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Washington’s Auto Repair Act: What are My Rights?

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

Washington's Auto Repair Act has a set of standards that auto repair places must follow. This publication briefly summarizes the law. #0323EN

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Introduction

Auto repair facilities in Washington must follow the Auto Repair Act (“ARA”), RCW 46.71.

What is an "auto repair facility?"

Any person/firm/association/corporation repairing motor vehicles for a fee. 

Does the law cover all repairs?

Yes, including

  • Repairs needed because of a collision.

  • Mechanical components, including exhaust, brakes, windshields, and frames.

  • Electrical components.

  • Engine repairs, including tune-ups.

What are my rights?

They must give you a written estimate for repairs over $100.00. It should include:

  • Your odometer reading.

  • The specific repair needed.

  • The total estimated cost, including parts/labor.

  • If they will use Original Manufactories Equipment (“OME”).

The final invoice cannot be more than ten percent of the written estimate without your consent. Example: The repair estimate is $200. They could charge you up to $220.

Do I have the right to a written estimate?

Only when you do business face-to-face with them. 

How do I remember my rights?

The repair shop must prominently display a sign called “Customer Rights” saying:

YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A WRITTEN PRICE ESTIMATE FOR THE REPAIRS YOU HAVE AUTHORIZED.  YOU ARE ALSO ENTITLED TO REQUIRE THE REPAIR FACILITY TO OBTAIN YOUR ORAL OR WRITTEN AUTHORIZATION TO EXCEED THE WRITTEN PRICE ESTIMATE. YOUR SIGNATURE OR INITIALS WILL INDICATE YOUR SELECTION.

What is a Possessory Lien?

A repair shop generally can keep your vehicle until you have paid all repair costs. It loses this right if one of these is true:

  • You asked them to return all repaired parts to you. They did not. 

  • They charged you over 110% of the written repair estimate.

  • You did not authorize the repair.

  • They did not post the Customers Rights sign.

What if they will not give my car back?

If they wrongfully refuse to give back your car, you can do one of these:

  • Pay to get your car back. Then sue in Small Claims Court for up to $5,000 to get your money back.

  • Get help from a lawyer.

If you cannot afford to pay to get your car back, you can get a lawyer to help you. This is easier than you think. If they have wrongfully held your vehicle, your lawyer may be able to get attorney fees from the repair shop.  Some lawyers work on a “fee-shifting” basis.

Can other laws help me?

Violation of the ARA is also a violation of the state Consumer Protection Act (CPA), R.C.W. 19.86.  Under the CPA, the court could award you up to three times the amount of any damages you suffered (maximum $25,000) plus attorney fees.

Violations of the ARA include:

  • False/deceptive/misleading advertising.

  • Lowballing/misrepresenting the final cost.

  • Charging for parts/labor not installed/done.

  • Using your car for any reason unrelated to its repair.

  • Refusing to give you copies of any signed document request.

  • Keeping payments from you and the warranty provider for the same repair.

  • Charging for repairs that they had no good reason to make.

  • Not posting the Notice of Rights sign.

  • Not following the law on estimates.

Does the law guarantee repair work?

No. Discuss any warranty with the repair shop. Demand a written copy of their warranty.

If you have your vehicle towed to the repair shop and do not have any direct contact with the shop, they do not have to give you a written estimate.  You can still ask for an oral estimate. You can also request they give you a written estimate for that figure later.

Should I get a service contract?

If the repair shop does not give you any warranty, or even if they do, you may want to sign a Service Contract.  Car dealers can sell these in different levels/lengths of coverage.  These are high profit sales for car dealers. They generally have room to negotiate.  Read these contracts carefully. Document any claims.

Where should I bring my car?

Choose your repair shop with care.  Get advice from friends. Check out repair shops with the Better Business Bureau or online rating sites.

 

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This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of December 2017.

© 2017 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)
Last Review and Update: Dec 18, 2017
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