Though many Americans depend on a safe and reliable vehicle to get around, it’s also a big investment. And, while maintaining your vehicle with regular servicing and tune-ups can go a long way to extending its life, finding an auto mechanic you can count on may prove to be a challenge. In fact, a recent survey found that more than 66% of U.S. drivers don’t trust auto repair shops in general.
So how do you identify an experienced, trustworthy mechanic who not only does a good job but also charges fairly — especially if you don’t know much about auto repairs and/or local businesses? Consider these 11 tips to help you find a reliable auto mechanic in your area.
1. Ask Your Neighbors, Family, and Friends
When you’re searching for a mechanic to work on your vehicle, you may feel tempted to go with a brand name or franchise name that you know. However, a local family-owned auto shop that’s dedicated to good customer service as a means to build the business that supports their family, could be just as good or even better.
When trying to decide between a family-owned auto shop or a franchise, ask around. People love to share their stories of who does good work, and who doesn’t.
2. Pay Attention to “Auto Experts” in the Media
Does your local newspaper or television news station have a local auto expert? If so, give their business a call when looking for a knowledgeable auto repair shop. Even though they may not offer the lowest prices in the area, if the area media are willing to showcase their knowledge, chances are they know cars. So don’t choose your mechanic based on price alone.
3. Check With the Better Business Bureau
Although most mechanics are honest and most auto repair shops are trustworthy, every year there are some that leave customers less than happy. In 2016, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) received over 10,000 complaints against auto repair companies.
Before taking your vehicle into a local auto repair shop, check out the reviews for them on the BBB website. You’ll see information about who owns the business and when it started. You’ll also find any reviews, complaints, and BBB accreditations.
4. Look for AAA-Certified Shops
More than 7,000 repair facilities across North America have the distinction of being an Approved Auto Repair (AAR) Facility, as accredited by the American Automobile Association (AAA). An AAR shop meets the strict professional standards of the AAA for customer service, facility appearance, and staff qualification and certification, and may be a good place to start when you need a new auto mechanic.
5. Find an ASE-Certified Mechanic
As with other professions, you may feel some peace of mind when you know you’re dealing with someone who has a professional certification in their field.
The independent nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) tests and certifies automotive professionals. ASE Certification for automotive technicians requires at least two years of on-the-job training or one year plus a two-year degree, plus successfully passing the test. Retests occur every five years to remain ASE-certified.
6. See Who the Bus and Taxi Companies Use
Bus companies and taxi companies depend on their vehicles to run smoothly. Why not call their head office and ask which local auto repair shop they use? Their recommendation could lead you to a trustworthy shop and a mechanic you can depend on.
7. Identify Shops That Have Been in Business Several Years
When considering a new auto repair shop, look for advertisements, window display stickers, or plaques celebrating how long the shop has been in business — the longer, the better. Or just ask. If their other customers hadn’t been satisfied all those years, the business would have folded a long time ago.
8. Take Your Vehicle in for a Minor Service
Before entrusting your vehicle to a new auto repair shop for major work, you can try them out with a smaller job, such as an oil change or tire rotation. See how they do. If they suggest additional work, say you’d like to get a second opinion. The service person’s reaction will tell you a lot about whether it’s a valid recommendation.
And, while you’re at it, ask about their options for payment plans, shop warranties, and senior discounts. Offering some (or all) of these services shows they’re serious about providing good customer service and that they value their customers’ business.
9. Seek out the Educational Experts
Many high schools and community colleges offer auto and shop classes, and the instructors there could be good sources of information about trustworthy local mechanics and auto shops, plus those to stay away from.
They may also have recommendations for mechanics who specialize in working on your make of vehicle, or those with experience working in the service department of the local dealership for your auto manufacturer. If you’re driving a hybrid or electric car, they could point you to a mechanic who understands these new green vehicles.
10. Check for Community Involvement
Businesses of all sorts, including auto repair shops, that are serious about building a long-term business in an area look for ways to become involved in the community they operate in. Taking note of which businesses participate in or support local events can help you figure out who’s committed for the long haul.
While this alone won’t guarantee their level of expertise, it does point to the values of the business owner. Watch out for news on repair shops taking part in fundraisers, community barbecues, and charity events, and make note of the name and location, so you can do a little more research on their automotive experience and services offered.
11. Ask Your Auto Insurer
Did you know that your auto insurance provider may also recommend auto repair shops, and that there could be an added benefit to using one of them? For example, customers may choose to use one of the more than 1,600 authorized auto repair shops in The Hartford’s approved network to work on their vehicle. The Hartford stands behind the completed work to give you peace of mind for as long as you own or lease your vehicle.
For many people, a vehicle is a significant investment, often second only in value to a home. It’s important to choose your auto repair shop and mechanic carefully — to help ensure you receive quality work at a fair price and keep your vehicle running smoothly.