How to make sure your mechanic isn’t ripping you off, even if you know nothing about cars.

Video by Mamamia Women's Network.

If you don’t know much about cars, walking into a greasy garage can be intimidating.

Some unscrupulous mechanics may try to use your lack of knowledge to rip you off, so you may be tempted to avoid these situations just in case you’re targeted. However, your car is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your life (after a house) so taking care of your set of wheels, by having regular services to ensure your car is roadworthy (and making sure you don’t overpay), is very important.

Here are five questions to consider next time you pay a visit to your mechanic.

Can I see your certifications?

Asking to see your mechanic’s qualifications can give you greater confidence in their ability to complete the necessary work to a high standard. Most will be willing to show you their licences – if they aren’t, maybe you should think twice about leaving your car in their hands.

In Australia, the necessary licensing requirements vary between states. In NSW, for example, all mechanics require a Motor Vehicle Repairer’s Licence which allows them to conduct repair work on motor vehicles, and Victorian mechanics require a Vehicle Tester Licence.

Can I meet the mechanic?

Meeting your mechanic allows you to put a face to the name of the person responsible for servicing your car. Building up a relationship with your mechanic will show them that you care about your car and the work being done on it. If you don’t know much about cars, chatting to them is a great way to get simple explanations about any problems. They may even be more willing to offer you discounts on parts and repair – simply because you were friendly!

Can you show me exactly where the problem is?

Asking to see the problem is an easy way to catch out a mechanic that might be trying to rip you off. If there is a genuine problem, your mechanic will be happy to show you the defect and explain what needs to be done to fix it. Although not all problems can be visibly seen (like electrical faults), you should always ask anyway and talk through your options.

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Can you provide a maintenance plan?

A good mechanic will not only want to give your car back in great condition, they will also want to maintain that great condition and ensure your car is roadworthy. Asking for a maintenance plan can help you foresee future repairs that may need to occur. This should then be compared to the manufacturer’s recommendations in the owner’s manual. If you see items in the maintenance plan that aren’t also in the manufacturer’s recommendations then there’s a chance that your mechanic is trying to sell you services that you don’t need.

Is there a warranty on repairs?

If your mechanic offers a good warranty on the repairs they make, it’s likely that they are confident they can complete repairs correctly and to a high standard. Warranties vary between mechanics – some offer warranties based on time (for one year) or based on how many kilometres your car does (for example, 20,000km). Make sure you ask if the warranty only covers the cost of the replacement, or also includes the cost of labour.

If your mechanic can provide you with appropriate answers to all these questions, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself a trustworthy mechanic that will charge you a fair price. It will also give you peace of mind knowing that you’re operating a vehicle that’s safe for both you and your family.

Bessie Hassan is a money expert at Finder.com.au.

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