My car has broken down. What should I do?
If you are subscribed to a breakdown service such as that offered by the Automobile Association (AA) or some vehicle insurance policies then you can call the breakdown service to help you get your car running again. They'll tow your car to a suitable repair shop if it can't be sorted out at the roadside.
Your car might still need further repairs before it's completely roadworthy. If the breakdown was due to a vehicle accident then - assuming you are covered by vehicle insurance - your insurer will have a list of approved service providers to make the necessary repairs.
If the problem with your car is not covered by insurance then you’ll need to find a mechanic to fix your car (see the next question).
Back to top
What do I need to know when looking for a mechanic?
It is a good idea to approach a mechanic who is a member of the Motor Trade Association (MTA). The MTA expects its members to perform to a high standard of service and honesty, and can provide a free mediation service should a dispute arise between you and your mechanic. More about the MTA mediation process is on the MTA website.
Be aware that it is often difficult to estimate how much repairs will cost, as damage may not be obvious and some mechanical faults can lead to other problems. Many mechanics have specialist areas of knowledge, and because of this, it’s worth taking the time to find one who has specialist knowledge about your particular make of car and problem area. It is also good to get more than one quote on the cost of repairs, to ensure the price you will pay is reasonable.
When you get the vehicle's condition assessed by the mechanic, you should ask for a quote. The quote is a statement of how much it will cost to fix the car, and also a record of your agreement with the mechanic. If you receive a quote, there is no obligation to have repairs done at the garage that did the quote. You have the right to refuse any additional work the mechanic says is needed.
It's important to make it clear to the mechanic that if they find that the job will cost more than the quote, or if extra work is required which you didn’t initially agree to, they need to contact you first.
Back to top
I think my mechanic has been ripping me off. How can I prove it?
If you think your mechanic is charging too much or has done unnecessary work – or worse, claims to have done work but hasn’t - ask for a second opinion from another mechanic. If the second opinion is radically different from the first, you should ask for an explanation.
Labour costs and the price of parts can vary from one repair shop to the next, so you can ask your mechanic for an account that lists each item for which you have been charged, i.e. labour, parts, shipping, etc. You can also ask to see any faulty car parts which should have been replaced, as proof of what they’ve done.
It’s a good idea to put your complaint in writing, as this means you’ll both have a record of your version of the situation. There’s more information about how to complain effectively on our Complaints and Disputes pages.
If you can’t settle a dispute with your mechanic, and they are a member of the Motor Trade Association (MTA), you can ask the MTA to mediate (call 0508 682 633). For more information, see their webpage on mediation.
If they are not an MTA member, or mediation hasn’t produced a satisfactory result, you can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal.
Back to top
Who is liable if the courtesy car gets damaged while I’m using it?
Many providers of motor vehicle repairs offer their customers a courtesy (or loan) car to use while the customer's own car is being worked on. If you have been loaned a courtesy car you should take care of it until you return it.
Whether you would be liable in the event of an accident while the courtesy car is in your possession, will depend on what was agreed between you and provider at the time you took possession of the car.
It is common for providers of courtesy cars to have a written agreement for the customer to sign, which states the conditions of the loan, for example:
- What, if any, fee is payable for the use of the courtesy vehicle (e.g. to cover the cost of fuel)
- How long you can have the use of the vehicle
- Any penalty fees you would be charged if you return the vehicle later than agreed or in a worse condition than when you took possession of it
- Who is liable if the courtesy vehicle is involved in an accident or a crime while in the possession of the customer
If the courtesy car is involved in an accident or criminal act while it is under loan to you but there is no written or verbal agreement, then the liability is not so clear. You could refuse responsibility for the costs of the damage on the grounds that you weren’t told of the terms and conditions of the courtesy car loan. In this instance either party can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal to have the dispute settled.