What laws regulate auto repair shops?
Texas has no laws that specifically apply to auto repair shops. Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices–Consumer Protection Act (DTPA) makes it illegal for a repair shop to:
- Knowingly make a false or misleading statement about the need for parts, replacement or repair service;
- State that work has been done or parts were replaced when it is not true;
- Represent that goods are original or new when they are really second-hand or rebuilt;
- Advertise goods or services (such as special offers or discounts for repairs) with intent not to sell them as advertised.
Do I have to sign something before repairs can begin?
There is no legal requirement that you sign something before repairs can start. You can agree to repairs orally, but it’s always best to get it in writing
Otherwise, you will have a hard time proving your case if something goes wrong. Always get a written:
- Authorization for Inspection – this is your permission to allow the mechanic to inspect, test, drive, diagnose, or disassemble your car to provide an estimate of the work that needs to be done.
- Authorization to Commence Repair – this is your permission for the mechanic to do the repairs. It should include the repairs to be done, date of completion, form of payment, cost of repairs with parts and labor itemized, storage fees or other charges, if the parts are new or rebuilt, and your signature.
What should I watch out for when I get my car repaired?
Here are some ways disreputable car repair shops can make more money from repairs:
- Padding charges - Shops may offer you a reasonable verbal estimate for repairs but give you a final bill that is far beyond the estimate. A mechanic may leave the repair estimate blank on the authorization form then fill in an inflated amount later, after you’ve signed.
- Needless repairs – Some repair shops pad bills by “repairing” mechanical problems and damage that don’t exist.
- Counterfeit or used parts – A car repair shop may install parts that are counterfeit, substandard or used, but charge you for expensive new parts. If used parts are installed, you should know about it and make sure you’re not billed for new parts.
- Disassembling car before work is authorized - A shop may take some of your car apart before getting permission to repair it. At that point you either have to pay for overpriced repairs or pay a fee to have it reassembled.
- Unauthorized repairs - Charging you for repairs you didn’t authorize or not getting your approval for extra work not part of the original written agreement.
- Charging for repairs covered under warranty - Saying your repairs are covered under warranty then charging you for covered repairs.
Can a mechanic keep my car if I refuse to pay for the repairs?
Yes. A mechanic has the legal right to keep your car until you pay for the repairs and to charge you for storage while waiting for payment. If you feel you’ve been cheated, pay the bill, making it clear you don’t agree with the cost. Keep all of your paperwork and estimates and get the old parts returned if possible. Then take your car, parts, and paperwork to a second mechanic. Have them inspect the alleged repairs and make a written report about the repairs, quality, cost, and what else is needed.
What if the repairs were shoddy?
Repairs must be done in a good and workmanlike manner or it is a breach of implied warranty. You can contact the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org, for help negotiating with the repair shop. Or, bring a lawsuit under the DTPA in small claims court for up to $10,000* for the repairs and other damages such as tow costs, storage fees, and car rental. Suit must be brought within 2 years of violation, and you MUST send a written demand for money damages to the repair shop by certified mail at least 60 days before you file suit.
Note that effective September 1, 2020, the maximum amount of money that you can get in damages in small claims court has increased to $20,000 from $10,000. Learn more from the Texas Justice Court Training Center’s blog post here: Jurisdictional Limit Increase Now in Effect. Read Texas Rules of Civil Procedure part 5.
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