Finding a good mechanic can be intimidating if you don’t know much about cars — because how can you tell if you’re getting a good deal? However, with a bit of research and a few handy tips, you’ll be able to find a mechanic you can trust to help you make the right repair choices and save some money in the process.
Should I take my car to the dealership?
While you have to go to the dealership for any warranty repairs, for everything else the dealership tends to be one of the more expensive options. If you prefer to take your car to your local dealer, be sure to check their prices first so you have an idea of whether you’re getting a fair deal.
The best way to find a good mechanic is to find someone else’s good mechanic. If you have family or friends in the area, try asking them first. They may have someone they trust to repair their car — which is likely to be someone you can trust to repair your car, too.
Hunt for online reviews
Coming up short on mechanic referrals? That’s okay: the internet can help. Look for local mechanics on Angie’s List, Car Talk’s mechanic finder and AAA’s approved repair facility list, all of which should give you reliable mechanics in your area.
And while it’s a little less reliable, you can also try doing a simple internet search for mechanics in your area. This could bring up reviews from Google, Yelp and other sources that can offer personal insight on just what a mechanic is like.
Check the mechanic’s reputation
Once you’ve found a few options, look them up at the Better Business Bureau. Though not all businesses will be BBB Accredited — and it’s not necessarily a bad sign if they aren’t — the BBB will track any complaints received, which can give you a picture of the shop’s reputation.
You can also check the mechanic’s certifications and affiliations. ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification is a big one, as it requires mechanics to have at least two years of experience and complete exams to prove their skills. Your car’s manufacturer may also offer a certification for mechanics — if so, that’s a good one for your mechanic to have. Finally, look for Automotive Service Association affiliation, which is given to garages with a record of good service. Be sure to ask potential mechanics about any certifications they have
Does the mechanic guarantee their work?
No one wants to pay for repairs that don’t last. Most reputable mechanics offer some sort of guarantee on their work, so if the problem reappears as soon as you drive it off the lot, they’ll make it right. A garage that doesn’t offer any kind of guarantee on their work doesn’t inspire confidence — and you’ll probably want to take your car elsewhere.
Compare repair costs
How can you trust a mechanic who overcharges you? You’ll want to be sure you’re getting a fair price for service, and to do that you need to know what a fair price is. If you’re told your car needs a specific service, check the average price for the repair in your area through Consumer Reports. If your garage is quoting you an above average price, it may not be the place you want to take your car.
You can also test out a potential mechanic by visiting them with a small job or repair that you know the cost of, like an oil change or tire rotation. If they give you a good cost for that, their prices are likely to be reasonable elsewhere. But if they overcharge you on a minor job — or, worse, try to pile on additional services and repairs — you probably can’t trust them to offer fair prices for more complicated jobs.
Does the mechanic explain what they’re doing?
When you take your car in for work, a good mechanic will explain problems, even showing you damaged parts on your vehicle. A mechanic who’s cagey about details or won’t show you what’s wrong may be trying to take advantage of your lack of in-depth auto knowledge. Hard sells, where a shop pushes you to do repairs immediately, can also be a sign that a mechanic is more interested in getting your money than fixing your car.
Whether you’re just testing a mechanic out or are really in need of a car repair, try asking what they would do if this were their own car. The answer may give you some insight as to how trustworthy they are.
Do repairs mean refinancing?
While it’s lousy luck, sometimes even newer vehicles need big repairs — and those can be hard to afford when you still have a car payment. If that’s the case, refinancing may be the answer.
PenFed has great deals on auto refinancing loans, with terms ranging from 36 months to 72 months and interest rates a slow as 1.49% APR. Apply now to find out if refinancing is the right choice for you.