You should deal only with a repair shop that has registered with the NYS DMV. All registered repair shops display a green and white sign outside the shop. The sign says “Registered State of New York Motor Vehicle Repair Shop.” A DMV registration certificate must hang inside the shop.
You should keep all records related to the repair. Keep all estimates, invoices, work orders, receipts, guarantees and warranties. These will be important if you file a repair complaint against the shop. These records also increase the resale value of your car. They show you have had the car serviced and repaired.
If you request it, the repair shop must give you a written estimate of the parts and labor needed for each repair. Some shops may charge for a written estimate. The estimate must include each part, its costs, and whether it is a new or used part. If you authorize repair work by phone, write down all important information. Note the date and time, the name of the person you spoke with. Write down the estimated price quoted, and any other facts about the conversation. The shop cannot charge you more than the estimate unless you give your consent.
Car repair shops also cannot make any repairs to your car without your permission. If you request it in writing, they must give you all replaced parts. If the work was under warranty or exchange parts, the shop can usually keep the replaced part. If you authorize work over the phone, ask for the replaced parts. The repair shop must make the replaced parts available to you when you pick up your car.
The repair shop must give an invoice showing certain information. It must show each repair made, each part replaced, and the cost of the part and the labor involved. The invoice must also state whether the parts are new or used. If you received a written estimate, compare it to the invoice to make sure everything matches up. You have the right to inspect your car before paying for any repairs. You typically cannot drive the car away from the shop without paying for the repairs, though. If you have a problem with the repairs, you should discuss any issues right away.
If you are unable to resolve the dispute, you can contact the DMV. You can file a complaint with the Vehicle Safety Consumer Services Section. File the complaint within 90 days or 3,000 miles after the repair, whichever comes first. The DMV will first try to resolve the complaint with the repair shop through mediation. If that does not work, it may send the case out for a full investigation. If the DMV determines that the repair shop violated the law, it will send a warning letter to the shop. It also may schedule a hearing. The DMV may suspend or revoke the shop’s registration and/or impose fines against the shop.
The DMV can try to get the shop to pay you restitution for any overcharges or unsatisfactory repairs. But the DMV cannot force the shop to pay you restitution. You can sue the shop in court even if you seek help from the DMV, but you cannot get a double recovery.
Legal Editors: David Kassell, Esq. and Mark Grossman, Esq., May 2018
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.