A good, trustworthy mechanic can save you a ton of money in the long run. Unfortunately, a reputable auto mechanic can be hard to come by but here are a few steps to follow that will help with your peace of mind.
Here are a few steps to follow:
- First, try to research various automotive certifications. A good auto mechanic will be ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Certified and should have a certification indicating what areas he is proficient in.
- Another thing to look for is affiliation signs. AAA will certify some local repair shops after examining their credentials and business policies, and they will have a list of those shops on their website.
- Ask around. Your friends, family, and colleagues have cars, and have to get them serviced somewhere. Find out how they feel about their mechanics.
- Check online reviews. Look for reviewers’ overall impression, without too much weight to isolated very bad or very good reviews: a reviewer here and there may be unreasonable, mistaken, dishonest, or simply grumpy.
- Investigate procedures online. Internet sites and discussions can provide “sanity checks” on prices and reasons for repairs. Bear in mind that prices can vary significantly from place to place and a lot from car to car, and that sometimes things do go bad unexpectedly.
- “Stake-out” your local shops. This means driving past and checking out the facilities. Look for clean, orderly grounds and work areas and people engaged purposefully in their work. Grounds chock-full of cars being actively worked through aren’t a bad thing, though perhaps not for you if you have a very valuable car or show-quality finish to protect from even the slightest tap. Take notice of the makes, quantity, and quality of the other customers’ cars. If you drive a 5 year old Ford truck, and the only vehicles you see around are run-down, old Fiats in the parking lot that probably isn’t the place for you.
- Professional drivers are likely to be well-informed, so taxis, limos, or work vans around can indicate a good economical shop.
- Balance price and convenience. Any mechanic should work honestly, effectively, and avoid big surprises on cost or time. Going to a more-expensive shop alone doesn’t guarantee anything, but recognize that it legitimately costs more to provide:
Convenient location. It costs more to rent, or forego income by not renting out, space in a fancy or densely-populated area.
Some shops, typically fancy ones like dealerships, provide free shuttles. A cab ride to and from a shop in an inconvenient area may be well worth the money you can save on a repair.
More time to talk and mitigate unexpected delays. It can sometimes take a lot of time to explain some problems with a level of detail suitable for those not familiar with cars or to deal with unexpected problems that may appear.
More parts on hand. Larger shops, and those that specialize in particular kinds of work or cars, can often save time with parts taken from a comprehensive inventory rather than waiting for them to arrive from elsewhere, though even that can be pretty fast near a city.
Specialization. Many mechanics can do good work on all kinds of common cars. But many parts on antiques work in odd, obsolete ways, and many parts on top-of-the-line luxury cars or exotic cars can work in odd ways to squeeze out a little extra performance. And replacements can be hard to find. So if you have one of these, look for a mechanic who works with similar cars as a substantial part of his business.
Talk to the mechanic, ask questions and request to see the old parts when they are removed. When a mechanic puts a face to the vehicle and knows he may be talking with you again he is more likely to be more particular about how he performs the repairs.