Can my auto mechanic charge for parts not agreed to and hold my car hostage?

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Can my auto mechanic charge for parts not agreed to and hold my car hostage?

The mechanic inspected the car inside his shop and presented a printed estimate for $2600 to replace the engine. We asked the mechanic several times if the car had any other possible problems before we accepted his offer and presented the debit card for the $1500 deposit. There were a few irritants not worth mentioning, but we finally received a call; only it was to say we needed a new fuel pump. The last time I personally bought a fuel pump the cost was $100, so with installation and technology I was figuring $200-300 so I told them yes. We immediately went to get the car when they called to say it was ready and was prepared to pay the balance of $1100 plus the fuel pump. However i was told that I owed $2500? The owner said that it had been sitting for a long time (he knew that from the beginning) and there was a hole in the engine (irrelevant since we were replacing the bad engine). Still no explanation on the additional $1400. I left with a copy of the invoice to study. I could not believe a fuel pump could cost $750 even including the filter. Plus there was also several other charges: spark plugs, motor mount, battery, gas, etc. that totaled another $650. I am on a limited income and informed the mechanic several times the $2600 was the maximum I could go. Now he wants me to sign the car over to him for storage fees for holding my car hostage after he inflated the estimate by $1500. He is including a $35 charge for taking my debit card and possibly having to handle warranty issues in the future. Nothing was said about a charge when I gave him my debit card because I could have written a check or gotten cash from the bank, and how can he charge me for something in the future that probably will not happen?

Asked on July 16, 2011 under General Practice, Iowa

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In most States in this country, authorized mechanics are required to present the customer with a written estimate for all anticipated charges to be incurred for the repair of the car to be signed, dated and initialed by the customer with a specific amount stated.

Was this actually done?

Sometimes after the mechanic inspects the car after the estimated repair has been signed, dated and initialed by the customer finds out that there are more problems with the car that need to be fixed beyond the original written estimate. When this happens, the mechanic typically calls the customer and gets a verbal authorization to proceed with the extra work form the customer after a verbal estimate for it has been given to the customer.

The $35.00 credit card fee sounds like a hidden fee that is not allowed for proper payment of your credit card that you did not agree to. Most merchants who use a credit card system for payment for services rendered pay themselves a fee for use of the service in exchange for prompt payment as a cost of doing business.

It sounds as though the mechanic who has your car is taking advantage of you and may not have complied with your State's laws on the subject. Perhaps you can contact the State agency that governs/oversees licensed mechanics in your State and lodge a complaint to get some satisfaction concerning this situation. Some agencies are called, "Bureau of Automotive Repairs".

 


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