According to the National Association of Attorneys General, complaints about auto repairs consistently rank among the top ten grievances filed by consumers. In 2008, auto repair complaints ranked #6 on the list. One of the major reasons why? People think that repair shops are trying to sell them services they don't actually need and overcharging them for those services.
Since the average person knows little about car repair, it easy to feel overwhelmed when talking to your mechanic, especially now that car manufacturing has become so sophisticated technology-wise. If it was hard to grasp what a head gasket is, it’s almost impossible to comprehend computerized systems.
If you want to trust your mechanic—and believe me, there are a lot of honest ones out there—you need to find one who is trustworthy. Here are some things to consider when looking for a good mechanic and how to build a solid relationship with him or her once you do find that person.
1. Talk to your friends and colleagues
When I was looking for a good mechanic, I asked my buddies at work. Granted, I have a much easier time since I work for a car repair website, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find one, too. If someone is excited about their mechanic, chances are you will be, too. It takes a lot to get excited about a mechanic and to actually find one who is trustworthy, so trust people who rave about theirs.
2. Check out the repair shop’s shop
Once you get a couple of recommendations (Yelp helps, too), check out a couple of places. Look at the grounds and work areas … are they clean? If the lot is filled with run-down old pickups and you are driving a brand new hybrid, it’s probably not the right place for you. Look for automotive certifications like ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Certified. Another thing to look for is AAA affiliation—AAA certifies some shops after examining their credentials and business policies.
3. Talk to your mechanic
A lot of people think the more they tell a mechanic, the higher the cost of the repair will be. Actually the opposite is true. Hiding symptoms can only lead to higher charges for diagnostics. Share everything you know right from the beginning. Information about leaks, when the problem occurs (on the highway, only when the car is still cold, etc.), strange noises, driving habits, and running problems will only help your mechanic find the problem quicker, which means cheaper for you.
4. Be nice!
When I have to call a company to complain about something and the person answers the phone and says, “Hi, I’m Brian. How can I help you today?” I always say, “Hi Brian, how are you today?” This immediately puts Brian in a good mood, which makes him more willing to help me out. Mechanics are people, too, and people respond well when they are treated with respect and friendliness. Don’t get defensive if your mechanic wants to talk with you about preventative maintenance—he or she is interested in building a relationship with you over the long haul and talking about preventative maintenance will help you save money over the long haul. On the other hand, if your mechanic is always trying to upsell you every time you bring in your car (Oh, sure we can change your oil today, but how about four new tires and transmission overhaul?), it might be time to find a new one.
5. Refer your mechanic to others
Want to make your mechanic love you? Refer him or her to your friends and colleagues. This is the best compliment you can give to a mechanic you trust. People love it when you refer them to your friends—whether it’s a mechanic, hairdresser, or photographer. Who knows, you might make them so happy, they will offer you a discount in the future. Referrals show that you trust your mechanic and an honest mechanic will love you for it.