Car repairs/bill dispute?

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Not sure if this is the right place to put this...
Had a place quote me for some repairs on my car. I sent an email back stating what I wanted done. They called next day said radiator HAD to be replaced. I agree over the phone. Not worth fighting and my time to replace.

So they call Friday and say hey we did ALL the repairs we quoted and some other stuff we didn't call you about. Going to pick it up tomorrow but I'm not sure how to approach and say I don't want to pay for what I never agreed to having fixed. Any thoughts? Thanks.

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again, the cost of a repair has nothing to do with the value of the car. The efficiency of paying for a repair is deter... (more)

Glitch99 (Feb. 19, 2013 @ 5:01p) |

It's a depreciating asset, yes. At the moment when he decides to repair/sell, it's just an asset with a value. The car... (more)

Al3xK (Feb. 19, 2013 @ 5:13p) |

You are still missing the point...

He didnt put $1600 into the car to add $500 of value. He paid $1,600 to buy XX,000 m... (more)

Glitch99 (Feb. 19, 2013 @ 5:22p) |

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First thought is why don't you wait to see what they fixed that your didn't ask for, and how much it cost.
Might be pretty minor.

wrightj7 said:   Had a place quote me for some repairs on my car
why did you need repairs done ?

BlueSeaLake said:   First thought is why don't you wait to see what they fixed that your didn't ask for, and how much it cost.
Might be pretty minor.


wishful thinking. it won't be minor.

op: consult the consumer protection statutes in your state, admin. regulations as well, to find out what you did right/wrong and what your remedies are.
as a rule of thumb, its always best to ask for a written estimate before work starts. if you don't ask for that, then they know you are a sucker.

Costs right now look to be $600 or so. Car's at 100,000 miles so just had timing belt etc replaced and a cv joint on right axle. I do have everything thy quoted me in an email. And it's not that the quoted price changed at all, it's that I told them to go ahead with fixes A B and C but they did A-F. Thanks for responses.

By itself, $600 for radiator replacement, timing belt change, and CV joint replacement seems reasonable if that included parts

Most of the time when a mechanic takes the initiative to repair something without asking, it's something that you'd obviously agree to.

They're typically in the business of covering their asses. I'd guess it was replacing some obviously broken stuff.

yes thank them for doing so much for so little money. but next time get a written estimate so you don't have to be in the dark and wonder wahts happening.

I would mention that you didn't approve all the repairs, and see if they make any concessions. But so long as the work was done properly, this sounds like a pretty fair deal. Unless you have plans to get rid of the car, the parts would need replaced soon anyway.

$600 extra. A little over $2k total. I did agree to the radiator so they would
Be appeased/covered. I'm not totally incompetent with a car so has planned to do some of the work myself. Especially when a part is $35 and they wanted over $300 for it. Would have taken me maybe an hour or two. I like to learn too

If you had already agreed to $1400 in repairs then they probably fixed "everything needed " so the car is good to go for the future

Do you plan to continue to use this mechanic ? Ask them for a 15% discount bc you weren't expecting a. $2000 bill you were budgeting for a $1400 bill.


If they won't budge then decide if you want to be hardnosed about sticking to the approved estimate or just move on to another mechanic

The short answer may be, ask for a discount and if you don't get it, pay it and move on.

The longer answer will involve what was discussed on the phone that no one can prove, and the car will not be released until the dispute is resolve, and etc.

the simple answer is you have to tell them what you're telling us here on this internet forum. if you're bad at handling confrontation calmly, or you're unable to initiate this conversation, look for some 0% credit card offers and sign-up bonuses to spread out the hurt.

They probably broke the radiator when they were clearing way for pulling the front cover off the motor. I'd try to negotiate a split on the radiator cost. Otherwise, 2 grand sounds about right for what you got. If you did it yourself, it probably would have cost around $400-500 in parts and supplies and at least 12 hours labor if you don't have the right tools and experience. They probably made about $200 per hour off you. That's not bad if they are good and didn't miss anything.

"I know you broke the radiator because it wasn't leaking when I brought it in." Assuming you know it wasn't leaking.

