19 tips for finding a great mechanic
You can drive a well-maintained car for 300,000 miles, but you'll need a good mechanic to make it that far.
This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.
I own a clunker, which is why I've been to the auto repair shop three times in the last year. And I've been to three different shops. Why no return visits? Because I wasn't happy with the service, price, or both.
I'm not alone. In a recent survey, Consumer Reports polled 5,400 people, and 27% said they weren't happy with the auto repair service they received. Of the dissatisfied, 38% said the price was too high, and 28% said the job wasn't done right.
In the video below, Stacy Johnson shares five of his best tips for finding a mechanic who won't let you down. Check it out, then read on for more tips.
1. Research before you need one. If you wait until your car breaks down, you'll be rushed into making a decision. Start by verifying any warranties or service records you have on your vehicle to get an idea of what you'll need in the future and what's covered by warranties. Then use the following tips to gather a list of mechanics in your area and narrow it down to the perfect place.
You can also use an Internet forum for your car. For example, StangNet is a forum for Mustang enthusiasts, while JeepForum.com is for Jeep lovers. Once you find a forum, browse the pegged messages for threads on mechanics, or just post a message.
- CarTalk Mechanic Files has a database of more than 30,000 mechanics with ratings and reviews.
- RankMyMechanic.com has user reviews.
- Consumers' Checkbook is a nonprofit rating service with price comparisons.
- Better Business Bureau allows you to see if a shop is accredited by the BBB and if it has any complaints.
- ASE certification. Mechanics must pass tests to obtain an ASE (or Automotive Service Excellence) certification.
- ASA membership. Automotive Service Association members must pledge to uphold certain standards, including excellent customer service and high-quality work.
- AAA. To join the American Automotive Association's list of repair shops, mechanics must offer a 12-month or 12,000-mile warranty. (You don't need a AAA membership to view the list.)
Ask the mechanic what equipment he plans to use on your car and if that equipment is specific to the make and model. Then ask to see the equipment. Some less-than-honest mechanics will tell you they have something when they don't.
When a shop charges for shop supplies, they're charging you to use the stuff they already have to have on hand. The service manager admitted he's seen shops add $30 to a bill for the use of three towels.
More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:
#2 In most if not all markets, professional independent garages have the same labor rate as dealerships. Ask around at the different shops what their rate is. Ask to be shown the labor rate guide to verify that the job you're having done is being billed correctly. If they try to keep that from you, you are being over-charged.
#7 While ASE certificates can be a good jumping off point in choosing a mechanic. They are not the end all be all determining factor. ASE tests are actually very easy to pass with no mechanical back ground what-so-ever. My wife who is an insurance adjuster has 3 and has never worked on a vehicle EVER.
#9 This one is really kind of redundent.
#11. Factory parts are a consistent know quality whereas "aftermarket" parts can have a quality ranging from a part some guy repainted in his back yard and is reselling as "rebuilt" to a OEM spec equivelant part, You just never know without diligent personal research. the rule of thumb her should be is the part an assembly? ie: a/c compressor, steering rack or gear, ect. Buy factory part. Or is it a simple part? ie: brake rotor, control arm, timing belt. Buy aftermarket.
#17 keep in mind that mechanics are commission based employees. You wouldn't like it if someone wasted your time just to "test' your honesty. If you feel compelled to do this then make sure you give the mechanic a tip for his time. 50 cents a minute is about the going rate.
Remember that a shop will sometimes have several technicians working there. The guy that changes the oil is not the same guy that diagnoses a driveability concern. A good shop will have several technicians each with his (or her) own specialized field of repair. If you're happy with a repair get the tecnician's name so that you can request him next time. Or if the type of repair is different ask him if he thinks one of the other techs might be better suited for the job.
I DO NOT say don't get educated but understand that the only TRUE certs come from the MANUFACTURER. Example is motorcycle and lawn and garden tools, each of the manufacturers holds week long (or longer) schools that address stages of competence through fault finding,rebuilds,electrical failures,diagnostic procedures etc. ALL OF IT HANDS ON with a master level instructor who also has to pass the same tests EVERY YEAR. If you fail them it means you are just a "yard mechanic". The manufacturers also provide update schools for the mechanics to refresh some older points of concern and touch on the new features or new models. Schools like MMI,UTI,WYOTECH do not have this.
