Car ownership comes with perks. You get freedom of moment and, if the car is nice enough, a little bit of status. Of course, it comes with some downsides as well.
The biggest downside is both preventative and emergency car maintenance. On average, people spend around $400 a year dealing with vehicle maintenance. Part of that downside is the perennial problem of finding the best mechanic you can trust.
Since your money and safety are on the line, it’s a pressing issue for most vehicle owners. You want a mechanic who will do the job right, not overcharge you, and not sell you on unnecessary repairs.
If you’re looking for a mechanic, keep reading for some tips on choosing the right one.
Car repairs and maintenance are something that almost everyone has to deal with on a regular basis. If nothing else, people need their oil changed and their tires rotated. Fender benders are also very common, so there is a good chance you know someone who had some repair work done in the recent past as well.
By asking around for the best car mechanic in the area, you should end up with a list of businesses that people close to you trust. You’ll likely also get a list of places to never take your car for any reason. Both lists are useful.
The first list becomes the basis for more research. The second list helps you eliminate a bunch of possibilities, reducing your overall workload in finding a mechanic.
Online review sites are often a goldmine of information about how a business actually operates. If a garage routinely overcharges people or tries to sell customers on unnecessary repairs, odds are good people complained about them online. If a mechanic offers excellent customer service and top-tier work, people will likely talk about that online as well.
As useful as online reviews are for future customers, take individual reviews with a grain of sale. Almost anyone can post to those sites, which means competitors can create fake profiles and leave terrible reviews. It also means that businesses can hire people to leave positive reviews.
Rather than focus on a specific bad review or specific good review, take a look at the overall gist of the reviews. Do you spot any trends in complaints or praise? If so, those are usually a good indicator where a mechanic excels or falls short.
Brand Specific Shops
Dealership garages almost always provide service for a specific brand of car. It’s somewhat less common for private garages to specialize that way, but it does happen. Finding a shop that services your brand of vehicle is often a good way to get good service on that car.
Shops that specialize that way often seek certification from the manufacturer or from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. Check their website for those kinds of automotive industry certifications. It’s a good indicator that they have the right expertise, at least for your car or truck.
If you switch to another brand of car, though, you’ll likely have to start over and find another specialist shop if you prefer them.
When a major repair rolls around, it’s a bad time for you to be searching for a good mechanic. You want one you already trust for the job.
Let’s say that you’ve narrowed down a list of potential mechanics. Use those mechanics for smaller work. Have them do an oil change, install new brake pads, or change out your coolant.
That gives you a golden opportunity to see if they do the work carefully. It also lets you test out their customer service approach and billing practices.
Are they friendly? Do they answer questions? Is the final bill consistent with their stated prices or estimates?
If you can answer yes to those questions and the shop does careful work, you’ve found a good mechanic for future work.
It might sound a little trite, but people really are busy. If you must drive 45 minutes out of your way to visit a mechanic, you probably won’t go there. You should limit your search to an area that you find convenient.
That distance will vary from person to person, but you should start with mechanics who work nearby your home or workplace. Visiting them for work will prove more convenient, which means you’re less likely to put off repairs and maintenance.
Keeping after those routine maintenance tasks and minor repairs will extend your car’s working life and help prevent major problems down the road.
No one likes overpaying for things, whether it’s a retail product or a necessary service. Most mechanics and service shops will list pricing. You’ll often see a flat rate for routine services like brake service, alignments, oil changes, and coolant changes.
Let’s say you’ve noticed some bad axle symptoms. You want a mechanic to check it out. In most cases, there isn’t a flat rate for that kind of diagnostic work and the repairs that follow.
Even so, they should have some kind of information about their hourly rates for that type of work right on their website or offer a free estimate. If you can’t find some clear pricing information, steer clear.
If a mechanic’s rates are substantially higher than anyone else in the area, it’s not necessarily a red flag. Their skill may justify the price, but you should see if you can find testimonials or reviews that back up paying that premium for the services offered.
Picking the Best Mechanic
Picking the best mechanic can take a while. You must ask for recommendations or at least do some research on review sites. You may even want a brand-specific shop for a higher-end vehicle.
You’ll likely want to test out a couple of places to see how they measure up in terms of customers service, work quality, and billing. Plus, you must evaluate their pricing and if it’s consistent with their skill and quality.
Looking for more automotive tips? Check out the posts in our Auto section.