If you’re like most people, you drive almost every day. That means you depend on the quality of your vehicle’s maintenance to keep it running and safe. With so much at stake, you need a skilled, reliable, and honest mechanic. Here’s how to look for one.
Start now, before you need repairs. Establishing a good working relationship with a garage of your choice is key. Schedule routine maintenance so that you get a feel for the service and pricing before you need major work done.
Avoid scams. Having a trusted mechanic helps you avoid being the victim of unethical business practices. For example, if your vehicle must be towed after a breakdown or accident, you’ll need to tell the driver where to take your car. Without a trusted resource, you may end up relying on the towing service’s recommendation. It’s not unheard of for a towing company and a garage to have a business relationship whereby the towing company receives a kickback for directing clients to the garage.
Use online and word-of-mouth reviews. Ask friends, colleagues, and neighbors what garage they use. Pay particular attention to those who have the same make and model of vehicle as you. Consult the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Angie’s List and other review sources to get a wide range of comments.
Review the premises. Is the building in good repair? Major condition issues such as uneven stairs, peeling paint, warped windows, and worn, sun-faded displays are red flags. Is the shop floor well organized? Sloppy maintenance of premises, work area, and tools may indicate a lack of professionalism and possible safety and ethics issues. Don’t worry about the typical grime – automotive repair involves dealing with dirt and oil, and a certain amount is normal.
Check how long the garage has been in business. How many years’ experience does the owner have? How long have shop personnel been with the business? Ask about vehicle make and model expertise. Does the shop’s representative have experience with your vehicle’s make and model? Do they have the most recent vehicle diagnostic systems? Have the technicians been trained specifically in maintaining your type of vehicle?
Check accreditations and certifications. Do you see professional memberships and certifications posted? Is the business part of the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) approved auto repair network? Are technicians certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence or factory-trained by vehicle manufacturers? These certifications indicate advanced levels of professional standards and knowledge and show the shop’s investment in professional excellence.
Ask about warranties. Do they guarantee their work in writing? If not, why not? Ask about insurance. Does the shop have business owners, general liability, and workers’ compensation insurance? A business that doesn’t have insurance is not one you want to do business with. It may not have insurance because it failed an inspection.
Review paperwork and process. Does the shop provide written estimates and service plans? Does the estimate include parts and labor? Does the shop follow the maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer? What kind of documentation is provided after a repair? Sparse or sloppy paperwork can be a good indication of lax professional standards.
Ask about pricing and payment terms. Make sure you have a clear understanding about how you will be charged and the methods of payment accepted.
Find out what conveniences the shop offers. If you have to travel while your car is in the shop, will they provide you with transportation? Are loaner cars or shuttles available? If so, is there a charge? Does the shop offer service reminders via email or text? Will someone call to let you know when the vehicle is ready?
A good maintenance shop can greatly extend the life of your vehicle and help keep you out of accidents. Use these tips to help you find skilled, reputable automotive maintenance and repair professionals who’ll help keep you on the road.
Our Risk Coaches™ are licensed insurance professionals who are trained to look at coverage from your perspective. They’re glad to help you navigate the often-perplexing world of insurance coverage. Contact your local Risk Coach professional or call us at 800.342.5342, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET.