Five Tips for Finding A Trustworthy Car Mechanic

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There are some shady car mechanics out there so it’s hard to find the right mechanic to do the work that you need. Also, not all shops are equal, some are good at detailing, some are good at body work, some are good with suspensions; some might specialize in foreign makes and models while others are great with GM and Ford. Be sure to look for one that knows how to perform the work you’re looking for.

When I slid on black ice over a year ago, I had some work done on my car by the local mechanic. The work was good and I was limited in my options because the car barely drove (I didn’t want to pay for a tow) but a few months ago I heard a clicking when I turned left. Apparently what happened was my rear hub assembly was cracked and after a year of driving there was enough crud buildup in it (from sand and other junk) to create this noise, but I didn’t know this and needed to have the car checked out. Without a geographic restriction, I started to look for a local mechanic and realized that finding a decent one you could trust is hard! So below you will find some helpful steps I took to figure out which one to go to.

1. Ask your Neighbors – Both of my neighbors have been in the area for quite some time and know the lay of the land and that’s probably the case for you as well. The best way to find a reputable car mechanic is the ask your neighbors because they’ve needed work and they’ve probably gone to a local mechanic to get it performed. Depending on how long they’ve been living in the area, they could be a wealth of knowledge on local mechanics from either personal experience or anecdotes from their friends, plus they’re going to be on your side so take advantage of it.

2. Ask your Co-workers – Again, since you’ll probably be working relatively close to home, this is another source of information that will have more loyalty towards you than to any particular body shop.

3. CarTalk (and other online forums) – If you’ve never heard of Click and Clack on National Public Radio, you haven’t truly lived! These two Boston brothers are both funny and brilliant and they have a cult following despite only appearing on radio for a single hour each week on Saturday mornings. Anyway, on their website they have an area called Mechanics Files where readers can review mechanics and submit their reviews of them. The reviews are usually brief, a few sentances, and the scoring isn’t terribly valuable but it’s another point of reference.

4. Scope The Place Out – Does it have a lot of cars sitting around? Does it look professional? I know they say looks can be deceiving, but if you scope a place out for a little while you can get at least an idea of how they do business. Talk to some people who walk out of the place, see if they were happy with their service, what they thoughts, etc. People, who aren’t in a hurry to get somewhere, are usually very candid and you can tell if they’ve gone to this place a lot or this was a one-time thing.

Check out their lot too. If you drive a Toyota, it’d be nice to see a couple Toyota’s sitting on their lot waiting for service or waiting for their driver to return. If you drive a Toyota and you only see BMW’s, that might not be the place for you. If you have a relatively new car and all the cars there are late model, you might want to turn elsewhere.

5. Check Their Credentials – Check the Better Business Bureau and AAA to see if they have any complaints and whether they are certified. Also check to see if their mechanics are certified by ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence).

Lastly, if you can’t find a mechanic you think you can trust in the area, go with the dealership because you know they have the experience and the knowledge to work on your car, even if they’re going to be expensive.

Anyone have any more tips?

{ 5 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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5 Responses to “Five Tips for Finding A Trustworthy Car Mechanic”

  1. Jerry says:

    Ask questions. I know not everyone can do their own work, but ask questions. If anything sounds fishy, or they refuse to answer any questions, move on to someone else

  2. I agree with Jerry, make sure you ask questions. If you’re clueless about what cars, take notes. It’s best to run it by friends or family that are car savvy. Even if you have no one to ask, the mechanics won’t know.

  3. Gooey Debt says:

    I think the worst mechanics are the chain stores like Precision Tune, just brakes, etc. they charge nearly the same as dealers, and have crappy mechanics. This is what happens when you go to places that work on all types of cars, rather than your specific model.

    The latter part of #4 should be emphasized. You should look for a mechanic that specializes in the car that you want repaired. I took my 1984 bmw to a small mechanic who the previous owner had used. Although he was a volvo specific mechanic, he worked on my bimmer enough that I trusted him with the work. Moreover, he let me learn how to fix stuff to save money while he provided input (sweat equity). He and many other mechanics had started their individual shops in storage spaces. Each specialized in different cars. You might check out craig’s list, if it is available in your area, where alot of these kinds of mechanics list.

    Aside from what everyone else stated, I also look for cleanliness. There is alot to be said for a mechanic who keeps things organized and keeps things clean. If they are that anal, they are more than likely going to handle your mechanical work the same way.

    Now with all that said, you should always get guarantees in writing for work done.

    Other places you can look is your local community college, mechanic school, or prison.

  4. Miller says:

    Good tips! I really like the Car Talk files. I didn’t know they had that. Foreign Auto Experts rule!!! =P

  5. Darrin says:

    Start small. If your trying out a new shop go there for an oil change or something minor and seek how they treat you and other customers.

    Also ask questions. Are they forthcoming or do they get irritated? Do they show you the problem or just try to explain it to you. Also avoid any garage that pay the mechanics commissions as that can add unecessary parts and service fast.

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