5 Steps for Finding a Car Mechanic

VEHICLES - mechanic Photo Credit: Glenn Hansen

5 Steps for Finding a Car Mechanic

Below is a starter list of questions to consider when looking for a mechanic. Be sure to talk with your insurance company — they may have a preferred list.

1. Getting Started

  1. Read your owner’s manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer’s suggested service schedule.
  2. Look for a mechanic before you need repairs.
  3. Make a list of mechanics and repair shops in your area (look in a phone book or online). You may want to choose a facility close to a public transportation line, your home or work. Imagine what you would need to get around if you didn’t have your car.
  4. Consider what type of business you would prefer: dealership, retail chain stores or an independently-owned business.
  5. Ask friends and associates for recommendations before choosing a facility.
    • Ask about the mechanic’s competence, reliability and honesty.
    • Ask about the quality of the work.
    • Ask about the cost of the prices.
  6. Check with the Better Business Bureau and your local consumer organizations about the reputation of the mechanic/business. Ask about past complaints and how they were resolved.
  7. Check to see if the auto repairs shop is certified by The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence — a professional certification testing organization for mechanics. ASE-certified mechanics must undergo training and testing every five years to keep their certification. (Click here to find ASE approved repairs shops in your area.)
  8. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, check out a few shops. It is important, if possible, to get estimates from a few different mechanics.

WHN TIP – The Smallest Detail: Put together a list of the problems you noticed about the car: what noises or smells you noticed and where they seem to be coming from. Also, tell the mechanic the last time you had your car serviced and past problems.

2. At the Mechanic

Take some time to look around the shop. The shop should be clean, professional and organized.

Look for local community service awards, Better Business Bureau membership, American Automobile Association (AAA) awards, trade school diplomas and certificates.

3. Questions to Ask About Shop Policies

  • Are you and your staff ASE-certified?
  • Do you attend any other classes? (Mechanics may take ongoing training.)
  • Do you normally work on my type of car (mention the make and model)? Do you specialize in certain types of cars (European, Japanese, domestic, etc.)?
  • What brand(s) of replacement parts does your shop use?
  • What is your labor rate? According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), labor rates range nationally from $30 to $100 per hour.
  • What are your policies on estimates and repairs?
  • What is your preferred method of payment?
  • Do you work with any towing companies or body shops for collision repairs?
  • Do you have a list of references of current customers?

WHN TIP – References: Ask for references of people who have had different repairs, cars and at different times of the year. This will give you a good range.

4. Questions to Ask About Your Vehicle

  • What is wrong with my car? Ask questions about what isn’t working and what needs to be repaired. Ask the mechanic to explain and show you the problem.
  • How much will this repair cost?
  • How long will it take to do this repair?
  • Do you have a loaner car that I can use while mine is being worked on?
  • Do you guarantee that estimate? Can I get that in writing?

WHN TIP – Estimates: Get all estimates in writing. Make sure all your estimates lay out the problem being repaired and all the costs for labor, parts, services, etc. Understand that labor costs may be hard to estimate in advance.

  • Do you offer a year-long or certain amount of miles guarantee on your work?
  • My car is also covered by a warranty (not all cars have this). Would you honor that warranty as well?

WHN TIP – Warranties: The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends looking for at least a 12-month or 12,000-mile warranty.

5. After the Visit

  • Call the list of references the mechanic provided and ask about problems they might have had and how they were resolved.
  • Evaluate your visit.
  • Was the staff helpful and courteous?
  • Did the staff make you feel at ease?
  • Did they answer your questions?
  • Did they take the time to explain areas that you didn’t understand?
  • Did the mechanic ask questions about my car?
  • Was the shop clean and organized?
  • Remember to keep all receipts, repair orders and paperwork.

Once you have chosen a mechanic, test out the place with routine maintenance like rotating tires or an oil change. Continue to evaluate their performance and work.

If you are unhappy with a service, discuss the problem with the manager. If the service isn’t satisfactory, consider looking for a different mechanic. Remember to keep all receipts, repair orders and paperwork.

Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder

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