Finding a Good Car Mechanic
One of the most under-appreciated professions out there is that of an auto mechanic. How many people do you meet in your life that have such an impact on you and your family’s safety as well as your finances? A good, trustworthy mechanic can save you a ton of money in the long run.
Seinfeld fans might remember how Jerry traded the right to use his “move” to Putty for his cheap and reliable auto mechanic services.
Unfortunately, a good auto mechanic can be hard to come by. And when you find one, you don’t want to let them go. Here are some pointers on how to find them.
Where Should I Take my Car?
You generally have three options. Large national chains and dealerships are two options. They typically have revenue goals in mind and this can create conflict of interest when they look at your vehicle. Small issues or issues that can wait become urgent matters that you should attend to in their opinion. You’ll rarely be able to meet the guy working on your car, and forget discussing your car with the mechanic.
For anything more than an oil change, locally owned, independent garages are the way to go. And by all means, avoid dealerships, unless your vehicle is still under warranty.
The Local Mechanic Advantage
Local mechanics have their reputation at stake and know that the key to their success against the giant chains is to build long-term relationships with their customers. The guy working on your vehicle may be the owner or he works closely with the owner. They get to know your vehicle inside and out over time, and you’ll always be able to discuss your vehicle’s health with them.
Additionally, with a local mechanic, you are keeping more of your money local. When it comes to expenses, you’ll probably find that their prices are typically as good or better than some of the national chains. The only problem with local mechanics is that word-of-mouth and drive by traffic are typically their only forms of advertisement, so they can be hard to find at times. The good ones don’t need paid advertisement because they retain all of their customers.
How to Find a Good Local Auto Mechanic
There are a number of ways to find a good local mechanic.
- Ask your friends or neighbors if they know of a good local mechanic. If you start to hear a name pop up consistently, you might be on to something.
- Check with local car enthusiasts at auto shows or find local members of a car club and see who they recommend.
- See if your local newspaper does a ‘best of town’ series. Many times auto mechanics are covered.
- Check out cartalk.com’s Mechanics Files. Cartalk.com is run by NPR. You plug in your zip code and get ratings for mechanics in your area. Mechanics are rated on honesty, competence, price, speed, the job they do, and more.
- Look at the reviews in Google Maps or in Angies List.
Price out the Work Before Getting the Job Done
A good mechanic is one who doesn’t rip you off. Therefore, it’s wise to price out a particular job from a number of sources BEFORE you get the work done by a mechanic. You need to know if you are getting a good and honest quote.
After getting these estimates online, you can begin calling around to the different shops that you’ve selected to call. Always get your estimates in writing before authorizing the work.
How do I know if I’ve Found a Good Auto Mechanic?
Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you’ve found a good mechanic or not.
- What are their affiliations and certifications? Are their mechanics registered with the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)? Are they affiliated with other trade associations such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA) or American Automobile Association (AAA)? If they are, it’s not a guarantee of a solid operation, but these associations typically require a certain amount of training for mechanics in order for the business to achieve affiliation. It’s a good place to start.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for customer complaints.
- Check review sites such as Google Maps and NPR’s Mechanics Files to see what people say about the business.
- What is their warranty policy? The longer the better (unless you’re paying for extending it). Is it only on parts, or does it also include labor?
- Does the mechanic give you options that you can choose from that will save you money? This is a sure sign of an honest mechanic.
- Will they let you watch while they work? Good mechanics aren’t afraid to let you sit nearby to see the quality and speed at which they work.
- Are they friendly, helpful, and not irritated by your questions? A good mechanic typically has an enthusiasm or excitement towards educating their customers about their vehicles. If you’ve run into a jerk who doesn’t want to discuss things with you, go elsewhere.
- Is the shop organized and clean? Good mechanics and management typically have a clean shop as it is an extension of the work that they do.
- Talk to them and build a relationship.
Following this list, you’ll know when you’ve found a good mechanic.
How I Knew I Found a Good Mechanic
For the first time in my new area of residence I had to find a mechanic. I visited the Cartalk website and looked for local mechanics. Fortunately, I had many to choose from nearby. A few of the mechanics had a large number of comments. I looked through them and found one that had comments like “I moved 2,000 miles away, but considered driving back so that he could look at my car”, “I was worried he wasn’t charging enough to keep his business going”, and “I’ll take my car to him until one of us dies”. This was good enough for me to call make the call and set up the appointment.
When I got there I was happy to see that I could sit 10 feet away from the mechanic while he worked. He was able to give me pointers and discuss things with me while he was working on the vehicle. He gave me an option between $20 and $150 fix to an issue and urged me towards the $20 fix. He also was able to determine the cause of a noise on the underside of my car that had plagued me for two years (and fixed it for free). All costs were laid out and explained prior to him starting work. He was friendly, efficient, and the price was affordable. Not only will I go back, but I’ll recommend him to others.
Finding a Good Auto Mechanic Discussion:
- How were you able to find a good mechanic?
- What is your best experience with a mechanic?
- What is your worst experience with a mechanic?