Look for an honest mechanic BEFORE you need emergency repairs. If you wait until your car breaks down, you’ll be rushed into making a decision. First, verifying any warranties or service records you have to get an idea of what you’ll need in the future and what’s covered by warranties. Then, take advantage of any currently active warranties for general upkeep and maintenance. And finally, use the following tips to gather a list of mechanics in your area and narrow it down to the perfect place.
Skip the dealership. If your car is still under warranty and the service you need is free or deeply discounted, then head to the dealership. If not, head to an independent shop — they’re cheaper. On average, AutoMD says drivers save up to $300 a year by using an independent shop over a dealership.
Get a referral from someone your trust. Referrals are a great place to start, especially if you know someone who own a cars similar to yours. Check out the used-car classifieds and calling people who own your make and model to see which mechanics they’ve used.
Find a mechanic who specializes in your car. Ask if he specializes in a certain make or type of car. If not, ask what cars types they work on the most. And make sure the shop you use has the right equipment for your vehicle, otherwise, the mechanic may not fix the problem correctly, and you could find yourself right back in the shop.
Ignore referrals from someone with a monetary interest in where you take your car. Some tow truck companies or drivers have contracts with mechanics to bring in new clients. While some may be honest, you should do your own research first. Take their suggestion and look into the establishments reviews before approving any work. Check the BBB, Yelp and CarTalk’s database for ratings and reviews.
Look for government approved certifications and memberships:
ASE certification – mechanics must pass tests to obtain an ASE (or Automotive Service Excellence) certification.
ASA membership – mechanics must pledge to uphold certain standards, including excellent customer service and high-quality work to obtain membership with the Automotive Service Association.
AAA – these AAA approved mechanics are required to offer a 12-month or 12,000-mile warranty to join the AAA’s repair shop database.
Don’t shop by price alone. You don’t need to pay top dollar to get great service, but you can’t base your decision on price alone. Comparison shop to find out if you’re getting a raw deal.
Ask the mechanic to take a ride with you so you’re both on the same page as to what the problem might be; do this again when you pick your car up. Make sure the problem is taken care of before you pay them.
Always ask for a written estimate. Most states have laws that require a written and signed estimate before any work is done, including diagnostic work. If you don’t have it when you leave your car, you don’t have any legal means to fight back with if needed. If the shop refuses, find another shop — period. Never ever sign a blank work order.
Ask for a warranty. A great mechanic has no problem backing up his work with a warranty or guarantee. Look for the longest warranty with the most options – 90 days is an ideal option.
Ask about parts. Ask what brand or type of parts the mechanic uses and why. Some mechanics use only factory parts, but they’re more expensive than aftermarket parts. A good mechanic only uses factory parts when they have no other option and aftermarket parts more often to save his customers money.
Take your new mechanic for a test drive with a small repair, like an oil change or air filter replacement first. If the mechanic can’t do small jobs well, can you really trust him to rebuild your engine or replace your brakes?
Ask questions. The mechanic should answer all of them in layman’s terms and without attitude. If the mechanic blows you off, acts put out by talking to you, or doesn’t break down complicated concepts, don’t give him your business. It’s your money, and you deserve to know where it’s going and why.
Remember: You are paying the bill. Do your research, get informed and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If a mechanic can’t take the time to explain things so you understand them, you’re in the wrong shop.
Having said all that, when you find an honest mechanic — and they are out there — make sure they know you will remain faithful to them.