$200 per hour is awfully high unless its a Ferrari

xoneinax said:   $200 per hour is awfully high unless its a Ferrari$200 per hour isn't high at all when you have all the right tools and can do a job that books for 11 hours in 3. I did qualify by saying if they are "good". I could probably do that work in my garage in 8 hours, but if I ran a shop, I'm sure I could knock it down to around 3. Do you think it is harder to fill in legal forms or perform internal engine repairs. Nobody blinks when a paid liar takes $225 to blab with you for an hour, but someone who actually has a real skill isn't worth $200? This is a typical example of Madison avenue thinking. I know most shops out there are rip-off mills, but a good mechanic earns his keep every day. I'm pretty sure that doesn't go for most lawyers (or other professionals for that matter). It has to do with guilds and using the state to "protect us" via statutory mandated scarcity.

When you find a good mechanic, it's hard to get your car in to see them.

You weren't clear when you said the repair went up $600 to a total of $2k.

Start with the obvious: "I thought we agreed to $1400, how did the price go up $600??"

Now you said the $600 was the timing belt, radiator replacement, and CV joints ONLY? And the remaining $1400 was some other repairs? Timing belt alone is usually around ~$500 at most big-box mechanics.

Al3xK said:   Most of the time when a mechanic takes the initiative to repair something without asking, it's something that you'd obviously agree to.
Or it's something serious enough that they wouldn't be able to let you drive off in the car if it wasnt repaired...

delzy said:   xoneinax said:   $200 per hour is awfully high unless its a Ferrari$200 per hour isn't high at all when you have all the right tools and can do a job that books for 11 hours in 3. I did qualify by saying if they are "good". I could probably do that work in my garage in 8 hours, but if I ran a shop, I'm sure I could knock it down to around 3. Do you think it is harder to fill in legal forms or perform internal engine repairs. Nobody blinks when a paid liar takes $225 to blab with you for an hour, but someone who actually has a real skill isn't worth $200? This is a typical example of Madison avenue thinking. I know most shops out there are rip-off mills, but a good mechanic earns his keep every day. I'm pretty sure that doesn't go for most lawyers (or other professionals for that matter). It has to do with guilds and using the state to "protect us" via statutory mandated scarcity.

When you find a good mechanic, it's hard to get your car in to see them.
Problem is, alot of shops bill by the book time, rather than the actual time spent. In which case $200 is extremely high since, with the skill and investing in the right tools, they can bill for 20-25 hours for a standard 8 hour workday.

delzy said:   They probably broke the radiator when they were clearing way for pulling the front cover off the motor. I'd try to negotiate a split on the radiator cost. Otherwise, 2 grand sounds about right for what you got. If you did it yourself, it probably would have cost around $400-500 in parts and supplies and at least 12 hours labor if you don't have the right tools and experience. They probably made about $200 per hour off you. That's not bad if they are good and didn't miss anything.

"I know you broke the radiator because it wasn't leaking when I brought it in." Assuming you know it wasn't leaking.


First, the OP can for the old part. If there is physical damage it should be pretty obvious. Leaking would show differently.

Second, as I'm sure you already know there's not one price for a radiator. Some years ago I replaced my 96 Accord's for $130 in my driveway with a Haynes book in about an hour and a half. My friends 96 Dodge Neon also needed a new radiator, not only was the part $400, but the AC refrigerant line ran THROUGH the radiator requiring a full discharge and recharge of the AC system just for the part replacement.

Al3xK said:   You weren't clear when you said the repair went up $600 to a total of $2k.

Start with the obvious: "I thought we agreed to $1400, how did the price go up $600??"

Now you said the $600 was the timing belt, radiator replacement, and CV joints ONLY? And the remaining $1400 was some other repairs? Timing belt alone is usually around ~$500 at most big-box mechanics.


Also there is no way the timing belt , c.v joints and radiator are interconnected or linked with whatever the $1400 repair is - its clearly the mechanic looking over the entire car and fixing items that "should be done" at this age/ mileage

they did this so your car is good to go many more miles. These are items that , while not broken and still functioning , were probably near end of life cycle and it was a good idea to replace them . Of course I understand your anger that they'd just do all that stuff without telling you, but $600 extra for those items is actually a great price and if you do keep this car for a long time you'll probably be very glad these were already taken care of

delzy said:   They probably made about $200 per hour off you. That's not bad if they are good and didn't miss anything
No one (including the OP) has a clue if the OP's mechanic is so "good" that he can do in 4 hours what the book says is 12 hours.

and I have never found a mechanic who says "I charge $200 an hour. But I only bill you for my time, and my hours will be 66% less than book."

