REPAIRING MY CAR > How Do I Choose a Good Mechanic?

How Do I Choose a Good Mechanic?

When it comes to picking a mechanic to fix your car be on your toes

If you don’t want to get ripped off on a car repair you need to compare repair shops and mechanics. Prices and reliability can vary like night and day. Call around because knowledge is power. I leaned this lesson when my Vanagon needed brakes. The dealership hit me with a $1,200 quote. Stunned, I took it to an independent shop and only paid $300. Hmmm. In this post we will look at the options for car repair. We will examine going with your cars dealership or an independent repair shop. Believe it or not there is value in each choice.

Where Do I Take My Car?

How do you decide where to have the car fixed? Basically, you have two choices. You can either go to your vehicle’s dealership or choose an independent repair shop. If your car is under the factory warranty this is an easy decision if it is a covered repair. Typical warranties cover the basic drive train. That’s the engine, transmission and related components as well as things like the electrical system and accessories. They generally cover most systems that are classified as non-wear items. This means that things like brakes and tires are not included. I ran into a situation with a brake repair to our family mini van. I noticed some squeeking coming from the front brakes of the van. Being that it was very new I decided to take it to the dealer. I was shocked by the price they quoted. They wanted to replace the entire brake system. I felt this was outrageous.  I pulled my car out of their shop and took it to a well reviewed independent repair shop. They found that just the brake pads were worn. It came in at one fifth of the price.

Most warranties cover the first three years or 36,000 miles of use. There are a handful of manufacturers that offer longer – even up to 100,000 mile warranties. Refer to your owner’s manual or check with your brand’s service department for specific information on your car.

The Dealership Option

Let’s get into the dealership option a little bit more. In my experience most dealerships charge a higher hourly rate and have more expensive replacement parts than the typical independent repair shop. However, one thing to consider with a dealership is its familiarity and experience with your brand of car. Some other things to take into account are that your dealer will generally have highly trained technicians and they have any specialized tools that may be needed to fix your particular car.

The Independent Repair Shop Option

The second option is the independent auto repair shops. Finding the best one can potentially save a lot of money but it requires some leg work – or at least some computer research. Some of the best places to start are consumer sites like Yelp. With their star rating system and customer reviews you can get a good idea of the shops quality and reputation. Some other things to look for are AAA ratings and if the shops mechanics are ASE certified. ASE certification means that the technician has taken approved training classes and has been tested for knowledge on specific specialties.

It never hurts to check up on a shop with the Better Business Bureau – if there are a lot of complaints I would move on.

Decide On Where to Have the Car Repair Done

Investigate pricing between the two sources of repair. It is always a good idea to call around to two or three independent shops and compare cost against what the dealership quotes. I usually call the shop and give a detailed description of what the car is doing. In some cases when the car is disabled it will be necessary to have your car towed. Choose a mechanic that offers free inspections.

Once the most likely source of the problem has been identified, ask how much it will cost and how long it will take to do the job. Always ask what type of guarantee there is on repairs. You don’t need the same issue to come up a month later.

The Laundry List of Auto Repairs

One thing to be prepared for is the situation when the shop gives you a laundry list of things wrong with your car. Trust me, if your car is over three years old there is always something that can be fixed – but is it necessary? This can happen at dealerships as well as independents. What I have done in the past is to prioritize the repairs my car needs. Ask your technician to list the repairs in order of importance. Choose the most needed items first – you can then prioritize the repairs and tackle them to fit your budget. Not every repair needs to be done right away. Obviously you need the specific repair that is affecting your vehicle. Also, items that impact safety should always be addressed immediately.

Save All of Your Car Repair Records

One last bit of advice is to save all of your paper work for repairs done to your car. This helps you remember what has been done in the past so you can keep up with any recommended repairs for the future. Also, these records are very valuable when it comes time to sell your car. Having the service history and proof that you have kept your car in top mechanical condition will justify asking – and getting a higher price for your car when you sell it. If you are able to prove that your car is in great shape it puts you toward the top of blue book trade in value. People want to buy a car that has been well maintained. It gives them peace of mind knowing that they have chosen the right used car. This is true with trade in value at a dealership too.

Decide Who Will Fix Your Broken Car

To wrap things up we have covered the two main sources for auto repairs – dealerships and independent repair shops. We have discussed doing your research when selecting the best shop to work on your car. We have also learned how to find an honest mechanic. Finally, we went over prioritizing recommended repairs so they fit your budget. But remember, any safety related issues should be seriously considered when having your car fixed. I would hate to take my car in for something like a radiator repair and ignore advice that my brakes where shot! Be smart – know all of your options.


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