, Salem, MA


May 18, 2013

Check fuse box for compass, light fixes


Q: My husband owns a 1998 Honda Odyssey, which we brought in to have one thing repaired. We left the car for the day, and got a call that they found other things wrong. We always maintained the van and changed the oil every 3,000 miles. When the manager told us it would be around $2,000, we were floored but said if it had to be done, we had no alternative but go ahead and do it. When we picked up the van, the bill came to over $3,100. Some of the work was a pipe, converter, muffler, all kinds of gaskets, bolts, and lots of labor costs. My husband feels he was taken over the coals with this kind of bill. We are in our 70s and this was a bill much larger than was quoted. Don’t you think they should have called us and let us know it was way over the $2,000 they had quoted? Please let us know what you think.

A: I have seen cars dropped off all the time, and I can see how this 11-year-old car would have needed that kind of work. The failure in this case was in improperly estimating the cost of the job. Let’s say, perhaps, that you did not want to spend three grand on this car. Now what are you to do? Here’s what you should know: In Massachusetts a contractor is allowed to be only 10 percent off in his estimate unless a second authorization is given by the customer. If you had taken this one to court, you would have won for sure. Let me just be clear on this: I can understand more work needed to be done — it happens all the time — but the failure to call for authorization is a real problem. When a vehicle needs a lot of work like that, I feel the appropriate procedure is to prioritize the repairs into safety and non-safety issues — what has to be done now, and what can wait. That is how any additional needed work should be presented.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to

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