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Consumer group warns against auto repair shops overcharging for routine maintenance

BOSTON — Earlier this year, undercover shoppers with Consumers’ Checkbook called 229 auto repair shops across the country to find out how much routine 30,000-mile maintenance would cost on a 2020 Toyota Camry LE, one of the most popular cars on the market.

The maintenance for that three-year-old car would be as basic as it gets: an oil change, new cabin and engine air filters and tire rotation.

“We were astonished at the price differences we were quoted,” Consumers’ Checkbook Executive Editor Kevin Brasler said.

Brasler said 47 shops quoted prices less than $200, but 29 others priced the job at $400 or more. Six locations said they’d charge more than a $1,000 and two Toyota dealerships said it would cost $1,400, he said.

“Some repair shops were doing what a lot of repair shops still do, which is just overcharge. They recommended services that we didn’t need. Brasler said.

The researchers at Consumers’ Checkbook called the repair shops a second time, but rather than asking for the 30,000-mile maintenance package, they asked how much each individual job would cost.

“In most cases, our prices came down, and in some cases our prices came down hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” Brasler said.

According to Brasler, one Toyota dealership that originally quoted $740 as a package price later priced that work individually for just $244.

Boston 25 called more than a dozen local repair shops and Toyota dealerships and found the estimates for a basic 30,000-mile maintenance package ranged in price from $100 to $425.

Suburban Auto owner Chris MacLeod in Walpole said most drivers are better off avoiding the packages and paying for an individual oil change and tire rotation instead.

“That’s what we recommend to our customers. Come in for your regular maintenance and we’re automatically checking all those tires, all those fluids, and giving a visual inspection while it’s on the lift,” MacLeod said.

Brasler said there are other things drivers can do:

WATCH OUT FOR SHOPS THAT RECOMMEND UNNECESSARY WORK.

Brasler said many of the higher-priced shops wanted to charge for maintenance that went far beyond Toyota’s recommendations for 30,000-mile service, like flushing the radiator, replacing spark plugs and performing wheel alignments.

“The key here is before you take your car in for scheduled maintenance, find out what your manufacturer recommends at that interval for your make and model,” Brasler said.

NEW VEHICLES REQUIRE VERY LITTLE MAINTENANCE

While they can still break down, Brasler said newer vehicles rarely need a lot of maintenance outside of routine oil changes and inspections.

“I think this is a problem. I think a lot of shops are able to overcharge their customers for things like 30,000-mile maintenance or 60,000-mile maintenance because customers don’t know what the car needs and they assume it needs a lot done,” Brasler said.

SAVE MONEY BY DOING THE EASY STUFF YOURSELF

Brasler said you can also save up to $100 by buying and replacing your air filters yourself. Other easy jobs include swapping out windshield wipers and topping off fluids, he said.

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