|Probably the safest place to take your car is to a dealership that has a service facility. However, dealership service is probably going to be 20% to 50% higher, depending on the job.
Dealerships have more overhead to pay for so you pay a higher price.
Smaller independent garages in California are licensed by the state. On the average, a smaller garage will charge you less.
There are California State rules and regulations that they must follow. Here are examples: They must give you a written estimate of the cost for all labor and parts. You must sign that estimate before they can start the job. Any change to that estimate, cost or parts, must be approved and signed by you. Many shops will get your approval over the telephone to add labor and increase the cost.
Is that legal? It’s questionable. The mechanic must return all used parts he replaces on your vehicle if you request this at the time of signing for the job. You cannot come back later and say, “Oh by the way, I want my used parts back.” In California these rules are regulated by the Bureau of Automotive Repair, known as the BAR. Complaints to this state bureau will be investigated, but it may take six to eight weeks. You can contact the BAR through the California Department of Consumer Affairs Information 800 number in Sacramento, California. You can get the number from AT&T 800 information.
When choosing a small shop to work on your car, get some references from other customers who have had work done at that mechanical facility.
Make sure that if they keep your car overnight that it is stored inside or at least in a locked, fenced area. Ask if they have insurance on the vehicles stored at their shop. If you have comprehensive insurance on your car then it will be covered by your insurance carrier.
On bodywork for vehicles, shop around. If you have insurance the claims adjuster will suggest some shops where they are sure of the work.
Always insist on original Ford, or GM, or Toyota parts; don’t take look alike parts. Your vehicle had the original manufacturer parts before the accident or problem and you want the same new parts replaced.