Many countries have laws that specifically protect motorcyclists and other consumers from being ripped off on motorcycle service. These laws protect us and consumers, and they take precedence over any in-store policies.
By knowing what to do, and what laws protect you, you can avoid getting ripped off on motorcycle service and repairs. Always get a written work order because it will protect you from excess costs, you can also set a maximum agreed upon amount to limit how much your motorcycle service can cost, and know that parts and labor are covered by warranty no matter what they tell you.
We’ll go over all that and a bit more, and looking at how a motorcyclist in the UK was scammed out of over $6,200 USD by his motorcycle dealership. I’ll share with you what you need to know, whether you live in the United States, the United Kingdom, or Canada.
Get a written estimate – it can’t be exceeded by more than 10%
A work order is essentially a written estimate of what is to be done, and what the price will be. It is a legally binding document. You are authorizing the work on the estimate to be done, and are agreeing to pay the price on the estimate. Likewise, the shop is agreeing to do the work for the price on the estimate.
If you’re leaving a motorcycle at a dealership or a motorcycle repair shop for service, a written estimate is one of the first things you should have done. You should you should have a written estimate before leaving the building.
Throughout the United States and Canada there are laws which protect motorcyclists from service invoices getting out of hand. Whether you’re in Ontario, Canada, or Illinois, United States, the maximum you can be charged for is 10% more than the estimate.
Let’s assume you get a written estimate for an 8,000 mile service for $500. If the dealer performs the service, and nothing but the service, even if it takes them two hours longer than they anticipated, the most they can legally charge you is $550. The only way around this is if you agree to, a revised written estimate or an additional charge.
Set a maximum agreed upon amount – it can’t be exceeded
Both the Canadian Consumer Protection Act and the UK’s Consumer Rights Act give motorcyclists the ability to set a Maximum Agreed Upon Amount for a motorcycle service or repair job. This can protect you by preventing a repair cost from being ballooned out of control by a crooked shop or a mechanic who doesn’t know what he’s doing and takes longer than the job normally would.
You can walk into a motorcycle dealership and say to them, “I only have $500 to pay for my 8,000 mile service for this motorcycle. That’s the most I can pay and the most I can authorize you to work on the motorcycle for. Can you do the 8,000 mile service for this price?”
If both parties, you and the dealership, agree to the work at the agreed upon price, than they can not charge you than that amount down the road.
A maximum agreed upon amount can save you a lot of time
A maximum agreed upon amount can also be helpful if you need things worked on quickly.
Typically if you drop off a vehicle after hours, they will start working on other vehicles in the morning while someone at the service desk calls you to let you know how much inspecting the vehicle will cost. They will later call you to let you know how much parts and labor will be after they’ve looked it up. They will then call you a third time to let you know when it’s ready.
If you drop off a vehicle after hours and leave them a note with the issue and a maximum agreed upon amount, they can begin diagnosis, bringing in parts, and repairing your vehicle right away. When I left my truck overnight at a shop, I only received one phone call and it was at 11:30 AM the next morning telling me my vehicle was ready for pickup.
A maximum agreed upon amount lets a shop know the price range they have your approval to fix your motorcycle for, and it enables them to move quickly because they don’t need to check with you along the way. You benefit from keeping your motorcycle’s service both speedy and on budget.
Your motorcycle’s service or repair cost must be fair – by law
In many countries, the price for your motorcycle’s service or repair must be fair. This can be helpful if you’ve failed to get a written work order, and you also didn’t set a maximum agreed upon amount.
In the above video we look at how a motorcyclist in the United Kingdom got scammed for over $6,000 by his Royal Enfield motorcycle dealer. He does not specify whether or not he got a written agreement or set a maximum agreed upon amount, however, he still has consumer protection law on his side.
In the United Kingdom, the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 states that motorcyclists have a right to a fair repair cost. In the case of the UK man, he had two shops quote him about $5,400 worth of customizations to his Royal Enfield. The shop he picked charged him $5,400, and then another $6,200 on top of that.
The UK man could legally refuse to pay the additional $6,200 because the other shop had quoted him only the original $5,400 for the same work.
Paying by credit card can protect you from work not done
How you pay for your motorcycle service or repair matters. Mainstream credit cards such as VISA and MasterCard have various protections for consumers in place. In some cases, this is backed by law, such as the UK’s Consumer Credit Act of 1974. However, major credit card companies do a good job of protecting their customers in nearly all western countries.
In the example of our UK man, some of the work he had paid the shop for was not done. He did not realize this until after he paid the shop. Had he paid by credit card, he could have simply called up the credit card company, presented his evidence, and they would have reversed the charge.
Unfortunately, it does not seem he paid by credit card, so he is having to take the business to small claims court. The problem is that the business declared bankruptcy, and he is unlikely to get his money back. Had he paid by credit card, the credit card company would return the funds to him rather than release the funds to the dealership that scammed him.
Your motorcycle parts and service comes with a warranty
In many countries, no matter what a motorcycle shop tells you, your motorcycle service and parts come with a warranty that is protected by state, provincial, or even national law. In Canada, the repair job labor on your motorcycle has a warranty for up to 5,000 km (3,100 miles) or 90 days, whichever comes first.
If something goes wrong during the warranty period, there are different rules depending on where you live. Nearly everywhere in Canada, the USA, or the UK, say that you can bring the motorcycle back for the work to be corrected, at no charge to you. The only potential costs would be if the dealer needed any additional parts that weren’t replaced before.
In many places, you can even bring your motorcycle to a different shop, have them do the work, and send the invoice to the first shop. Look up your local consumer protection laws to find out more about what your rights are as a consumer in need of motorcycle service and repair.
5 Additional tips to protect yourself from being ripped off on motorcycle service
What should you never do with a work order?
Never sign a blank work order / written estimate. It’s like signing a blank check. Once your signature is on there, they can fill in the rest with anything they want.
Can you be charged for an estimate?
Dealerships and shops can charge you for an estimate since it takes time to figure out what’s wrong with your motorcycle, but they need to make reasonable effort to tell you what the estimate will cost before they do the inspection.
Do you have to pay for an estimate?
If you agree to have the motorcycle repaired before it’s put back together, they can’t charge you for the inspection. But if they call you, and you don’t pick up the phone, and they go ahead and put your motorcycle back together, then you’ll have to pay for the estimate.
Can you give the motorcycle shop permission to fix your motorcycle over the phone?
Yes, but they need to record in writing permission. I used to do this when I was working for a dealership. We basically had to write out additional info from the work and price, including your full name and when we talked to you.
What about Texas?
A lot of provinces and states have very clear and specific laws related to automotive repair shops and your rights as a consumer, but others don’t. You’ll want to see what exactly the rules are where you live. Some states, like Texas, don’t have automotive-specific statutes. In that case you can still reach out to Texas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection office or the Better Business Bureau for help or mediation.