Finding a good vehicle repair shop isn’t always easy, but it is simple if you know what to look for. There are some tried-and-true ways to locate a good repair shop, such as asking people you trust who they would go to. But even then, you must evaluate the repair shop carefully to ensure that the recommendation you got is on the money — and won’t cost you money.
What to Look for in a Vehicle Repair Shop
Always look for signs that the mechanics at the repair shop are certified. Certification by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is what you’ll probably find. These certifications ensure that the mechanics have been highly trained and that they know best practices for fixing cars. While it’s always possible that a mechanic could be great and not have certification, you’re taking a risk if you have them work on your car.
Check sites like the Better Business Bureau to see how many complaints have been filed against the shop in the past three years. The list is somewhat subjective as it will contain only the complaints filed by people who were willing to file them — it doesn’t automatically include every bad experience ever. Plus, consumer sites tend to gather negative reports and not positive. Still, you can see the types of complaints, if any.
Even a small vehicle repair shop should have a fairly steady stream of customers. If customers seem to be angry at the repair shop or are complaining about work done, that’s an obvious red flag. On a related note, if you never see other customers, and it looks like cars have been sitting in the parking lot for a while, it’s best to go elsewhere.
If you bring your car in and find one of the mechanics telling you that you need surprise urgent work done that day or else, call their bluff. It’s common for shady shops to try to scare you into allowing them to do work, claiming the car is too dangerous to drive. Get a second opinion. If the mechanics put a lot of pressure on you to not drive the car, or claim they won’t let you drive the car, have the car towed to another shop. Do not give in to their attempt to scare you.
A good vehicle repair shop will let you know what they’ve found and how long you’ll be able to drive the car before really needing the work done. Even if it turns out there is something really wrong, they will let you take the car somewhere else for a second opinion.
A vehicle repair shop is not going to be the neatest place when it comes to the work area — you’ll probably see some oil and dirt. But the waiting room and main rooms should be very clean and neat, and even the work areas should be well-organized. Be leary of any repair shop that doesn’t look like it’s been cleaned in the past day or so. If that’s the public image they want to give, they might be even messier when dealing with your car’s engine.
Research the parts you need and ask the shop how much they charge. Compare the two costs. Find out whether multiple jobs can be combined so that you can save on labor costs. Good shops will be able to combine at least some work, and they will be able to at least look up the cost of the parts. If all they can give you is a vague ballpark number, check with another shop.