Car Repair: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

Updated June 16, 2020 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.

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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Something like this happened to me. I had been with same dealer, purchase and service since 2000. Last year, my truck was leaking oil bad and such, according to tech. That was last year, truck had no such leak. I saved the price of a new engine! — A huge oil change place once tried to sell a friend of mine rear taillight special lubrication for their car. They insisted the $30 necessity was emergency status. They called me to ask if I knew this to be true, of course I said no.


I sometimes get this feeling from my mechanic. I’ll bring it in and two new things are also wrong with the car. Another funny thing is when I call him to check on the car the mechanic is magically just starting to look at it and I’ll have my update in an hour.
I’m going to try a new guy who I’ve heard great things about from two co-workers whom I trust.

Raye W

I found you thru Jen’s blah blah blog giveaway. This is a great site, good work!

laurie damrose

We have a friend who knows all about cars so we don’t have a thing to worry about when it comes to our car maintenence,it’s covered.

Maddie Klingaman

As a woman I like to test the integrity of the mechanic since he thinks I have no idea what the problem is. If he tries to sell me a bunch of bologna I inform him that I think it might be XYZ problem. Sputtering and backtracking usually ensure, but I leave never to return. Right now we have two places we take our cars for service. Both which I feel are honest. I really like the one guy but he is slow and often if my car needs repair I don’t want to rent a car for 8 days while my car sits in his parking garage yard “waiting” for it’s turn. The other place is great, they do great work but tend to be expensive. What I really wish I could get is breakdown insurance. Pay a yearly fee if your car breaks down, pay a deductible and get it fixed.

Connie T

Thanks for sharing. Good rules to follow!


Like restaurants, theres a good chance you’ll have better experience at a smaller ‘mom and pop/hole in the wall’ place. I spent almost the whole time my car was being worked on talking with the mechanic, he even showed me a few things which was way cool.

Corina Ramos

These really are great tips for everyone Kyle! My husband is in charge of the maintenance and I think it’s because he doesn’t want me to get ripped off 🙂 But like you told Maddie, he’s told me always act like you know what the mechanic is talking about…I guess mechanics can smell fear LOL.

Thanks for putting this together!

John @ Frugal Rules

Good post Kyle! This is part of the very reason we don’t go to the dealership. On our newer car we only took it there while it was under warranty. We have a mechanic we’ve been using for about 10 years now and would trust him with anything, he’s worth his weight in gold! 🙂

Sherry J

Thanks for sharing,good rules to follow.

lauren p

You have to really trust your mechanic with your car like you trust your doc with your body. They can really mess you up

soha molina

Trusting your instinct goes a long way.

Laura Smith

We have a local guy we trust also. Our vehicle is only a few months old so hopefully do not need him except for maintenance.

Allie L.

Oh wow. It’s ashame that people can’t be trusted. I’m always so paranoid, so I trust no one until they give me a reason to trust them ha ha. Anyways, thank goodness you had that gut feeling and went with your instincts on this! I wonder how many people have actually believed the person and paid for something that didn’t even need to be fixed.

KK @ Student Debt Survivor

bf always has our cars serviced at the dealer. I keep telling him we should try to find a good, reliable local mechanic who can work on the car for a much cheaper price.