Horror stories about car repair and maintenance shops ripping off unsuspecting car owners are common. Unfortunately, most people see their doctor more often than they need an auto mechanic. Like finding a family physician, finding an auto mechanic that you can trust requires some homework and relationship building.
Where to find a car mechanic nearby
Auto mechanic shops typically fall into one of four types: locally owned and independent auto mechanic shops, name-brand franchise owners, and local car dealerships representing auto mechanics with a vested interest in their community.
In contrast, corporate-owned auto service chain stores employ a revolving door of car mechanics and managers, reports Family Handyman. While there are no guarantees about the trustworthiness of any of these situations, the shops with local owners most likely have the most significant investment in your satisfaction and word-of-mouth advertising.
Questions to ask before dropping off your car
Before taking your car to a mechanic, it’s worth making a phone call to ask some questions, but don’t call at closing time or on Saturdays as these are busy times. Instead, call early on a weekday and ask if it’s a good time to talk to the owner or if they can call you back to answer some questions about their shop. Don’t give up if you have to call several places or call back a few times before speaking with someone.
When you speak to someone, ask them if they are locally owned and ask about their mechanics’ experience levels. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder for shops to hire highly experienced mechanics due to a declining interest in the field since the 1990s, but as long as there is some depth in the shop, it’s a good starting point.
Next, ask about the shop’s certifications and continuing education programs. Mechanics that certify through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), participate in online seminars, attend classes held by manufacturers or vendors, or complete other training courses are more likely to be knowledgeable of current technology and trends. Along with education, inquiring about a shop’s reference tools should return an answer involving an online database and computer diagnostics.
Seek out referrals and mechanic reviews
A reputable auto mechanic or car repair shop survives by keeping its customers happy. Asking friends in your circle if they know a reputable auto repair shop is a great way to find a mechanic you can trust, as are online reviews.
However, remember that people with bad experiences are more likely to leave a review than those with good experiences. Still, several bad reviews for honesty or quality are a red flag you should not ignore.
You’ve chosen an auto mechanic, now what?
When you arrive at your car care appointment, it’s time to ask a few more questions about the repair, like what you should expect, including how long it will take, how much it will cost, and what they will do to fix your car. An experienced mechanic should explain the process in a way most people can understand. If they cannot, it may be in your best interest to keep searching.
Ideally, your first trip to your new mechanic should involve simple maintenance instead of a costly repair. If they treat you fairly and with respect, return the favor with an honest review, including how they treated you as a person. Very few auto mechanics would ever turn down a plate of fresh cookies or a box of donuts.