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Choosing the Right Repair Shop

Take the guesswork out of finding a good repair shop

by Autobytel Staff
June 6, 2007

When you take your car in for repairs or service, don't just drop your vehicle off at the nearest establishment and hope for the best. That's not choosing a shop, that's merely gambling, and not a good idea if you want the job done right. The following advice should take much of the guesswork out of finding a good repair establishment.

    • Read your owner's manual and be familiar with your vehicle. Follow the manufacturer's suggested service schedule.

    • Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one; you can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic. Have a plan B: A second shop so if your mechanic is backed up or closed when you need them, you’ll have an alternate shop to choose from. If you have a lengthy commute, you may want to consider finding a reputable shop at both ends of your trip in case of a breakdown at one end or the other.

    • Ask friends and associates for their recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word-of-mouth reputation is still valuable.

    • Check with your local consumer organization regarding the reputation of the shop in question.

    • If possible, arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a facility solely on the basis of location.

    • Once you choose a repair shop, start off with a minor job; if you are pleased, trust them with more complicated repairs later.

    • Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.

    • Beware of extravagant lobbies and customer waiting areas, those extra amenities are paid for by customers, often through higher prices or extraneous repairs.

    • Professionally run establishments will have a courteous, helpful staff. The service writer should be willing to answer all of your questions.

    • Feel free to ask for the names of a few customers. Call them.

    • All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.

    • Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize.

    • Be sure the shop usually does your type of repair, especially if you need major work.

    • Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards.

    • Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications - a national standard of technician competence.

    • The backbone of any shop is the competence of its technicians.

    • Keep good records; keep all paperwork.

    • Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship.

    • If the service was not all you expected, don't rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.

    • Even if you are happy with your regular mechanic, occasionally have the car checked over by your alternate shop. They may find something your usual repair facility missed and it’s also an opportunity to get a second opinion on those next visit service recommendations printed on your last invoice.

By Staff Photo credit: Automakers


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