Finding a good, trustworthy mechanic you can count on when the unexpected happens or just when you need regular maintenance can be daunting. You have three options for service – a dealership, national chain, or local, independent repair shop. In general, an independent shop will charge less for parts and labor. And, according to Consumer Reports, customers report better satisfaction at local repair shops than dealers.
If you need a repair that’s covered by the warranty, you can go to the dealer or ask them which repair facilities are approved to make the repair. For routine maintenance and other repairs, you can go anywhere you want without voiding your car’s warranty. And actually, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to deny your warranty coverage if you go somewhere else. Click here to read more how to avoid warranty issues.
Check out these tips to help you find a good mechanic.
- Check for certifications and affiliations. The mechanic should be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Look for the ASE Blue Seal in the office or waiting room. Also, the technician may be wearing the seal on their uniform. Ask if they’re affiliated with any other organizations like AAA, Better Business Bureau, or Automotive Service Association (ASA). There are also AAA Approved Repair Facilities – the facility has been inspected, adequate technician training verified, and customer satisfaction surveys conducted.
- Ask your friends and family for recommendations. The best recommendations usually come from the people we trust. Ask if the facility was clean? Did they provide a written estimate? Was the repair completed when they promised? Did they have a shuttle? What was the waiting room like?
- Find a shop that specializes in your car or similar car. While most mechanics are able to work on all cars, some do specialize in cars or types of cars. They’re more likely to have the latest training, equipment, and parts to fix your car.
- Read reviews. Look at online review sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Mechanic Files at Cartalk.com to see what other people are saying about the facility. Remember, you want to get an overall impression, so don’t put too much emphasis on an isolated very bad or good review. Check if your local newspaper has “best of” voting such as the The OC Register’s annual “The Best of OC” picks. Plus, you can check with the Better Business Bureau about customer complaints.
- Have a trial run at the repair shop. Before taking your car in for a major repair, have a small repair fixed or regular maintenance performed. You’ll have a better sense of their honesty, competence, price, and speed.
- Ask about their warranty policy. What’s covered – parts and/or labor? How long is the warranty period? Is there a cost?
- Talk to the mechanic and ask questions. A good technician will be friendly, helpful, and excited to teach you about your car. Plus, it’s a good sign if they give repair options that save you money. Most importantly, make sure they’re not bothered by you asking questions.
- Get a written estimate BEFORE making any repairs. You can use an online price estimator like RepairPal.com, Napa AutoCare Repair or Consumer Report’s Car Repair Estimator to check if the estimate is fair and honest.