Based on annual surveys, we find consumers generally have a higher level of satisfaction with independent shops over car dealerships.
But identifying a mechanic you can trust for your car takes a lot more than letting your fingers do the walking. You have to do a little old-fashioned sleuthing. There’s no single clue to what makes a good repair shop, but here are some things you should look for:
Find a shop for your brand of car
Many garages specialize in certain makes. Those that focus on your type are more likely to have the latest training and equipment to fix your vehicle.
Ask your family and friends
Especially seek recommendations from those who have a vehicle similar to yours.
Search the Internet
Look for information about local mechanics on Angie’s List, the Consumer Reports car repair estimator, and the Mechanics Files at Cartalk.com. Cartalk.com provides those services free, Angie’s List requires a subscription, the car repair estimator is free for Consumer Reports’ online subscribers.
Check for certification
Your mechanic and shop should be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE.
Check the Better Business Bureau
Auto repair shops rank 12th on the bureau’s list of common complaints. Go to www.bbb.org; the information you find might help you figure out which shops you should avoid.
Give the shop a tryout
Before your car needs a big repair, you might want to try out some local shops with smaller repairs or maintenance items, such as oil and filter changes.
Ask about warranties
What kind of guarantees does the shop give on repair work? Warranties can vary greatly among shops, so ask about them ahead of time. Use a common repair, such as brake work, as your guide.
Make sure the shop is convenient
Even the best shop might not be worth the effort if its hours conflict with your schedule or you have few transportation options after you drop off the car.