In Kuwait, there are no standards or government regulations setting the charges for car repairs. Most dealerships and mechanics charge customers here widely differing rates, while others take advantage of every opportunity to charge customers exorbitantly or even deceive motorists.
Consumers will often get wildly different quotes from different garages. Car owner Noora, brought her car for service after an accident. She was asked to pay KD 1,800. “I didn’t know why I had to pay that amount, so I went to another garage and they quoted me KD 1,000 only. After five months, the car broke down again, and I had to pay an additional KD 200. But the total is still less than KD 1,800,” she said.
Sunil had his car’s AC fixed at one of the garages in Sharq. Initially, the mechanic told him to pay KD 90, but when he went to another garage, he only paid KD 25. “I really don’t know how they are pricing the labor charges and the parts needed for the car. If you do not know anything about cars, you’ll continue to be cheated,” he said.
Oftentimes consumers are even told different explanations for what is causing the problem. Joseph, for instance, visited a mechanic in Shuwaikh last month. The repairman said his car needed a new gearbox, and quoted him a price of KD 350. Seeking a second opinion, he went to a mechanic recommended by his friend. “This mechanic told me to only change the thermostat, which did the trick. I only paid KD 2.5 for the new thermostat, instead of KD 350,” he said.
And sometimes mechanics take advantage of vehicle owner’s lack of knowledge to cheat them regarding repairs. Joy’s car needed a new engine, so she went to Salmi and visited several scrap merchants – most quoted her KD 500 for a “new” engine. “I was about to pay the amount when I got a call from a friend, who told me to visit his garage. He checked the engine for a few minutes and started it – I didn’t need to repair or even replace my engine,” she said.
There are plenty of honest mechanics and car repair shops out there but finding them can be a challenge. Babu, who has been working as an electrical auto mechanic for 30 years, told Kuwait Times he has encountered many complaints from customers regarding cheating.
“What can I do? Even our fingers are not at all the same, so you’ll see all types of people in the car repair business. You are responsible for your own fate. If you visit more than two mechanics, you’ll probably get the right price,” Babu, who currently manages a garage in Jleeb, said.
He advised customers to be more alert and discerning. “If you do not want to be cheated, ask for a receipt for every part changed in your car. Some mechanics will tell you they changed this and that part, but if there are no receipts, how can you be sure that they changed the problematic parts? So be very careful, as they do many things to bluff,” he said.
Tony, another mechanic from the Philippines works in a small garage in Sharq. He has good advice for customers who want to avoid being ripped off. The number one rule is to ask around. “If you don’t know a good mechanic, probably your friends, colleagues or relatives know someone. Explore this option before going to a garage or mechanic about which you do not know anything. Many mechanics claim they know all about cars, but the fact is they don’t know anything. There are many people in the industry who have become ‘mechanics’ only after a few oil changes – avoid such people,” he said.
Finally, he advised customers to go directly to the car dealership as they have all resources to check the problems of their cars, since they have complete knowledge of the brands they deal in. “Try also to check online the prices of parts changed in your car, so at least you have an idea of the prices in the market,” Tony said.
By Ben Garcia