Going to the auto repair shop can raise stressful questions, regardless of whether it is your first visit or your 20th. What's wrong with my car? Does this repair or service really need to be done today? How much should the work cost? Is my repair or service going to be done correctly the first time? Out of all of the questions you may have about repairing and servicing your car, answering the questions below will do the most to help give you confidence in your shop and ensure that you have a hassle-free experience.
1. Is the shop I am considering high quality?
While reading online reviews can help you learn more about a shop, it doesn’t always provide enough information to really help you determine everything you need to know about it. A reviewer may have experienced good customer service at a shop, but they may not be in a position to assess the quality of the work under their hood.
To get more about of reading reviews, look for shops with reviews from large numbers of real customers. However, you should also search for signs of quality beyond reviews. Look for shops where all of the technicians on staff have National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications, and shops that provide warranties on all of their repairs. While no one sign is a foolproof way to tell if a shop is high quality, taken together these are great indicators that you are going to find experts who stand behind their work.
RepairPal Certified shops have been evaluated by our team of ASE Certified Master Technicians for expert staff, the right equipment and excellent customer satisfaction scores. Also, all RepairPal Certified shops stand behind their work with a minimum 12-month / 12,000-mile warranty.
2. What kind of shop should I visit?
Most automotive shops that specialize in mechanical repair may not replace auto glass, fix dents, or apply paint. Make sure that the auto shops you are evaluating specialize in the kind of work you have in mind. Currently, RepairPal certifies automotive shops for mechanical repairs only. This allows us to focus our expertise, insuring the most rigorous evaluations of shops.
You may also want to ask the shop if they specialize in your make of vehicle, as this likely means they have the correct tools and expertise to work on your car. RepairPal mechanic searches are always both zip code and make-specific so that the shop suggestions you receive are the best match for your vehicle.
3. What kind of work does my car need?
You don’t need to be able to keep up with an Indy 500 pit crew in order to explain what you think might wrong with your car. Shop staff should be able to walk you through a potential problem with your car based on your descriptions of how the car drives, sounds, and sometimes even how it smells! When in doubt, check RepairPal’s advice section for problem reports and recalls specific to your vehicle, and Q&A with our team of car experts.
4. What is the shop going to charge me?
While a shop likely cannot tell what is wrong with your car over the phone, they should provide you with an estimate, in writing, before work begins on your car. Ask the shop to contact you before going above this original estimate (this is the law in some states). If you are not sure whether the price at one shop is high, compare it against quotes from other shops or use the RepairPal repair price estimator to learn the fair price range for your repair or service for your car in your area.
All RepairPal Certified shops pledge to charge below the fair price published by our estimator. If you are at a shop that is not RepairPal Certified, make sure you understand how much of the cost of the work is parts and how much is labor, and determine if they will use original equipment manufacturer (OEM), aftermarket or refurbished parts. If you do not know the difference between these or which is appropriate for your repair, ask. All of these questions will help you get a sense of whether you are getting a fair price, or just a cheap one, which may mean you will receive shoddy work.
5. Can the mechanic clearly explain the work that needs to be performed?
Your mechanic should be able to clearly explain why all of the work performed is necessary, and how each impacted system of your vehicle operates. If a damaged part is being removed, ask to see it. If the shop indicates that your vehicle needs additional work beyond the scope of the repairs you originally came in for, ask if they need to be done today or if they can wait. A good shop will always be happy to explain their work to you and should be transparent about whether or not a repair or service is urgent.
Until your next visit to the auto shop, happy driving, and remember it’s always ok to ask your mechanic questions!