Auto Shop Doesn’t Do Any Work It’s Paid To, Hidden Cameras Reveal

A joint investigation by Las Vegas Channel 8 and the state’s Attorney documented widespread fraud at four Purrfect Auto franchises. Hidden cameras revealed the work the investigators paid for was never done.

Two years ago, the AG sued franchiser Francare Inc. As a result of a settlement, the company agreed to stop deceptive trade practices. Apparently, the suit didn’t make enough of an impression. Perhaps this next one will.

Is there such a thing as an honest mechanic? Why does auto-repair seem to encourage fraud?

Parts 2 and 3 of the news reports, inside. — BEN POPKEN

Part 2

Part 3

I-Team Follow: Las Vegas Auto Repair Rip-Off [Channel 8] (Thanks to Jeff!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Guess they missed the expose on Jiffy Lubes in Cali last year… or was it this year… or did it happen twice? Who knows.

  2. Pelagius says:

    “Why does auto-repair seem to encourage fraud?”

    Information monopoly.

  3. medalian1 says:

    why not change your own oil/filter? I do it just for piece of mind.

  4. LocalYokel says:

    I actually DO change my own oil and filter, but it bothers me that modern cars don’t allow the car owner to perform many simple tasks. The only help in the owner’s manual says “schedule an appointment with your dealer” for everything, including changing headlights…what!?
    I think that is unacceptable, especially considering the kind of service you (don’t) get at mechanic shops.

  5. Magister says:

    Can’t change your own oil/filter if you live in a nice neighborhood now a days. Covenants/Conventions and all that jazz..

    Heck, it is worth it to me to pay some min. wage grease monkey so I don’t have to get dirty.

  6. velocipenguin says:

    “Why does auto-repair seem to encourage fraud?”

    Cars are complicated machines. Understanding how they work is beyond the abilities of most people, which forces people to rely on mechanics. Mechanics know they can get away with recommending unnecessary repairs or charging for services that they don’t actually perform – after all, their customers don’t know enough about cars to notice something’s wrong. It’s the perfect scam.

  7. I also change my own oil and filter, as well as other maintenance, brakes, etc.

    Not only do I trust myself more than a mechanic at a dealer, but it’s far more convenient to do it myself. I change both our cars’ oil in 30 minutes flat with cleanup. I had to schedule appointments a week or more in advance and wait for an hour or more just to have one car’s oil changed at the dealer…ridiculous.

    However, if you perform this work yourself while the vehicle is under warranty prepare to have to defend it…in fact, often times, doing some maintenance on your car yourself will void the warranty. It’s ridiculous, but the dealer is always looking for excuses to charge you for things.

  8. TPSreports says:

    Do any of you people perform your own fuel injection cleanings?

    (sound of crickets chirping….)

  9. acambras says:

    I’m lucky enough to live with someone knowledgable and handy enough to do the routine maintenance on my car and even some shadetree repairs — he recently showed me how to change out spark plugs, distributor cap, rotor, and associated wiring. He has saved me tons of money. But a lot of the stuff is no longer feasible for the “shadetree mechanic” who doesn’t have all the diagnostic equipment at his/her disposal.

    And yeah, we had to “hide” in a less conspicuous part of our apartment complex while we did the repairs, lest the management come after us.

  10. sixtoe says:

    My wife took our Honda CR-V to John O’Donnell Auto Repair in Sharon Hill, PA last week for new brakes. My wife was quoted a price over the phone before the repairs were made (about $300), but when she went in to pick up the car, John told her the price was actually less: a little over $200. Now, John could have just kept the price right where it was, and we would have been none the wiser. But an honest mechanic like this just gained a customer for life.

  11. fishfucerk says:

    heh. I remember looking through the folder which my dad had kept on his Toyota. In it, he had a receipt from Purrfect Auto. It looked like they’d overcharged him or done a crappy job and he had called to complain. He annotated the receipt “*NEVER* use again”. Guess he was right.

    Learning how to do your own basic maintenance on cars is well worth your time and gives you a sense of achievement. I realize that DIY maintenance isn’t an option for people worried about warranties, but if you can afford to buy a brand new car I suppose you better be prepared to pay the dealer to do the work on it. Personally, I don’t see myself buying a brand new car for many, many years, if ever. Buying from private parties is less of a risk for me because I can do my own work, and have friends available who can help me with more complex procedures.

  12. adamondi says:

    There is such a thing as an honest mechanic. Luckily, my brother is such a mechanic. He always does my mechanical repairs. He doesn’t lie to me or jerk me around. I lucked out in this situation, though. Not everyone has an honest brother who does good work.

    However, I would say that auto repair seems to encourage fraud because of the typical caliber of people who choose to do it for a living. My brother is one of the extremely rare exceptions to the rule, but even he will tell you that most of the mechanics he has ever worked with or for are just crappy people. It is hard to find the few good ones, but well worth the effort.

  13. GenXCub says:

    The reason to not perform my own repairs is that I know the places I go to guarantee the repair. If I screw something up, I could blow up my vehicle, ultimately costing myself more money. I could put a computer together 27 different ways, but cars scare me.

