Buying, running and maintaining a car can be a costly business. Fuel prices are at an all time high and Australian car insurance premiums have reached record levels. Its little wonder people are tightening their belts and looking for new ways to save money. Here are the top ways to avoid being scammed at the car repairers…

One of the biggest motoring expenses is having your car regularly serviced, or repaired when it goes wrong. Whilst the vast majority of car repairers are honest, hardworking and reliable tradespeople, there is a small minority of rogue mechanics looking to earn a quick buck by taking advantage of the uninformed or novice car owner.

For some auto-repair centres the opportunity to scam is all too easy and auto mechanic scams are one of the most common forms of reported consumer rip-offs. For most of us cars are an essential part of our everyday lives, yet we don’t possess the knowledge or skill to fix or spot problems.

The great news is that it is easy to protect yourself against such scams and can avoid ever having to pay more than you should at the repairers again.

Scam 1 – Loads more damage came to light after you left
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and mechanics will use this trick to scaremonger you into agreeing to pay for more work than you need to.

Make sure that when you leave the repairs you are fully aware of what needs to be done and make it very clear that you will only be paying what has been quoted when you collect the vehicle. Ask them to document that they MUST NOT proceed with any additional work without your express permission.

Scam 2 – The engine flush
If you are told that your engine is dirty and needs to be ‘flushed’ you should become immediately suspicious, particularly if your car is new or nearly new, as this procedure is very rarely needed until you have been driving the vehicle for a significant number of years.

An engine flush should not be part of a normal maintenance service and is only used when an engine is running too hot due to a long-term buildup of ‘sludge’.

Scam 3 – Charging for new parts, but installing used parts
Avoid this common scam by asking to look at the part they’ll be using prior to it being fitted. If it looks used, pre worn or dirty then ask them to reconsider their charges.

Scam 4 – You need a complete brake overhaul
Most drivers are willing to pay a premium to ensure their brakes are in good working order and unscrupulous mechanics will play on this. There is a huge difference in cost between having your brake pads replaced and also having the calipers and seals replaced as well.

If your car is relatively new (under 10 years old with less than 200,000 miles on the clock) it is highly unlikely that a procedure this drastic will need to be undertaken. If a garage advises you of this, then always get a second opinion before agreeing to the work.

  • don’t be afraid to get that second opinion on your vehicle. great article


  • Uh car troubles! My partner is worse than me with this. Pretty much just hand them a blank cheque


  • I wholeheartedly agree with you scams. If a driver is one who thrashes motor and the brakes unnecessarily for a long length time, the brakes will need high maintenance sooner than 200,000 km. I know a guy who thrashed his brakes. He had two speeds – flat out and brake as late as possible, often leaving rubber on the road, mostly on country roads


  • Really good knowledge to know! Thanks for sharing this!


  • I have found a couple of ” Mechanics ” that definitely over-charge for the work that they do.
    My partner now does the work on our car when its needed.


  • When booking a service, ask how much an hour they charge, sepcially if you need other things checked. Some places charges are “over the roof”. I rang 2 places about a problem we had with our car. The big place (a dealership) listed off the things that could be the cause and said they had no idea at all how long it would take. They listed possibilities with parts that didn’t even exist on our model. The small place (a family owned business) hourly rate was less than half of the dealer. We agreed that they could keep it for a few days so they could try different settings. It was very hard to start when cold. They made adjustments, let it get really cold and made a few adjustments until they were happy with it. In the meantime they worked on other cars and only recorded the time they actually worked on it. Even at the cheaper labour rate, it still cost a lot less than we expected it to at the lower rate. It wasn’t a special deal. We weren’t regular customers. The company (Mobile Auto care) that did our normal servicing charged 1/2 way between cost price and rrp for parts. They had a set service rate +parts + oil. The guy always did the required service and if anything extra needed doing we were often already aware that there could be issues. Where possible we were always shown the old parts before they were replaced and had the option of keeping the old ones. We never had an issue.


  • Thanks for this article, great to know what to look out for.


  • I hate taking the car to the mechanic, as it is so hard to find an honest, competent one. If I had more time I would learn a lot more about the workings of my car so I am not such an easy target for scamming attempts!


  • I have given up taking the car in as I was sick of being treated badly, some off them are just horrible to woman


  • I’m hopeless when it comes to cars, some great advice given here, thanks for sharing.


  • Sadly true & it’s no doubt been going on for many many years. As an older teen leaving home my Dad took me along to a service centre to get work done on my car & be comfortable with going into a service centre myself. It left a very bad impression when they charged big money for work that wasn’t done.


  • There are so many rip off mechanics trying to fleece unsuspecting consumers, unfortunately it gives the good ones a bad rap. Go with someone recommended by someone you know if possible


  • Are you serious with your advice for Scam 3? How could any reasonable person be satisfied with used, worn or dirty parts being fitted to their car as long as the cost was reduced? That is just dangerous and irresponsible advice!


  • Interesting article. Thanks for the good read.


  • A good mechanic can be hard to find.


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