11 Keys to Finding a Car Mechanic You Can Trust

Warmer weather means many of us will spend more time behind the wheel on vacations, weekend trips and more.

Do you have a trusted, qualified auto mechanic who will ensure your car is ready to handle the heat — and who charges a fair price? After all, no one wants to overpay for car maintenance.

Consider these keys to finding a great auto technician.

1. Don’t wait for a breakdown

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Don’t get stuck looking for a technician when your vehicle is on the back of a flatbed or hooked to a tow truck. If you haven’t already chosen who will repair your car, you are at someone else’s mercy.

For example, your tow-truck driver may pressure you to use his favorite shop, which is a sign of an arrangement between those two businesses — and no assurance for you of quality.

2. Start with recommendations and reviews

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Ask relatives, friends and neighbors to recommend an auto-repair technician. If you know someone who owns the same type of car, even better.

Other sources to check include:

  • Angie’s List: The company prides itself on vetting all reviews.
  • Better Business Bureau: The BBB website enables you to search for shops in your area and see whether they are accredited or rated by the BBB and, if so, how they are rated.
  • AAA’s Approved Auto Repair network: Shops that have the Approved Auto Repair designation sign agreements to provide reliable, high-quality service performed by technicians with manufacturer or ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certifications, according to AAA.

3. Look for certifications and memberships

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Today’s cars are basically computers on wheels, which is why you don’t want to trust backyard mechanics or hobbyists with your ride. Even when you engage a professional auto technician, check the person’s certifications and memberships.

A key certification is that of the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, also known as ASE. It’s awarded to mechanics rather than auto shops.

To qualify for ASE certification, you must pass a test and have two years of on-the-job training, or one year of training and a two-year degree in automotive repair. You must also retest every five years to maintain the certification.

Having all this background doesn’t guarantee you are honest, but it does mean you are probably competent.

4. Don’t shop by price alone

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Understand that you’re not just paying for labor and parts but also for the professionalism and technical expertise of the technician.

More expensive does not mean better. On the other hand, a bargain is not always a bargain.

5. Weigh indie repair versus dealerships

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Car repairs at dealerships are traditionally more expensive, although some strive to offer competitive rates.

However, if your car is still under warranty for parts and labor, you will probably want to go to the dealership.

6. Ask questions

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You want the mechanic to detail what is wrong with the vehicle. Even if you don’t know an engine from a light switch, asking questions indicates that you aren’t going to take everything at face value.

If the mechanic cops an attitude or refuses to answer your questions in layman’s terms, drive on.

7. Make sure the shop has the latest equipment

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As we mentioned earlier, the latest models of cars are more like advanced computers.

If the mechanic says he has the latest diagnostic equipment or the latest tools for your vehicle, ask to see them and have him explain how they work. Attitude problem? Drive on.

8. Ask for a warranty

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Warranties for vehicle repairs can vary greatly, so ask ahead of time. Make sure you understand what is covered and get it in writing. There is no “standard warranty” on repairs, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Warranties may also be subject to limitations, including time and mileage.

9. Test out the technician

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You could ask a new technician to do a routine maintenance task — such as an oil change — and see if you are satisfied with the workmanship, professionalism and price.

10. Get a second opinion

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You think you found the perfect mechanic, but something doesn’t feel right — and you don’t know if the price is right. So, you want a second opinion.

If you know someone who understands cars, great. If not, take it to the No. 2 shop on your list. It might cost you more, but it will be worth it in the end.

11. Don’t bow to pressure

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The key is to avoid being pressured into a decision. That’s why it’s important to choose a technician or service center before you have a major problem with your car.

If you go to a technician and are presented with a list of unexpected repairs they want to do, don’t feel obligated to comply. Get a second opinion.

What road map did you use to find an honest mechanic? Share it in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham contributed to this post.

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