The law

When you take a vehicle in for a repair, your consumer rights are covered under the Consumer Protection Act. It applies to any location that offers motor vehicle repair facilities including:

  • motor vehicle dealerships or used-car lots with repair facilities
  • neighbourhood garages
  • auto body repair shops
  • muffler shops

Repair costs

Before a repair shop can charge you, they must have given you a written estimate, unless you declined it and instead agreed on a maximum amount you are willing to pay for the repair.

The final cost charged cannot be more than 10% above the estimate or, if you declined an estimate, more than the maximum agreed amount.

Written estimate

If you get a written estimate, the estimate must include the following details:

  • your name
  • name, address and contact details of the repair shop
  • make, model, vehicle identification number (VIN) and licence number of the vehicle
  • an exact description of the repairs to be made
  • if they will be installing any parts and if those parts will be new, used or reconditioned
  • if they will be using parts provided by the original equipment manufacturer
  • price of each part
  • total cost for the labour and how it will be calculated (e.g., an hourly rate or a flat rate, or some combination)
  • total amount to be billed (the final cost can’t exceed this amount by more than 10%)
  • date the estimate is given and the date after which it no longer applies
  • date when the work and repairs will be completed

Costs for an estimate

A repair shop may charge for an estimate, but they must tell you how much they will charge for it before providing one to you. A fee for an estimate is deemed to  include the cost of:

  • the time to examine the vehicle
  • reassembling the vehicle after examining it
  • any parts that will be damaged during examination or reassembly that will need to be replaced

You cannot be charged the fee if you give them permission to repair the vehicle before it is reassembled. If you delay giving them permission to begin repair, they can reassemble the vehicle and may charge you the fee.

If you give the repair shop permission to begin the repair work, but don't do so in writing, they must make a written record of your permission. 

Never sign a blank work order. This allows the shop to make any repairs they think are necessary for your vehicle and charge you for the work, even if you disagree.

Invoice requirements

The final invoice for the repair must include:

  • your name
  • name, address and contact information of the repair shop
  • make, model, vehicle identification number (VIN) and licence number of the vehicle
  • the odometer reading when the vehicle was dropped off and when the vehicle is returned
  • a list of the parts they installed and if the parts are new, used or reconditioned
  • if they used parts provided by the original equipment manufacturer
  • price of each part
  • total cost for the labour and how it was calculated (e.g., an hourly rate or a flat rate, or some combination)
  • shop supplies charged to a customer (and not included in normal operating costs)
  • terms of the warranty provided by the repair shop for each part installed and the labour to install it
  • total amount billed (can’t be higher than 10% above the estimate)

Repair warranty

Under the Consumer Protection Act, parts and labour generally have a warranty for a minimum of 90 days or 5,000 km (whichever comes first). Repair shops can also offer coverage beyond that minimum warranty.

If your vehicle breaks down during the warranty period, or becomes unsafe to drive because the repair was faulty, you can take it back to the repair shop or, if that is not reasonable, to the closest repair facility. The original repair shop has to pay back the money you were charged for the repair, as well as any reasonable towing costs involved.

Extended warranties, service plans, and manufacturer's warranties

Repair shop signs

The Consumer Protection Act also requires repair shops to display a clear sign that lets you know:

  • that the repair shop must offer a written estimate, unless you choose to authorize a maximum amount you are willing to pay
  • that replaced parts will be returned to you if you want them (subject to limited exceptions)
  • that labour costs are calculated by an hourly rate, or flat-rate, or a combination of both
  • if there is a charge for estimates and if commissions are paid to mechanics

Disputes with the repair shop

If you feel that a repair shop has not followed the law, advise the business of your complaint by letter, email or phone. It is always best to contact the business in writing so you have a record of the communication.

If you advise the business by phone, make sure to note the date and details of the conversation.  Keep a copy for your records.

If they don’t respond to your complaint, you can:

  • take your vehicle to another shop and ask for a written assessment that shows that the original repairs were not carried out properly, or that the parts provided were not of good quality.
  • send a copy of this written assessment to the original repair shop to ask for an adjustment of your bill.

If they still do not respond to your complaint, you can: 

By law, if a repair shop misrepresented the need for a repair or the quality or features of the parts they provided, you have rights under the Consumer Protection Act.

If you don't pay

A repair shop can keep your vehicle if you don’t pay the repair bill. If they give you your vehicle back and you then refuse to pay, the repair shop can register a lien against your vehicle. They could then have your vehicle seized and, if they give you advanced notice, sell or donate the vehicle

How to get your vehicle returned

Updated: September 15, 2021
Published: September 29, 2014