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)

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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Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

Click to learn more about Dave.

Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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