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Ask Sid

Ranking Auto Repair Rip-offs

Q. My friend says he heard that certain cities, including my hometown of Phoenix, are notorious for car repair rip-offs. True?

A. Geography seems to play a role in the fairness of quotes given by auto repair shops, says—although pricing problems are common everywhere.

The car-repair information website dispatched undercover customers to more than 600 shops in the 50 largest U.S. cities—including dealerships, independents and franchises such as Pep Boys—for quotes on the same job, a front brake replacement for a Ford Focus.

The main finding: “If you are one of the 88 percent of car owners who feel that they are not getting a fair shake at the repair shop, this report shows that you are probably right,” AutoMD President Shane Evangelist writes in a statement.

“Repair shop quotes in more than half of the cities for the same job had a variance from lowest to highest of over 150 percent, with over two-thirds of the shops over all changing their price quote when presented with an industry standard price.”

AutoMD used three factors to rank the nation’s best and worst cities for auto repair. The factors were the average quoted price in each city, the variance between highest and lowest quotes, and an “integrity factor” determined by the percentage of shops that changed their quotes when presented with the industry standard.

The rankings showed that the best cities were Memphis, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Omaha, Neb.; and San Antonio. The worst were Chicago; Honolulu; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Washington, D.C.; with your town, Phoenix, ranking the eighth worst.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

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