Dealers.........sometimes they can be high priced.....GET INFORMED by taking a couple of classes. THE INTERNET FORUMS ARE THE WORST PLACE TO FIND HONEST AND ACCURATE INFORMATION. You need to filter the posts for ones that show more personal favoritism, tough to do.
Aftermarket vs. OEM.......this is a crap shoot. SOME OEM parts are good but ALLOT of aftermarket are better. Oem is just that. A standard part that is produced with cost in mind, not longevity and not strength. Quite a number of the aftermarket parts are built for racing or heavy duty use so the materials are better the quality is higher ( so is the price sometimes) and the part has longevity in the design. This is also one were you need to have knowledge or you will get hosed.
shop supplies......NOT ALL SHOPS PAD THE TICKET....... look at your invoice....if you invoice says tire change and oil and filter change and there is nothing else like disposal fee or recycling tax, it is included in "shop supplies". Ask to see the supplies used. A quality shop will provide them for your inspection ( unless it is a waste fluid)
Mechanics and prices.......if you are thinking of trying to negotiate your repair....make sure the mechanic is not paid "commission" . If he is, talk to HIM/HER NOT the service writer. The mechanic is paid based on shop hourly rate and his "flag" time. If you get a cut rate deal you have just taken the mechanics way to pay his bills out of his pocket...We don't appreciate having to tell our kids they can't have the new toy we promised because some cheap skate didn't want to pay for the time needed. If you ask most mechanics directly then we usually will help you out. cut us out of the loop...........not to good for the service we are doing to YOUR car.
It can fast or cheap or good. If it is good and fast it is not cheap, if it is fast and cheap it is not good. There is no cheap and good. quality takes time, time is money.
The best way to find a good mechanic is to not need one. Do the required maintenance as your dealer/owners manual tells you and fix the problems as they arise. You pay allot less down the road. Also DO NOT modify your ride with race parts,huge tires/wheels,extra lights,etc etc and expect the vehicle to run forever and drive just like a stock version, it won't and it will need more work.
Again the best way to not get soaked, EDUCATE YOURSELF. Take classes, read the owners manual, buy the service manual and read it.
Also sites like yelp are not a good place to get accurate reviews. drive by the place, look for an organized, cleanish parking lot, take notice of what vehicles are in the lot. Are they lowered import racers? are they forklifts and dump trucks? Are they old and beat up?
A good shop has a car in EVERY bay and only a few in the lot waiting on parts or service and the vehicles in the lot are usually current models no older than 10 years (usually)
I can go on for days....
My spouse has been a mechanic for more than 30 years and I still find it amazing the number of people who do no maintenance on mechanical items they own and then wonder why they break.
Call any of the following and you will pay a fee for them to come to your door: Electricians, Plumbers, Heating and Cooling, any household Appliance repairman.
Do proper maintenance on your vehicle and it will last an extremely long time. My spouse has never been called to court to testify against a Dealership but he has been called to court to testify against independent garages.
Just because it is on the internet doesn't mean it is true, more times than not it is untrue.
few things I would like to add:
I don't agree with skipping the dealership. If you do NOT know a good mechanic, dealership is your best bet to get the job done right. At where I live, highly rated repair shops charges no less than dealership. Why? because their overhead is no less than a dealership, constant training their employee, investing latest equipments, customer satisfaction cost a lot of money.
Lawyers, Doctors, Mechanics, 70% of them are good for nothing, you just have to hunt for the other 30% that knows what they are doing.
remember, ALWAYS haggle for better price with your mechanic, Automotive service price has a pretty big margin, you can almost always save 10-30% if you haggle, just like buying a car.
in a Mechanics perspective, I know everyone wants to get it done right, done fast, and done cheap. But even the best mechanic can offer 2 of the 3. Know which 2 do you want!
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