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Many states require that auto repair facilities provide customers with written repair estimates that contain certain information. However, even when a written estimate is not required by law, a quality auto shop will always be happy to provide one. Every auto repair estimate should detail some very important information:

  • A description of the specific work to be done on the vehicle
  • All of the costs involved, both parts and labor
  • A statement that the quoted amount will not be exceeded by a specified dollar amount or percentage without prior approval

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Even if a written repair estimate is not required in your area, you should be sure to always insist on one whenever you have your car serviced. A written auto repair estimate is a contract between you and the repair shop that describes what will be done and how much it will cost. Getting this information in writing can help prevent problems down the road.

Additional Options

Some states allow you to waive your right to a written auto repair estimate, but this is not recommended – even if you trust the car mechanic you are using. A better option if you don’t want a full written estimate is to require that the shop contact you in advance if the repairs will cost more than a certain amount. Make sure this condition and the maximum dollar amount are clearly stated on the repair order.

When you sign a repair order you agree to be responsible for the charges. Read the estimate carefully, and ask for an explanation of anything you don’t understand. The best repair estimate is one that details the labor and parts costs, and has clear instructions such as, “Check for a hesitation when the gas pedal is pressed.” If a repair order or estimate says something vague like, “Check for noise,” ask that the instructions be clarified before you sign.

If you are facing an expensive major repair, consider getting a second opinion. Obtaining a second repair estimate from a different auto repair shop can be inconvenient and may cost extra. However, it will confirm or dispute the initial diagnosis, and could save you money in the long run.

Finding Quality Auto Repair

AAA recommends that you plan ahead for vehicle service by finding an auto repair shop and technician you can trust before you need them. provides information on nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities that have met AAA’s high standards for appearance, technician training and certification, insurance coverage and customer satisfaction. AAA regularly inspects every Approved Auto Repair facility and surveys their customers to ensure ongoing performance. In addition, AAA members receive special benefits that include auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and AAA assistance in resolving repair-related issues.
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