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Best cities to find an honest mechanic

Survey measured variation in prices, plus how many shops changed their estimates when presented with the industry standard price.

By Teresa Mears Feb 25, 2010 3:44PM

If you want to get a fair and accurate estimate of the cost of fixing your car, you’re better off in Memphis than in Chicago.


That’s according to, one of several free online sites that give customers an estimate of what a specific auto repair should cost.

The site sent mystery shoppers to more than 600 repairs shops in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas to get price quotes on a front brake replacement for a Ford Focus. The shoppers called back two weeks later, armed with the industry standard price for that repair.


Are you surprised to hear that more than two-thirds of the shops changed their price quote when presented with the usual price for that job?


AutoMD ranked the cities based on affordability, price disparity among the highest and lowest quotes, and the percentage of shops that changed their original estimate by more than 5% when presented with the industry price.

"If you are one of the 88% of car owners who feel that they are not getting a fair shake at the repair shop . . .  this report shows that you are probably right," president Shane Evangelist said in a news release. "Repair shop quotes in more than half of the cities for the same job had a variance from lowest to highest of over 150% -- with over two-thirds of the shops overall changing their price quote when presented with an industry standard price."


Even in the top-ranked city -- Memphis, Tenn. -- Evangelist noted that the mystery shoppers found a 135% price quote disparity, and 25% of the city’s repair shops changed their quotes when presented with the industry standard price.

Obviously, the survey is a great boon for AutoMD, since it shows that its type of service can often save people money. Of course, savvy shoppers for years have known that being armed with accurate information about what things SHOULD cost is a key component to saving money.


And why not use a service like AutoMD or RepairPal, which also offers free estimates and information on car repairs? They’re free. And knowledge is power.


The best cities, starting with the top-ranked, are:

  • Memphis
  • Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Omaha, Neb.
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Austin, Texas

The worst cities, ranked from not quite as bad to the lowest, are:

  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Honolulu
  • Chicago

Have you tried any of these services? Has it made a difference in the prices you get for auto repairs? Do you have other tips for saving money on car repairs?


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