Find a Reliable Mechanic Using These 6 Simple Steps
There is little that is more challenging—and intimidating—than starting a search to find a good mechanic. Automatically, the questions and worries begin. Will they overcharge me? Will they fix things that do not need fixing? How do I know that they are even competent with my type of vehicle? These are all valid questions, but they are also all questions that can be answered with a little digging and searching on your part.
First, you have to find the mechanics in order to assess them; start with the logical places to find any mechanic. Check your local paper for ads; look in the yellow pages; and go online to find dealers and mechanics in your area. Make a list of these, and move to the next step.
Start with Friends and Family
Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Everyone has had experiences, good and bad, with a mechanic, and they will all be able to tell you a story behind their reasoning. Don't offer your list or your thoughts on what you have found; just listen to who they bring up and what they have to say. If you decided that their complaints are valid, mark that mechanic off of your list. If you are given a particularly good recommendation for one mechanic in particular, or if you receive positive comments about a mechanic from more than one person, note that on your list. And, if you get a recommendation from someone for a mechanic who they not only like, but have been using for years, make a note of it, as well—someone who has been doing a great job for years has an established track record of quality, whereas someone who was recommended to you by a friend who has only used him once or twice may or may not be the long-term mechanic you are seeking. Regardless, leave good recommendations on the list for now.
Also, believe it or not, your local dealership may make a recommendation for an authorized shop in your area. Yes, they do want you to use them, but they typically do not have an issue with making a recommendation of authorized shops in your area if you ask—but they probably are not going to offer, so ask!
Go Online with Your Search
There are online sources to get reviews on local business services, including mechanics. Some review sites are for paid members only, but typically if you are seeking free reviews, you can find them with just a little searching. For me, I’m ambivalent about the helpfulness of any of these online reviews. They can be helpful, but they can also be deceiving. There have, for instance, been accounts of businesses paying people to cruise around the web and write good reviews for them. There are also reviews out there that are just attempts by a disgruntled customer to “get back” at their target. So, when checking out online reviews—especially anonymous reviews—I always take them with a grain of salt. However, if I find a pattern—a lot of reviews with a similar story, good or bad—I may give those more weight. If you find this is the case with any of the mechanics on your list, make a note. And, if you have a personal friend or family recommendation on that particular mechanic, weigh the importance of the online review along with it.
Find any mechanics after this exercise that just make you uneasy? Mark them off and move to the next step.
Get on the Phone
Make some phone calls and ask a few questions. When you call, ask for the specific mechanic or for the service manager if it is a dealership. Just ask a few general questions. What are their hours? Do they work on your type of car (not necessary with your local dealer, of course)? Do they require an appointment? Do they offer guarantees or a warranty for their work? When you ask these questions, note not just the responses, but how they respond to you, an anonymous caller over the phone. Are they friendly and willing to answer whatever you ask, or do they sound annoyed and ready to get you off the phone? Speaking with someone this way, when they cannot look at you face-to-face, can say a lot about the type of person you will be taking your car to, so take note. Of course, they could be having a hard day or might be under a deadline, so if they sound a little rushed, cut them some slack. But, if they are downright rude? Part of their job is customer service—if you are displeased or put off by them already, mark them off your list.
Take a Few Road Trips
After the phone conversation, take a trip to meet the remaining mechanics and their staff. Meeting them face-to-face is important. Most of us can get a better idea of people when we can speak to them and look them in the eye. Talk to them about your car. Ask them about the training they have for your make and model. Ask them where they source their parts and why they choose these particular suppliers. Note whether or not they make you feel comfortable or if they seem a little hesitant with their answers. If you are uncomfortable with any of the mechanics still on your list after having met and talked with them, mark them off the list.
Do They Offer a Guarantee?
Make sure you get a guarantee. If not, it is probably best to mark them off of your list. Most good mechanics have no problem giving you a guarantee on their work, because they know it is done right; shady operations may not have that same confidence.
Time to Choose!
Now that your list is whittled down, you should be able to make a decision. Hopefully, you have not waited until you need major repairs—not the best time to actually start looking, when you are desperate—and you can just start with something simple, like maybe an oil change. Like any good relationship, building trust with your mechanic takes time, and, if possible, you should start small. And, remember: While it is tempting to choose strictly on price, it’s not always a good strategy. The cheapest work could be the best work, while the most expensive could be the shoddiest. Then again, the cheap guy might produce work that is just that: cheap in quality. But, the most expensive guy may actually be giving you the best price he can for great work—sometimes good work really does cost a little more.
Finding a mechanic can be a job in itself, but you can do it. And, it really isn't that hard! It just takes a little time and effort--and finding the right person to take care of your vehicle will really pay off in the long run.