REPAIRING MY CAR > How to Choose a Great Mechanic

How to Choose a Great Mechanic


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Great – the car won’t start. Why does this always seem to happen on a dark and rainy night – when you’re running late?

So what kind of options do you have when it is time to fix the car? There are several sources of car repair. I will discuss the two major repair shop options. Read on and find out how to find a trustworthy mechanic.

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 drivetrain. 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.

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

The Dealership Option

Let’s explore 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 their familiarity and experience with your brand of car. These are generally 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 independent auto repair shops. Finding the best one can potentially save a lot of money, but it requires some legwork. These days, that generally means getting on the computer and doing some research. There are several places to look when it comes to finding an honest mechanic. 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 a shop’s quality and reputation. Some other things to look for are AAA ratings and if the shop’s mechanics are ASE certified. ASE certification means that the technician has taken approved training classes and has been tested for knowledge on certain specialties.

It never hurts to check up on a shop with the Better Business Bureau – if they have a lot of complaints, I would move on. I always like to support the local little guys.

Making Your Decision – Where to Have the Car Repaired

Whoa fella, take a few minutes before you open up that wallet. In making your decision, you need to investigate pricing. It is always a good idea to call around to two or three independent shops and compare those costs against what the dealership quotes. I generally call the shop and give them a detailed description of what the car is doing. If the car is disabled, it will be necessary to have your car towed into a shop. Choose one that offers free inspections.

Once they have determined the most likely source of your problem, you need to ask how much it will cost and how long it will take to do the job. Always ask what type of guarantee they put on the repairs. You don’t need the same issue to come up a month later. I hate that!

Choosing a shop is always a balancing act. If you have done all of your research, then you know how to find an honest mechanic. When it comes to getting the work done, you obviously want the repair done right the first time and at the best price by a fully qualified facility. If you do your homework, you can get your car fixed properly and have the peace of mind that it has been done right.

The Laundry List of Auto Repairs

One thing to be prepared for is when a 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 repair that is currently 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 paperwork 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 you asking – and getting – a higher price for your car when you sell it. 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.

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. This puts more money in your pocket to apply toward the next car. Hey, you have done all the needed repairs, so take advantage of your records and get top dollar.

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