs. You can also Google questions about car repairs and maintenance, so you are well-prepared before walking into the shop.
Follow reputations. Ask around, so you can find a mechanic that has a good reputation. Getting recommendations may help you keep from setting foot in a shady establishment to begin with.
Another opinion. If you are told you need costly repairs, seek a second opinion. Ask for a written estimate and use the information to get several other repair estimates either by phone or in person. If possible, have a male friend call around and ask what each place would charge for such a repair.
Keep maintained. Keep current on your vehicle maintenance, as per your owner's manual; this will help to minimize the repairs that may be necessary.
Verify service. Ask the mechanic to show you the part that needs replacing. Also, ask to see it, and the new part, once the work has been completed.
Speak up. If you feel you have been mistreated, overcharged or otherwise not treated fairly, put in a complaint. You can ask to speak to the manager, write the company headquarters in many cases, and file a complaint with the local Better Business Bureau.
Barbara Terry, who also is an off-road race-car driver, is an expert in a variety of auto-related issues and topics. For more information, check out her website at www.barbaraterry.com.