OK, thanks for replies all. I ended sending an email saying can you verify what was done. They said we fixed everything on the list. I said, I only authorized timing belt, radiator, and cv joint. They responded and said their bad on repairing the other things. I paid for parts but not labor. Car's back on the road for another 100,000, hopefully. And no more clicking!! It's a '97 Accord btw. Total bill was just under $1600, original quote of what I said I wanted done was $1541, so not bad. Thanks again all, I really appreciate it.

Wait so you asked for the radiator timing belt and cv joint work ?? What were the "other items " they did?

Fortunately there was enough profit built into the $1500 bill that they were able to reduce the $2000 bill

You put $1541 into a 97 Accord?? I could buy one of those for ~$2k!

Al3xK said:   You put $1541 into a 97 Accord?? I could buy one of those for ~$2k!

Hard to find one with a brand new timing belt, radiator, and a CV joint for $2k.

You can find one needing all 3 for $2k all day long.

It's not what the car is worth, it's how many miles can he drive it after the repairs... In this case, probably a very long time.

Before you go accusing the shop of busting the radiator, have them show you the old one... then you can ask about it.

$200/hr is a lot. If they're on book time, which is the usual way shops do estimates, then it's over the top.

Al3xK said:   You put $1541 into a 97 Accord?? I could buy one of those for ~$2k!

Two years ago I sold my 96 Accord with 150K+ miles for $3400. One for $2k today with 50k less miles would have body damage or other mechanical issues.

Sorry I didn't say that I have access to dealer auctions. Either way, putting ~$1600 into a $2500 car isn't worth it to me. It's pretty much totaled. Seems like OP really likes this car.

xoneinax said:   delzy said:   They probably made about $200 per hour off you. That's not bad if they are good and didn't miss anything
No one (including the OP) has a clue if the OP's mechanic is so "good" that he can do in 4 hours what the book says is 12 hours.

and I have never found a mechanic who says "I charge $200 an hour. But I only bill you for my time, and my hours will be 66% less than book."
Have you been smoking the whacky weed? What I said is that any good mechanic can cut the book time by 2/3. Typical shop rates are around $75 an hour. Do the math. Do you think ANY mechanics charge by actual time when they have the book to fall back on? I can typically beat the book and I don't have the air tools that cut the time.

Al3xK said:   Sorry I didn't say that I have access to dealer auctions. Either way, putting ~$1600 into a $2500 car isn't worth it to me. It's pretty much totaled. Seems like OP really likes this car.You sound like your wallet is skinnier than it needs to be.

Back in September I bought a couple of '05 P71's for $1500 each. One is sold for $2450. The other has one mistimed overhead cam. I put it on Craigs for $1500 while I gin up the energy to fix it. I'm expecting 12 hours total mechanicing and the price will go to at least $2800 because of the new cam chain tensioners and guides. I'm only going to make about $60 per hour doing the work. How much do you think it would cost to pay someone to do that job? $1200 to $1400

Al3xK said:   Sorry I didn't say that I have access to dealer auctions. Either way, putting ~$1600 into a $2500 car isn't worth it to me. It's pretty much totaled. Seems like OP really likes this car.You are thinking of the car as an investment, when it's really a utility. That $1600 wasnt invested in the value of an asset, it bought him XX,000 more miles of travel. Likely very efficient spending, relative to other options.

Glitch99 said:   Al3xK said:   Sorry I didn't say that I have access to dealer auctions. Either way, putting ~$1600 into a $2500 car isn't worth it to me. It's pretty much totaled. Seems like OP really likes this car.You are thinking of the car as an investment, when it's really a utility. That $1600 wasnt invested in the value of an asset, it bought him XX,000 more miles of travel. Likely very efficient spending, relative to other options.

Typically I'd say a car is more of a commodity than a utility. It is definitely money invested in an asset. And it's also an asset, worth, lets say ~$2k before repair. If he sold the car for $2k and then added the $1600 he planned for repairs, he would be in much better shape with a different $3600 accord. CV joints on an old accord?? That's not money well spent.

If (car value pre repair) + (repair dollars) > (car value post repair)
Then don't do it.

Skinny wallet thinking ^^^

You keep talking like you can go out and buy a $3600 accord that has less problems than a car that has had it's major repair parts replaced. I'd like to see this $3600 accord with recent documented service you keep talking about. Not only that, have you ever tried to get money out of a broken car? OP would basically have to give away a broken POS and then spring $3600 instead of $1600 like your math wrongly shows. A car is an expense, not an investment unless you are selling them for more than you buy them for (like some of us do). For most, it's just a money pit that gets you from point a to b. In fact, I would suggest the only investment OP is making is in repairing the car because he is increasing its value by more than the cost of repairs. And please respect that the car's value is something different than what you can sell it for.

