Don't fail to get written estimate from auto repair shops

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Get a written estimate for auto repairs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Get a written estimate for auto repairs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
Get a written estimate for auto repairs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Get a written estimate for auto repairs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Phoenix man says his auto repair bill turned out to be double what he expected and he blames it on a failure to obtain a written upfront estimate of work to be performed.

A written estimate eliminates surprises over verbal approvals and protects both the customer and the business. Auto repair businesses should provide a written estimate of what work is needed and how much each service will cost, but if they don't, customers should demand one before they leave the shop.

Chad Hemmerlin bought a 2006 Audi at auction and took it to Import Car Corner in Phoenix to get checked out. Hemmerlin says he was crystal clear with the shop on his repair budget.

"That I had $1,500 to put into this car to make it run correctly, that's it. Didn't want to spend any more than that," Hemmerlin said.

Hemmerlin says he never received a written estimate of the work to be performed in advance and he didn't ask for one. But he wasn't worried about the cost exceeding $1,500.

"We were very clear because I said it like five times and we shook on it. I had a handshake out front of the shop when he received the car," Hemmerlin said.

But verbal estimates on car repairs can lead to misunderstandings. When Hemmerlin got his bill, it included a detailed list of work, but the total was nearly $2,800.

"How am I going to pay for this? I had a $1,500 budget and where's another $1,500 going to come from," Hemmerlin said.

And there are still additional problems to be addressed. Hemmerlin now realizes how an upfront list of repair services to be performed, with estimated prices, can protect consumers against unexpected bills.

"There's got to be upfront documents, signatures, you've got to come to some kind of agreement on what is happening before it happens. When you don't have any of that, this is what happens. It's double the price at the end of it," Hemmerlin said.

The owner of Import Car Corner told CBS 5 News that he did tell Hemmerlin the cost of the repairs would be well over $1,500. Hemmerlin says that conversation never happened. This type of misunderstanding is precisely why a written estimate, before work starts, is necessary to protect both parties.

Import Car Corner has an 'A' rating on the Better Business Bureau and many good online reviews. The owner agreed he should have provided a written estimate upfront and decided to refund Hemmerlin $500. Hemmerlin believed that to be very fair and CBS 5 News thanks Import Car Corner for resolving this dispute.

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