The minute we drove into the mechanic’s shop we had a bad feeling about things. As the small town dealer looked us in the eye and said our truck was unsafe to drive, we ignored our instincts and agreed to the repairs.
Over two thousand dollars later and four states away, a trusted mechanic friend broke the bad news to us: the job was mostly unnecessary. Since then we’ve learned a few things about how to avoid getting ripped off by mechanics, dentists, and other service providers.
Do this so you don’t get ripped off by service providers
Whether full-time or part time, RVers are at the mercy of service providers. When you need a mechanic, a dentist, or some other skilled tradesperson who can tackle a job you’re not equipped for, you must remember it’s one of the biggest challenges of living as a full-time RVer.
Although most providers are ethical, as out-of-staters we run a greater risk of bumping into shifty characters who see “Sucker!” on out-of-state license plates. The good news is that you can minimize the chance of a bad experience by following some preventive measures.
Stay on top of maintenance
Investigate strange creaks, noises, and other unusual quirks as soon as you notice them. You’ll keep the problem from escalating.
Keep calm when things happen
Things will go wrong. Just don’t panic. Research the issue and talk to others through internet user groups and support communities. Start drafting two plans for dealing with the situation: 1) where you’ll stay while the work is being done and 2) how you’ll pay for it.
Research potential providers
Choose at least two, preferably three candidates for the work then start researching their reputations. Go to RVer communities like iRV2 and start asking other RVers for provider recommendations. Investigate using services like Angie’s List and Yelp, which have strong reputations for unbiased consumer reviews.
Know the provider’s policies before work begins
Don’t sign anything until you ask about:
- Estimates: Are they free? If not, what will it cost to have your vehicle looked at?
- Skills: Has the provider done the kind of work you need performed? If so, how often?
- Affiliations: What trade associations does the business belong to? If it’s a health clinician, are they board-certified in that specific type of work? Being affiliated with these institutions ensures your provider holds their business to the higher standard of excellence that trade associations require.
- Warranties: How is the work and materials warrantied? For how many months or years? What happens if something goes awry after you leave?
I wish I had asked about warranties when I had dental work done in Texas. A brand new $1,000 crown fell out two states away and when I told the dentist’s office manager her response was “Come on in and we’ll take a look at it.”
In fairness, the practice reimbursed me for the cost to temporarily reglue the crown. That’s the sign of an excellent provider. Although there wasn’t anything they could do for me after leaving the state, they did go above and beyond to help in any way possible.
When it comes to dealing with service providers on the road, you must accept the fact that our full-timing lifestyle is foreign to most people. When things go wrong just take a deep breath, do your research and remember that a few tricky situations are a very small price to pay for this magnificent way of life.