  14. wilvelas says:

    I’m a shop owner, and it’s very hard to gain a customer’s trust. No matter how honest you are, the guy down the street does the job cheaper even though the car just ends up at your shop to have all the work re-done. By that time, most customers are looking at you like you are stealing their hard earned money. It’s always one stupid mechanic/shop that screws the customer over, and they are bitter with EVERY mechanic they ever come across.

    What also doesn’t help is the ability to get information. Most shops pay (at least in my area) $200+ to get vehicle data, wiring diagrams, and specifications for MOST vehicles, sometimes tool and such are specialized for only one or two vehicles. Stuff like that gets expensive, and most customers don’t feel it’s up to them to pay for that. That’s why a “good” independant shop charges a labor rate close to a dealer/franchise. Some shops are fortunate enough to have good, hard working mechanics, and great management that guides you through the repairs being done so that you don’t feel ripped off.

    Sorry for the long post. I hate it when shops take advantage of people and make everyone else look bad.

  15. NeoteriX says:

    “Cars are complicated machines… It’s the perfect scam.”

    My favorite is when I brought in my car for regular maintenance and the attendant brought to my attention that my license plate lights were out–quoting $40 to change them.

    I laughed in his face.

  16. Xkeeper says:

    I’m not suprised… I’ll recommend everyone I know not to use it (and/or show them this, heh)

    And now I’m almost tempted to go across the highway here and take a picture of the “Perfect Mechanics” or whatever it was… amusingly, their slogan recenently changed from “Home of the Honest Mechanics” to “Home of the [something or other] Mechanics”.

    At least they’re honest, if only in saying they aren’t.

  17. etinterrapax says:

    I was really surprised to see that the Toyota we just bought came with instructions for changing the headlights and other safety lights ourselves, and I think also how to change the oil, fuses, and spark plugs. It was in the owner’s manual. A good friend of mine who drives a 98 Corolla was charged something like $250 for a headlight change because the mechanic told her that the entire housing needed to be replaced for that. I thought at the time that she was getting screwed, and now I don’t know if I have the heart to tell her that I’m sure of it.

    We’re lucky to be friends with an honest mechanic who trades labor with my husband. But I’ll never go to an oil-change place again. My experience has been that if you’re a woman, you might as well have a target on your back. I know that’s a gross generalization and probably not fair, but it’s how they lost me as a customer–by assuming I was too stupid to know that they were trying to make a profit from my presumed ignorance of auto mechanics.

  18. acambras says:

    Etinterrapax is so right about women having targets on their backs as far as the oil change places go. They are absolutely terrible. Several times when I’ve gone for an oil change, they try to get me to agree to hundred of dollars of additional repairs. I’ve just had to keep repeating (like a broken record): JUST CHANGE THE OIL AND FILTER. OIL AND FILTER ONLY. OIL AND FILTER ONLY.

    Even then, the clowns at Jiffy Lube quoted me $43 for an oil and filter change. And that’s for regular (non-synthetic) oil.

    I had a wonderful mechanic in the city where I used to live. He was skillful and efficient. He didn’t try to sell me a bunch of stuff I didn’t need. He was able to tell me if that funny noise was indicative of something really unsafe or just something annoying. He helped me prioritize repairs and maintenance (how many more miles can I eke out of those tires?) And he put things in terms I could understand but NEVER talked down to me. He was worth the money, largely because IMO he saved me lots of money and aggravation in the long run.

    But back to my agreement with Etinterrapax. Parents, make sure your daughters (and sons!) have at least a rudimentary knowledge of cars and their components (I wish this had been part of drivers ed). Grown women, educate yourselves. Find a class or book, or ask someone you know. Any investment of time or money is definitely worth it.

  19. sweetasman01 says:

    Thats why when ever I get my car service I STAY and watch them doing it. It took me a while to find a mechanics that would let me do that but in the end it worked out great. Also ALWAYS get the old parts when you get parts replaced, if they refuse to do that then refuse to pay and call the police.

    I did that at one shop and was banned, two months later they were shut down and the the owner was put into prison for fraud.

  20. Solo says:

    In my neck of the woods, I go to a place named Oil Can Henry’s. You drive your car over the open pit, and you stay in the car while they service it.

    There’s camera everywhere and a big tv just in your face. You can actually see them drain the oil, change the filter, check all kinds of things.

    Their m.o. is designed so you don’t have a doubt about what they are doing. That’s the way I like it.

    It’s amazing to see scumbags like puurfect lie to your face, even when confronted with evidence, claiming that those are ‘isolated incident’ or ‘mistakes’ when they actually got convicted 2 years before for the same thing.

  21. wilvelas says:


    In our neck of the woods insurance regulations prohibit the customers in the work area, so we won’t let you watch, in the work area (you can watch from outside or the waiting room if you want).

    If you sign documentation that states you agree to have services rendered but fail to request used parts up front we’re not mandated to show you them or provide them for you (a good mechanic will usually keeps old parts on hand for a day or two and almost never refuse to show them to you, but that’s a different story). So basically, if you signed the estimate for services and authorize service without requesting your parts in advance and refuse to pay because you didn’t get your parts back (since you didn’t ask before starting), you will NOT get your car and the police can’t do anything about it because the paperwork you signed is a contract. Sorry to break your bubble, but at least that’s how it is here.

    I refuse to stand up to chains and franchises that constantly do crap like this, but there are good independant shops out there.