How to Pick a Mechanic
Mechanics get a bad rap when the reality is that most are honest and reliable. That said, here are seven steps you can take to ensure you pick the right mechanic for your prized ride.
Whether you’re starting to hear a grinding sound as you shift gears or you’re tired of your car being difficult to start from time to time, visiting a mechanic will likely become a reality for any driver on the road today. It’s not a matter of IF you’ll have to spend time in the waiting room of your local auto mechanic, it’s a matter of WHEN. Take the time to arm yourself with enough information to make an informed and confident choice when faced with an impending repair. Here are seven steps to help you pick a quality mechanic:
1. Read reviews: Yes, you may need to approach some reviews with an air of skepticism, but if a shop is consistently blasted online – especially for questionable or unethical practices, steer clear. Look closely, though, because a 5-star shop may only have one or two reviews, and the sample size does matter.
2. Check on car forums: This is especially good advice if you drive something that boasts a raving fan base across the nation. For instance, certain sport coupes, muscle cars, and even pickup trucks have a serious online following, and you can ask these aficionados where they take their vehicles. They’ll likely only work with the best.
3. Visit a few shops: Just as you’d never eat at a restaurant that operated under unsanitary conditions, don’t work with a mechanic that can’t clean up after himself. Dirty shops equal a disorganized operation, and that same train of thought may bleed over into the quality of repairs you can expect.
4. Chat with the techs: There’s nothing wrong with spending a few minutes chatting with the “automotive doctors” in the service bays. You’re not looking for riveting conversation here – just get a feel for the technicians in the service area and see if they seem like engaged, thoughtful mechanics who will treat your vehicle appropriately.
5. Start small: Instead of trusting an unproven repair shop with a big job like an engine rebuild, take your car there for an oil change and tire rotation. A minor service appointment can help you gain an understanding of their business, without having to risk more than $30 or $40.
6. Check parts prices: Labor rates are often consistent from shop to shop, but the markup on parts is one area where mechanics often make considerable profits. They are in business to make money, but you shouldn’t feel price gouged by any repair facility. Ask them what parts they’ll use before committing to any work, get a repair estimate in writing, and then do your homework. The parts prices should also be similar to what you’d pay at an auto parts store.
7. Listen to your neighbors: Trust the input of the people you trust. No amount of flashy advertising, positive online reviews, or decades in business can outweigh the trusted counsel of your friends and family. They have high standards – especially high when they’re referring you to a mechanic for potentially costly repairs.
Having to repair your vehicle from time to time is inevitable – but it doesn’t have to be a painful experience. If you’re confident in finding a quality automotive repair facility, but don’t want to have to worry about the out-of-pocket expense, consider investing in a extended warranty instead. The extended warranty’s small monthly payments may help you avoid serious lump-sum charges for covered repairs – and that’s something that anyone can cheer about.
* A Vehicle Service Contract (VSC) is often referred to as an “extended warranty,” but it is not a warranty. A VSC does, however, provide repair coverage for your vehicle after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. A VSC is a contract between you and a VSC provider or administrator that states what is a covered repair and what is not.