4 Ways to Find a Reputable Mechanic
Let’s face it, if you barely know the radio from a radiator, taking your car in for maintenance and repairs can be intimidating.
I'm lucky to have a great mechanic who has worked on my family's vehicles for nearly two decades (you're the best, Paul). But the years I spent living out of state made life a bit difficult. Put it this way — I went on the hunt for a suitable replacement for Paul long before I started thinking about finding a new primary care physician.
But some consumers aren't so lucky. For folks on the move or simply without a trusted mechanic, finding a shop you can trust can at times prove challenging, even for those who know a thing or two about cars. Here are a few ways you can prepare for a mechanic visit and avoid wasting your money. (See also: 6 Sites Every Car Owner Needs to Bookmark Now)
Research the Shop
Just like your doctor and hair stylist, you want to trust the person working with your car. Research the shop’s reputation by searching customer reviews. The Better Business Bureau is a good source, but also check to see if the shop and its technicians have an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. (Typically shops will display the blue logo and technicians will wear a patch on their uniform.) ASE certifications ensure your mechanic has been trained and tested with automotive standards.
Research and Know Your Car’s Needs
Check out your car’s suggested maintenance standards in the manual. VideoJug mentions filters specifically. It’s common to replace an oil filter every oil change, but air filters can be shaken out. Other filters may go longer than what your mechanic suggests.
Also, mechanics may say oil changes are required every 3,000 miles, but newer engines can go up to 7,500 miles. Be aware of other add-ons as well. VideoJug says most cars do not need a flush until 60,000 miles, and cars built in the past ten years do not need parts to be lubed.
Know Common Sales Tactics
Some mechanics may say your car warranty is only valid if used in a particular shop, but warranties are valid at multiple places as long as you follow the recommended maintenance and keep receipts.
Superior Car Talk says it’s not uncommon for mechanics to charge for work they do not do and parts they do not replace. To avoid this, you can discretely mark parts (like a tire that’s to be rotated) and verify the service later. You can also ask the mechanic to show you the part that was replaced, but again use a mark because some may just pull a part from a junk pile.
Ask to see the parts that need work before agreeing to replacement. That way you can verify the treading, pad, belt, or whatever part is actually worn down.
Bills should fall within 10% of an estimate. Do not agree to pay for an outrageous difference in price if you did not officially agree to extra services and charges.
Test Your Mechanic
Be wary of mechanics who do not allow you in the shop. You should be able to view their working environment and check on your car’s progress. Also, pay attention to how the mechanic treats you. Are they asking questions and listening to what you have to say? Are they taking you on a test drive to experience the problem with you?
Get multiple opinions. Take your car to two different shops, and see if the same problem gets diagnosed. Also, research the diagnosis and see typical prices for repairs and use those to compare to what your mechanic says.
Check your tire pressure before going into the shop and ask your mechanic to top off the air. Then you can check after the service to see if they really took care of you.
Another way to test the honesty of a potential mechanic is to, well, be dishonest. Some consumer advocates suggest taking your car in when nothing is wrong. If the mechanic comes back with a bunch of problems, you know it's time to look elsewhere.