By far the most popular question we get is, “How Do I Find A Mechanic I Can Trust?”. This proposal remains very difficult to answer. The fact of the matter is that the quality of service you will receive will depend entirely on the actually mechanic working on your car. I’ve met fantastic and terrible mechanics at dealerships, chains and independent shops. Here are a few tips for finding the right mechanic for you.
Talk to the mechanics. This approach is far more difficult at some facilities, such as larger dealerships, but will garner the best results. If the mechanic attempts to talk over your head with technical jargon, I’d steer clear of him. He is most likely trying to impress you because he is actually a fairly low level mechanic. Similarly, I’d avoid a mechanic who talks down to you just because your car doesn’t happen to be your area of expertise. Look for someone who tries to explain things as clearly and as straight forward as possible. Most mechanics I have respect for always use a visual aid of some sort to help explain the situation.
Get several estimates in writing and read them carefully. Often times a shop will attempt to lure a customer in by offering a “lower price”, but these low ball estimates are often missing key components, or have lower quality parts attached to them. Similarly, many shops go for the “get them once” approach, where they will simply charge way more than any other shop in town. The idea here is that they may not get your business ever again, but they got as much as they could out of you the one time you visited their shop. Carefully compare the parts and labor costs. Ask the shop where they get their parts. After looking through a handful of estimates, it will most likely be very clear who you will prefer to do business with.
Ask what kind of warranty they offer. 12 months and 12 thousand miles remains an industry standard warranty, but each shop is different. Many shops, from independents to dealerships also offer a nation wide warranty. Questions about whether or not a shop will stand behind their repair will allow you to gauge how likely it is they will fix your car appropriately. Furthermore, any mechanic that becomes offended when questioned about his warranty should be avoided.
Look for a specialist. All mechanics have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to repairing vehicles. If you can find a shop that specializes in your specific vehicle, or a mechanic at a shop who specializes in your particular vehicle, you will often come out ahead. This remains one area that dealerships will always have an advantage because their mechanics work on the same make day in and day out.
Ask for references. Any mechanic worth his salt will have a long list of customers who will vouch for his skills and honesty.
If you do have a vehicle repaired, check your invoice to see if the mechanic has included the four C’s. A mechanic who does include the four C’s is almost always better than one who does not.
Lastly, I would offer the suggestion that most mechanics are not that bad. Many of us are just folks that like to fix cars. The problem is that a small percentage of mechanics are truly just crooks, and that small portion of the market has given us all a bad name. If you do a little home work, and ask the right questions, I am sure you can find an honest mechanic who will take care of you as if you were one of the family.