Finding a mechanic that you can rely on isn’t easy. While there are undoubtedly some great mechanics out there, knowing who to trust can be difficult, and making the wrong decision can be costly.
Here are 6 tips for not getting stung when you need a mechanic:
1. Stay Local
When deciding where to take your vehicle, you have three main choices: a big national auto chain, a dealership, or a local mechanic. At an auto chain or dealership, you’ll find mechanics who are particularly skilled at working with your make of car, but this comes with an inflated price tag in most cases. With a local mechanic, you’ll often get more personalized service as well as lower prices, and will be able to have much closer contact with the mechanic who is actually doing the work on your car.
Moreover, because local mechanics rely on a good reputation and positive word-of-mouth to bring in new customers, there’s a much bigger incentive for them to perform quality services and gain your trust. They won’t develop long-term relationships with customers if they sneakily add on extra jobs to bump up the final bill, so it’s in their interest to play fair. Dealerships and national auto chains are less reliant on this type of relationship, so they’re not as bothered if you don’t use them again. That’s not to say that all dealerships and big auto chains are necessarily out to sting you, but one of the disadvantages of going to a dealership for a service is the strong emphasis on getting maximum profits rather than looking to build relationships with customers. They are more about quantity than quality.
If you decide to go the local mechanic route, ask around and see if any particular names come up multiple times. If you notice the same mechanic being recommended by different people, that’s probably a great place to start.
2. Check their Reputation and Affiliations
Once you’ve got a name or two to go on, head over to the Better Business Bureau website to see what kind of reviews a particular garage has received. You might also want to take a look at the Mechanic Files tool on the Car Talk website. You can search for mechanics in your area (including those who specialize in particular makes) and see what ratings they’ve been given. Ratings on this site are based on factors such as how much they charge, how quickly you can expect them to complete work on your car, how trustworthy they are, and their level of skill and competency.
It’s also a good idea to check their affiliations. Is the repair shop affiliated with the likes of the American Automobile Association (AAA), the Automotive Service Association (ASA), or the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). It’s no guarantee of trustworthiness, but it may indicate that the mechanics have received a certain degree of training or that the repair shop has demonstrated acceptable levels of ethics.
3. Do Your Homework
If you’ve got some idea of what might be wrong with your vehicle, you’re less likely to be seen as a potential victim who can be walked all over by the mechanic. Doing some background research on the potential causes of your problem can give you a rough idea of what you should be spending, and it will allow you to speak intelligently with the mechanic.
4. Get the Quote in Writing
Once you have your quote, get written confirmation so that the price can’t be jacked up on you. This also reduces the likelihood of finding adds-ons tacked onto the bill for work that wasn’t part of the original quote.
5. Gut Check: Do they Seem Legit?
Are the prices prominently displayed? Is it easy to find information on the warranty terms? A good mechanic will have this kind of information on display so that customers will not be confused. You’re right to be wary if you don’t see evidence of this!
Are you given any alternative options to reduce your bill, or are you just given the one solution? Depending on the problem that brought you to the mechanic in the first place, there may be more than one way to fix it, and some options will undoubtedly cost more than others. It can’t hurt to ask!
Are you allowed to stay and watch while work is performed on your car? If they don’t have anything to hide, there shouldn’t be a problem with you waiting around to assess the situation.
6. Are Problems Resolved?
If you do run into problems, you can learn a lot from how the situation is handled. An honest mechanic will want to resolve the problem as quickly as possible and retain your business rather than run the risk that you’ll warn others against using them. How they handle any unexpected obstacles is a telltale sign of the shop’s dependability and quality.
What are your tips for finding a good mechanic that can be relied on without having to pay a small fortune? On the flip side, how can you tell if a mechanic is going to be a nightmare to work with? As always, I’d love to get your thoughts on the subject!
(photo credit: Alan Vernon)