Vehicle repairs can be complex and expensive. And the vehicle repair business isn’t tightly regulated by government. You can avoid or minimize problems with vehicle repairs by following these tips.

Prevent problems

Shop around for a reliable mechanic. Ask friends for names of reliable mechanics they’ve used. Compare price estimates from various repair shops. Ask to see a mechanic’s licence — to ensure they passed the exam to be a licensed mechanic. Check any repair shops you are considering with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against them.

The BC Automobile Association (BCAA) has an Approved Auto Repair Services program for its members to ensure they get quality service at a fair price. BCAA inspects repair shops in the program to verify the quality of their equipment and service.

When you decide on a repair shop, let the mechanic figure out what to repair. Describe the problem as clearly as possible, but don’t try to guess what’s wrong. If you do, you may end up getting work you don’t need. Go for a road test with the mechanic to point out the problem.

Ask for a written estimate of the repair cost and the time that repairs will take. Tell the mechanic not to proceed if the repair is going to cost more than the estimate unless they call you and you approve the higher cost.

Allow enough time for the repair — if you rush the mechanic, the repair may not be done well.

Give the mechanic a phone number to reach you in case of problems or questions.

Tip

Remove all valuables from your vehicle and leave only the ignition key with the mechanic. You don’t know who works at the repair shop — protect yourself against theft or someone copying or losing your keys.

Ask the mechanic to return all replaced parts to you. You may need them to prove a problem with the repair. You may have to pay a charge for some replaced parts (like starter motors). That is because manufacturers put “core” charges or deposits on some parts. The repair shop has to return the old part to the manufacturer or pay the core charge. If you want to keep these types of parts, you may have to pay that core charge to the repair shop.

Deal with any problems

Report unsolved or new problems to the mechanic right away. For example, if you got a tune-up, but the vehicle still doesn’t run well, tell the mechanic immediately.

If you have a problem with the work, or the cost of it, talk to the mechanic or the owner of the repair shop and try to solve it.

If you can’t solve the problem, pay for the repair work. If you don’t, the repair shop can register a lien (claim) against the vehicle and eventually seize and sell it.

If you’re a member of the BC Automobile Association (BCAA), and you use a mechanic approved by BCAA, you can ask BCAA for help if you have a problem. Visit bcaa.com.

Contact the Better Business Bureau, which receives complaints about local businesses. They may be able to help even if the repair shop is not a member. Visit bbb.org/ca/bc.

Contact the Automotive Retailers Association at 604-432-7987 or ara.bc.ca. Only some repair shops and dealers belong to this voluntary organization.

Contact Consumer Protection BC, a not-for-profit organization independent of government. It administers the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. This law covers some aspects of consumer transactions, including contract requirements and deceptive acts and practices. Its website at consumerprotectionbc.ca has more information, including how to file a complaint. But Consumer Protection BC cannot sue a repair shop for you. You can call Consumer Protection BC at 1-888-564-9963.

If you can’t solve the problem with the above steps, your next step may be to take legal action. You can bring a claim:

See our information on starting a lawsuit (no. 165) and on Small Claims Court (no. 166 to 168).

If you don’t have a lawyer, there are options for free or low-cost legal help.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed in June 2018

Time to read: 3 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Emma Naismith, Consumer Protection BC

This information from People’s Law School explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada. The information is not intended as legal advice. See our disclaimer.

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On Dial-A-Law

Dial-A-Law has more information on Buying or Repairing a Car in the section on Cars & Getting Around.