Auto repairs can be pricey. You want to be sure you get the best service for your money and are treated like a valued customer. Here are some actions you should take to find the best auto repair service in your area:
When You Don't Need Repair
You should find a mechanic you trust before your vehicle needs serious care. There are numerous resources consumers turn to when making educated decisions. You should investigate the following:
Friends and Family
The people who care about you are the best source for accurate customer reviews. Your friends and family invest in your success and will give unbiased recommendations of auto repair services they used.
You should find people who are in similar financial situations as your own and have a good history of making responsible decisions. Ask them specific questions about the auto care they received. Did the estimate match the final price? Was it finished on schedule? These are both important questions to get answers to.
Local Auto Parts Suppliers
Many auto repair shops in your area probably buy their parts from a local business. You can check in with an auto parts supplier to see which shops have a track record of excellence and good reviews.
Employees at auto parts suppliers should know how long certain mechanics have been in business and what consumers say about them. You could even ask which auto repair service the employees themselves use.
There are government and consumer agencies that create records and standards of business practices to protect consumers. The National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence advises to start by checking with the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce. Organizations like the BBB should be able to communicate if the auto repair shop has any customer complaints on record and details of each issue.
The National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence has its own Blue Seal of Excellence program, which it awards when 75 percent of auto repair shop employees are ACE certified.
Look for users who describe very specific problems and care treatments.
A Review Site
Modern consumers have an extra form of convenient business information. You can jump online and find a site that collects customer reviews on auto repair services. However, you still have to be careful about whose opinion you listen to. An irate person may post a baseless negative review and drive ratings way down, or the business itself could create numerous fake positive reviews. A best practice is to look for users who describe very specific problems and care treatments.
Online ratings should be just one of many sources you use to gather information. Once you've done enough research, it's time to narrow your search to a few auto repair shops in your area that look promising.
When You Visit an Auto Repair Shop
You don't want your first visit to an auto repair service to be when your car can barely make it down the street. Emergencies could cause you to be hasty, so you want to contact a company before there is a need for service.
Check Online Materials
Once friends, BBB recommendations and online reviews point you in the direction of a specific auto repair service, you should check out the business's online materials. Use a search engine to see what the business posted on its website or public forums.
Online materials should offer the company's history, a map to its location, contact information and certifications. Be on the lookout for businesses that go the extra mile by posting introductions to staff members and articles about car care tips.
Inspect the Premises
You can make initial contact through the phone but you really should walk the premises before you need care. In-person visits give you a feel for the atmosphere of the organization. You want to find an auto repair service where everybody's busy and you don't see any hazardous or inefficient conditions.
The first thing you should see when you walk through the door are certificates hanging in plain view. The Auto Blog says a quality shop will have accreditation from Approved Auto Repair, the International Auto Technicians Association and the ASA. The care service should also be a member of the BBB, the Society of Automotive Engineers and Automotive Service Professionals.
The staff should be ready to help you and answer your questions. You must carefully describe every auto you own. The shop should have experience with each of the cars you could bring in for care. You might even think about asking questions of the other consumers who received service at the location you visit.
To make sure there are people available to answer your questions, you should plan preliminary visits between 9 a.m. and noon. This is the period of time after the morning rush, when mechanics perform evaluations, so front staff are typically less busy.
Common Warning Signs
You should also be wary of businesses where large groups of people sit around chatting or shops where employees seem to be in loud arguments. If you're observant, you should spot mechanics who communicate quickly and effectively.
You should listen carefully and write down details when speaking with auto repair service employees. You also have to take note of the things you observe. The Car Connection customer research blog suggests looking out for cars sitting out in the street in front of the business in states of disrepair. It indicates the business doesn't care if consumers see half-finished projects and starts services without finishing them.
When You Take Your Auto In
Once your car actually does need care, you should already have an auto repair business in mind. There are a few things you should do, however, to prepare for any last-minute signs of trouble.
Start With Small Auto Care Needs
Before a major breakdown or road accident, you should test out an auto care organization with a small service. Get your oil changed or filter replaced. This allows you to sample the service without investing too much money in a business that had great reviews but terrible actual performance.
The Auto Mechanic Should Ask Questions
When you take your car in for repair, you should ask plenty of questions about what the business plans to do, but the staff should have even more inquiries. A good sign of an invested care agent is one who really tries to get at the heart of the auto issue. Employees should be full of questions to help pinpoint the exact problem.
Auto care agents should take their cues from you as to what repair is necessary; don't let them be the influencers. Allstate warns against mechanics who use scare tactics and bully you into service tasks you don't need.
Get Everything in Writing
Never sign a blank document. When your auto service provider details what repairs it will take to perform the needed care, you should request he or she backs up everything communicated in writing. A bill should carefully detail parts, repairs and schedules.
Never sign a blank document.
When the care is done, you should refer to initial written documents to ensure the repair you received matched what was promised. Inform auto repair employees that you don't want them to change plans for care without checking with you first.
One way to ensure received care matches descriptions is to ask for the old part when the auto repair shop recommends a replacement. This way you know a change did take place and the repair shop knows you can check the old part for disrepair.
A quality shop should offer warranties that guarantee its work for a period of time. Pay attention to your car's performance after an auto repair shop visit and record the details of any problems.
If you're happy, you should communicate your satisfaction with the customer groups in your area or write an online review to help other consumers.