Like I have said many times, you couldn't pay me to drive an accord, but a dependable and economical car is worth quite a bit to someone who doesn't have something else to drive.

You seem like the kind of guy who justifies buying new cars all the time. What are you driving now?

I want to correct your math: I cost of repairs less than cost of replacement, then repair is the correct move.

Al3xK said:   Most of the time when a mechanic takes the initiative to repair something without asking, it's something that you'd obviously agree to.

They're typically in the business of covering their asses. I'd guess it was replacing some obviously broken stuff.



Looking at the end result I think this is what happened.

I use to be a mechanic and still do work on the side in NoVA and any time I see something else that is needed I will usually reduce my labor or not even charge extra if its minor. Like a timing belt job I did I told the customer it also should have a tensioner changed and said I would not charge any extra labor and they could pick the part up. I hate to do a job but have something else that could mess up all my work and make me look bad so I try and make sure the job is done 100% even if I reduce my rate a little.

@SIS - They changed oil pan gasket, some exhaust work, which they admitted wasn't very succesful (i.e. took my repair off and didn't make it any better lol), and changed some bulbs - not a big deal I know

I realize it is kind of a gamble putting that much money into it but at just over 100,000 miles, I could possibly put another 100,000 miles on with little to no major problems or cost besides routine maintenance. I know the car and still get great mpg (~30). Body's in great shape still even living in the rust belt. I figure I might as well drive it into the ground beause someone else will if I sell it. It'd be nice to have a newer nicer car, but is it really practical, probably not yet.

delzy said:   Skinny wallet thinking ^^^

You keep talking like you can go out and buy a $3600 accord that has less problems than a car that has had it's major repair parts replaced. I'd like to see this $3600 accord with recent documented service you keep talking about. Not only that, have you ever tried to get money out of a broken car? OP would basically have to give away a broken POS and then spring $3600 instead of $1600 like your math wrongly shows. A car is an expense, not an investment unless you are selling them for more than you buy them for (like some of us do). For most, it's just a money pit that gets you from point a to b. In fact, I would suggest the only investment OP is making is in repairing the car because he is increasing its value by more than the cost of repairs. And please respect that the car's value is something different than what you can sell it for.

Like I have said many times, you couldn't pay me to drive an accord, but a dependable and economical car is worth quite a bit to someone who doesn't have something else to drive.

You seem like the kind of guy who justifies buying new cars all the time. What are you driving now?

I want to correct your math: I cost of repairs less than cost of replacement, then repair is the correct move.


^^ Trying to justify/apply FW concepts to car buying.

Delzy said: I would suggest the only investment OP is making is in repairing the car because he is increasing its value by more than the cost of repairs.
This statement is wrong and is the basis of my comments.

You must not follow my car posts, because I buy/sell cars all of the time for profit.

With 100k miles, good body, his 97 accord could be sold for $3k-3.5k in a couple weeks. He would then have that money in his pocket, plus the $1600 he planned for repairs. That's a $4600-$5100, which I could guarantee a better car than his repaired 97 accord.

I have owned maybe 20+ or so cars in the last 2-3 years and I've lost money on maybe 2. OP doesn't have a broken car and my math isn't wrong.

He got exhaust work, oil pan gasket (oil drip probably), timing belt, radiator (did it really need replaced I wonder??), CV joints, light bulbs for $1600??!! It sounds like the mechanic was looking for things he could replace. "Ah your shocks seem a little sloppy, let's replace them."

He got raked over the coals, but it doesn't matter now because he's already on the other side.


Ask yourself this...what's more likely? A kind/fair/honest mechanic who only did the absolutely necessary work? OR a mechanic who saw a rube walk through his door and just started the meter running for whatever he could get out of the guy. I mean he quoted him $X and then just started charging him more because OP is probably a bit of a push over.

Al3xK said:   delzy said:   Skinny wallet thinking ^^^

You keep talking like you can go out and buy a $3600 accord that has less problems than a car that has had it's major repair parts replaced. I'd like to see this $3600 accord with recent documented service you keep talking about. Not only that, have you ever tried to get money out of a broken car? OP would basically have to give away a broken POS and then spring $3600 instead of $1600 like your math wrongly shows. A car is an expense, not an investment unless you are selling them for more than you buy them for (like some of us do). For most, it's just a money pit that gets you from point a to b. In fact, I would suggest the only investment OP is making is in repairing the car because he is increasing its value by more than the cost of repairs. And please respect that the car's value is something different than what you can sell it for.

