Even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid car mechanic nightmares yourself, you’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories from your friends and co-workers — whether it’s the mechanic who charged your sister for a new carburetor when she just needed an oil change, or the jerk who convinced your boss to purchase a brand new set of tires when a good patch job would have done the trick. Despite these horror stories, there are plenty of good car mechanics out there. It just takes some research to find them.
Don’t wait until your next breakdown to hunt down a good auto shop. Find a top-notch mechanic now so you’ll know who to call the next time you need help. Here are a few tips to help you pinpoint a truly trustworthy car mechanic.
Ask for recommendations. Ask your family members, friends, and co-workers if they can recommend a great mechanic. After all, if your brother or best friend was happy with an auto repair shop, odds are you’ll be satisfied with them, too. Of course, you might be better off asking for recommendations from people who have some auto expertise. Although Aunt Betty might heartily recommend ABC Auto Shop, she might not realize they’ve been ripping her off all along because she simply doesn’t know much about cars.
Decide on a dealer vs. independent shop. You might be more comfortable working with a mechanic at your car dealership. That’s fine, but you should keep in mind that dealerships generally charge more for repair services. Remember that any well-trained mechanic can perform first-rate repairs, whether they work for a dealer or a small mom and pop shop. Many independent repair shops can offer a warranty on parts and repairs and use factory parts recommended by your carmaker. This can save you loads of money in the end. On the other hand, if you require repairs associated with a recall or have an extremely unusual problem that is specific to your type of vehicle, you might be better off going to your car dealership.
Look up online ratings and reviews. Search for repair shop ratings and reviews on sites like Women-Drivers.com or mechanicratingz.com to find out how other customers rank local car mechanics. However, keep in mind that just because a shop receives two good reviews doesn’t mean they always do a great job. By the same token, if a mechanic earns two bad reviews, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re terrible. Although online reviews can be helpful, you should take them with a grain of salt. Visit the shop before you make your final decision.
Do a trial run. If you want to try out a new mechanic, take your car in for regular service, such as an oil change or tune-up. This will give you an idea of how quickly and effectively the shop works, the level of customer service they offer, and how much they charge. When you visit the shop, take notice of how the business runs. See if the shop seems neat and organized and if the staff seems friendly and knowledgeable. Ask if they have certified technicians on-staff and the most cutting-edge equipment. You should also ask whether or not they have credentials, such as Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification, or AAA approval. Find out if they concentrate in body or mechanical work and if they specialize in certain vehicle makes and models. Also ask if they offer a warranty and customer satisfaction policy. Also, take note if they have clearly posted labor rates. If so, compare these rates to other shops in the area.
If the staff seems annoyed by your questions or if they don’t offer clear answers, you might want to steer clear. After all, if they have nothing to hide, they’ll be more than willing to answer your questions — especially if they want to earn your business.