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Let's say you take your car to a dealership to get X and Y completed and you get a quote for $1000. You aren't contacted about any additional work that needed to be completed, but when you come to pick it up X, Y, and Z have been completed and it will cost you $2000 to get your car back.

What legal rights do you have? Would you be able to get your car back without compensating the dealership for the extra work they did?

  • What state? This is likely to be state-dependent. – cpast Jan 12 '16 at 22:10
  • It would be Virginia – BDD Jan 12 '16 at 22:11
  • Did you request a written estimate before the work started? – cpast Jan 13 '16 at 5:43
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I can't give you a jurisdiction specific answer but at common law the situation is as follows.

You had a contract, the basic terms of which were that they promised to do X & Y and you promised to pay them about $1,000. If that is all there is then you are obliged to pay for X & Y and it should cost about $1,000. The fact that they did Z is what is legally known as a "gift" and colloquially as a "f*** up".

However, it is far more likely that you signed a piece of paper with a long list of small-print terms and conditions that you didn't read. One of those probably gives them the right to do work that they reasonably consider necessary and for which you agreed to pay for. In which case you must pay them for the work; this is also called a "f*** up" except its yours not theirs.

In either case, they are not entitled to withhold your car as leverage in the dispute; this is legally called "blackmail". They must take you to court and prove your debt.

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    "In either case, they are not entitled to withhold your car as leverage in the dispute; this is legally called "blackmail". They must take you to court and prove your debt." < This may be the common law deal, but in the US, it is very bad advice. It's common for states to allow people who repair property to keep that property until the debt is paid. – cpast Jan 13 '16 at 5:41
  • Doesn't the tort of unjust enrichment apply if they did Z in good faith? – feetwet Jan 15 '16 at 23:09
  • @feetwet unjust enrichment is an extremely difficult ask when there is a contract that one party has unilaterally stepped outside of – Dale M Jan 16 '16 at 2:01

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