Blog How To Avoid Auto Body Fraud And Repair Scams

Feb 8, 2021

Auto Body Shop Fraud Costs Ontario Drivers Millions

man sanding a car fender

Getting into a fender bender can ruin your day. After all, an accident can cost you money out of pocket, and it could impact your yearly costs.

Getting taken advantage of by auto body shops and tow truck drivers can worsen the situation. It's also a leading reason car insurance in Ontario is so expensive.

In light of the recent findings, we’ve put together some important information for drivers about how to identify potential deception with automobile repair shops.

Here we'll look at the Aviva investigation results and how you can protect yourself from being a victim of these fraudulent incidents.

Fraud Investigation : Aviva Uncovered Auto Body Shop Scams In Ontario

To investigate the increasing number and cost of claims in Ontario, Aviva Insurance Canada undertook a fraud investigation. Their findings were eye-opening.

Not only is it prevalent in repair shops, the year long investigation found :

  • Fraud was identified in 9 out of 10 cases – only 1 shop acted honestly.
  • Tow truck drivers invoiced for services they didn’t provide.
  • Some shops caused additional damage to vehicles purposefully.
  • Repair shops regularly overcharged.
  • Shops charged for new parts but installed used parts.
  • Insurance companies were invoiced for work that never happened.

In total, 57% of the total repair costs billed to Aviva as part of the investigation were fraudulent. Aviva estimated the total damage for the 10 vehicles at $30,000. The shops billed them about $61,000.

Learn more about the investigation here.

Auto Repair Fraud Costs Us All

silver car being spray painted

Automobile repair fraud costs us all. It's estimated to cost insurers and drivers $537 million per year in Ontario. In Canada, it costs more than $2 billion a year.

About $100 to $150 of your premium goes toward paying for auto insurance fraud.

7 Common Car Repair Scams To Watch For

Avoid these common issues that some mechanics may try to pull while your vehicle is getting fixed :

  • It's worse than we thought : After the initial inspection, the mechanic identifies the issue to be worse than anticipated. You know what this means – more money to repair.
  • They say you need more work done : This is a common upsell scam. A shop will recommend a series of additional repairs that are "urgent."
  • Unauthorized repairs while you were away: You drop off the car, only to find out additional work has been completed without your authorization. They want you to pay for the work before you get the car back. Don't pay for anything you didn't authorize. Shops need written permission to do repairs. If they refuse, call the police.
  • Oil change upgrades : The mechanic recommends “upgrades” to a synthetic oil, finds issues with gaskets or other parts.
  • The Flush : The shop says you need to flush your cooling system, transmission, or other fluids from the engine. They prey on unsuspecting drivers who don't know any better. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Fake leaks : The mechanic finds a “leak” in one of the engine hoses. They even may go to the length of spraying the substance on the engine to show you the "issue."
  • Premature replacement : Mechanics recommend you need to replace your brakes, brake pads, shocks, spark plugs, or other components. They say it's not safe to drive your car without the work being completed.

What To Do If You Suspect An Auto Repair Scam

Suspect a scam, or a rip-off scheme at a mechanic shop?

  • Contact your insurance company : Your insurer or advisor can investigate the matter and provide you with information about next steps.
  • Report it to the Insurance Bureau of Canada : You can file an anonymous complaint with IBC Ontario.
  • File a complaint : You can file a consumer complaint with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

Tips To Choose A Reputable Auto Body Shop

Finding a trustworthy mechanic can be a challenge. If you've never been in an accident, you may not have a preferred repair shop. Here are some tips for finding a reputable body shop:

  • Use recommended shops : Your insurer will happily provide you with a list of recommended car repair shops in your area. Consider taking your vehicle there for work. It will simplify the car insurance claims process, billing, and the shop will work with your insurer directly.
  • Get a referral from a trusted person : Ask trusted friends and family members about who they use for vehicle repairs.
  • Check out shop certifications : When considering shops, make note of their certifications, licenses, warranty programs, and other trust seals.
  • Read reviews : Reading online reviews can tell you a lot about previous customer experiences and what you could experience yourself if you take your vehicle into the shop.