Like I have said many times, you couldn't pay me to drive an accord, but a dependable and economical car is worth quite a bit to someone who doesn't have something else to drive.

You seem like the kind of guy who justifies buying new cars all the time. What are you driving now?

I want to correct your math: I cost of repairs less than cost of replacement, then repair is the correct move.


^^ Trying to justify/apply FW concepts to car buying.

Delzy said: I would suggest the only investment OP is making is in repairing the car because he is increasing its value by more than the cost of repairs.
This statement is wrong and is the basis of my comments.

You must not follow my car posts, because I buy/sell cars all of the time for profit.

With 100k miles, good body, his 97 accord could be sold for $3k-3.5k in a couple weeks. He would then have that money in his pocket, plus the $1600 he planned for repairs. That's a $4600-$5100, which I could guarantee a better car than his repaired 97 accord.

I have owned maybe 20+ or so cars in the last 2-3 years and I've lost money on maybe 2. OP doesn't have a broken car and my math isn't wrong.

He got exhaust work, oil pan gasket (oil drip probably), timing belt, radiator (did it really need replaced I wonder??), CV joints, light bulbs for $1600??!! It sounds like the mechanic was looking for things he could replace. "Ah your shocks seem a little sloppy, let's replace them."

He got raked over the coals, but it doesn't matter now because he's already on the other side.


Ask yourself this...what's more likely? A kind/fair/honest mechanic who only did the absolutely necessary work? OR a mechanic who saw a rube walk through his door and just started the meter running for whatever he could get out of the guy. I mean he quoted him $X and then just started charging him more because OP is probably a bit of a push over.
I don't see how you can speak WRT the OP's state of mind or quality of mechanic. Your calculus is completely different from his. He needs a car and you apparently have more than one to choose from. That is my point. I guess from your perspective you are right. As far as the OP goes, you're giving bad advice. Your cost/benefit analysis falls apart when you ask someone to go out and gamble on an unknown rather than maintain a known. Have you sold any of your cars broken? It's not very easy.

Maybe you think a car with a rattling CV joint, a dripping radiator can bring 3 grand. I don't.

delzy said:   I don't see how you can speak WRT the OP's state of mind or quality of mechanic. Your calculus is completely different from his. He needs a car and you apparently have more than one to choose from. That is my point. I guess from your perspective you are right. As far as the OP goes, you're giving bad advice. Your cost/benefit analysis falls apart when you ask someone to go out and gamble on an unknown rather than maintain a known. Have you sold any of your cars broken? It's not very easy.

Maybe you think a car with a rattling CV joint, a dripping radiator can bring 3 grand. I don't.


The car is 16 years old with a loud exhaust. OP went in for timing belt and one CV joint. They insisted the radiator needed replaced @ $1541 total...that's a rip off.

A new radiator is ~$70 and labor isn't much. They then further dropped the oil pan and replaced the oil pan gasket, replaced light bulbs, then tried (unsuccessfully) to repair his exhaust.

The fact that they're replacing light bulbs with their own initiative shows the mechanic is just trying to do everything he can to the car to drum up the bill. "We replaced 3 bulbs at $9.99 each" when they cost $2.99 at autozone and take a screwdriver and 1 minute each.

Regardless of whether or not we agree that the repair add more value to the car than it was previously worth. Or even if we agree that you think buying another car is a gamble on an unknown (even though there are many known variables).

I'd say the intentions of the mechanic are pretty clear, and that's to be a typical mechanic, and get as much money out of the guy while doing as little work as possible.

Skipping 3 Messages...
Al3xK said:   It's a depreciating asset, yes. At the moment when he decides to repair/sell, it's just an asset with a value. The car was worth ~$3-3.5k pre-repair. Post repair it's probably worth $3.4k-$4k.

So, ignoring what you plan to do with the car, when I have an asset worth ~$3.3k and I'm deciding whether to invest $1.6k into it for a return of ~$500, I'd say don't do it.

If you want to factor in intangibles such as 'peace of mind'...that's another discussion.
You are still missing the point...

He didnt put $1600 into the car to add $500 of value. He paid $1,600 to buy XX,000 more miles of utility.



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