Did you know you have certain rights when you go to a car repair shop? Hopefully you won’t have to use their services, but it is always a good idea to check out a repair shop before you really need it. If you do have damage to your care or need repairs, these tips may prove to be invaluable.

Here are some things you should consider before you let anyone work on your car:

• Is the body shop neat and well organized?
• Does it have modern equipment?
• Is their policy regarding labor rates, guarantees and methods of payment, clearly posted?
• Is the staff qualified and the shop certified by AAA, the Automotive Service Council or the Better Business Bureau?
• Is the manager willing to answer any questions you may have?
• Do they specialize in any particular vehicles such as foreign cars or farm equipment?

Once you’ve picked a repair shop and need their services, you need to get an estimate and know your rights. An estimate should be given in person if it costs more than $100. Once you have received your estimate, the repairs cannot cost over 10% of the estimate without your prior approval. In most cases, the repair shop can keep your car until you pay your bill. However, you can take your car if the following things have happened: if during the face-to-face contact there wasn’t a written estimate given, if the charges were more than 110% without your approval, and if the repair shop did not post a sign stating “your customer rights.” If all these requirements were met, then you must pay your bill before you can receive your car.

Once the repair shop has fixed your car, you should know exactly what work was actually done. You will receive a bill called an invoice. This will have many items listed on it besides the cost of the repairs. By law, it must contain a description of the work they did on your car. It also must have a list of all parts used. It must state if the parts were used, or if they were in a collision previously. It also will give the price for the parts and the company who made them. Lastly, the invoice will contain the charge for labor and the total cost for the repairs.

What happens if some of these requirements were not met? What if your car doesn’t run as well after the repair? That is a violation of the law! First try to work it out with the repair shop. Then, if this does not work, contact the Automotive Service Council or Better Business Bureau, because you may be eligible to receive compensation for up to three times the amount of the damages to your car.

Now you know what to look for in a car repair shop, what is on an invoice, and what to ask the repairman.