It doesn’t matter who you are, if you own a car, you have to get maintenance on it. For all car owners, taking a vehicle to a mechanic can be a bit intimidating. It is even more so if you don’t know a lot about cars or vehicle maintenance. It’s hard to know which shops you can trust, especially when you have probably grown up listening to horror stories about mechanics. It gets even more difficult when you need emergency maintenance, and you have to get a repair done fast. Where can you go? Fortunately, with a bit of research and time, you can still find a great mechanic who is competitively priced and knowledgeable, and if you play your cards right, you can create a relationship with this person to last well into the future.
Think about your local area. How many mechanics can you think of? If you are like most people who live in a city or suburb, you can probably count several. So, how do you know which shop is the best for your needs? Word of mouth is one of the most popular ways to find a mechanic, and you should definitely consider it when trying to find a shop for your car. Talk to your neighbors, friends, and family before you do anything else. Ask them if they have any recommendations.
What if you are new to an area? You might not know anyone in the area to talk to. One way around this is to do some independent research and look for a shop that has been in the area for several years. Or look for a mechanic that is an active part of the community. For instance, a mechanic that sponsors a local Little League team is probably one that you will want to look into.
Another option that you have is to use some type of service locator, which can help you find shops in your area. Reading reviews of these shops, or even stopping by to check it out, can tell you if it’s a good fit. For instance, if you drive a foreign make, but you only see Fords and Chevy brands being worked on at the shop, it might not be the best choice. Another thing to look or is any associations the mechanic is part of. Ask them about any certifications they have, and then find out what the shop’s Better Business Bureau grade is.
Before Taking Your Car to a Shop…
One of the things that make people anxious about taking their car to a mechanic is that they don’t know what’s a fair price to pay for the service. There are websites online that you might consider checking out; they give repair estimates. However, keep in mind that most of them give a range, and the range can be pretty large. So, instead, you might want to get a few quotes from several shops. Also, keep in mind that the lowest price is not always the best deal.
You might also consider taking the mechanic for a “test drive.” Do this by going in for a routine service, such as an oil change. Usually, the prices are fairly fixed for these, and you definitely need them, so it’s a great opportunity to get to meet the mechanics at the shop and get to know how things are done.
Visiting the Shop
When you get to the shop, the most important thing to do is to ask questions. Sometimes, for instance, the mechanic might recommend an extra service or repair; ask them why. They should be able to explain their reasoning to you in simple terms. Most of the time, a good mechanic will do a walk-around of the vehicle to look for things like bad brakes or worn tires. They also will give you a list of what might need fixed. Ask what they suggest you do now, and then find out what might be okay to wait to fix. Talk to them about the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance, too. If you doubt what the mechanic says, it’s usually easy enough to find this information out online. A customer who is informed about these things won’t have to worry about being taken advantage of.
It is also quite important to make sure you give the mechanic all of the information you can about what you believe is wrong with your vehicle. If there is a smell or sound, they should know about it. Don’t just bring your car into the shop and say “something’s wrong.” The more the mechanic knows, the quicker they can diagnose the issue, and then fix it, which helps you save money. If they have to take a lot of time trying to figure it out, you can bet that you will be paying for that.