Car Repair: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

Updated January 31, 2023 by Kyle

As I have documented before, I have a gas chugging truck which I love and hate at the same time. I love it when I’m hauling stuff or heading to the snow, but hate it when I’m at the gas station wishing they would provide some free lube as I can barely walk after I fill up the tank.

But the price of gas is not the point of this post. This post is more a story. A story with a moral at the end. So grab a warm blanket and a cup of coffee and gather round.

(Start harp music)

A couple months ago, I took my truck into the service center at the Chevy dealership where I bought it because my 4 wheel drive was acting really weird and I wanted it checked out before I took my family up to the mountains to cut down our Christmas tree.

Made the appointment, took it in, and a few hours later a “service specialist” calls me and informs me that he has good and bad news. The good news is my 4 wheel drive looks great, but the bad news is my water pump is leaking and needs to be replaced. The cost will be $900 and some change for parts and labor on a new pump.

I was like, “Say what dude?” and he was like “Yeah, you’re water pump is a mess my man” and I was like “nine hundred bucks? Holy crap.” He then said he could conveniently “get ‘er done today” as he had all the parts in stock and a mechanic ready to do the work.

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Something in my gut felt very uneasy about the whole dealio. So I told him to “STOP” in the name an emergency fund, as I wanted to get a 2nd bid on the work.

Enter new mechanic. I had heard really good things from friends about an independent mechanic in town and I called him and got my truck in the next day. Guess what? The water pump in my truck is good as new. He pressure tested it several times over the course of a couple hours and NO LEAK or any evidence of leakage!

Then, being a stand-up guy, he actually called the dealership because he thought maybe he was missing something. He could not get anyone from the dealership to talk with him about my truck, all the sudden they had complete amnesia about the situation.


By trusting my gut instinct I saved myself darn near a $1,000.

The Moral of the Story:

~ Trust Your Gut Instinct – If it smells like fish and looks like a fish, guess what, it probably is a fish. On substantial repairs, never automatically say, “OK, go ahead and fix it” without getting a second opinion. Especially if that little dude in your gut is telling you “to slow down and smell the bull manure.”

~ Make Sure You Can Talk to the Mechanic – The most frustrating part of dealing with the dealership is you can’t ever talk to the person who actually looked at the vehicle. They route you through a slimy salesman dressed up like a “service rep”. When I asked how bad the leak was he was like, “Umm, doh, err, I’m not sure. He just said the water pump needed to be replaced right away so it must be pretty bad.”

~ Beware of Dealerships – I’m not saying all service centers at dealerships are shysters, but you really need to have your finger on the BS button when dealing with these guys. The dealership in question just did a huge and expensive remodel and is now super-duper fancy….I’m just saying be careful.

~ Ask Around About Good Mechanics – Always have your ear peeled for when the topic of local car mechanics comes up with friends and acquaintances. Good and affordable mechanics tend to get great word of mouth advertising so make sure you write down the name of the good ones in your local area. Once you find one you trust and are happy with be sure to build your relationship with them by buying them Starbucks and send them a Christmas card every year. Believe me, it’s worth it!

Have you had any similar experiences with dealership mechanics or any mechanic for that matter? I look forward to your comments.


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Nicole Becker

Thank God we have someone in my boyfriend’s family that owns a repair shop because I think they are all rip offs for sure!!


Good to know as I have fixer uppers myself!


Very good tips. I love the photo.Trust your gut says quite a bit. When you drive a car daily you notice little things that seem “off”.

Cláudia Martinho

great rules, i have to trust my gut instinct more often

Wendy Mastin

I am fortunate that my husband does all of our car repairs. I love you picture with the horse. Very funny.

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

I have been going to the same mechanic for 15 years. I can trust him implicitly and never have to worry . I would have to have to deal with the issues that you mentioned here.

Marlene V.

That image made me laugh so hard!!!


Always trust your gut feeling,,,,,

Stephanie Thompson (Free)

A $900.00 car repair bill, I would have had to tell the family that we are not getting a tree for Christmas because there will be no presents to put under it, the mechanic is having a nice Christmas. I have had this happen to me and fell for it at 19 yrs old but learned my lesson.

Elden Gatley

I agree that you should generally trust your gut. I think if you’re feeling uneasy about a mechanic, or what they’re suggesting, you should not take the risk. There are plenty of good mechanics out there and it’s simply not worth getting hosed by the few who don’t know what their doing.