“How do I find a good mechanic?” is a question our FIXD Mechanics get asked a LOT.
After all, picking a repair shop with a trustworthy staff and highly qualified mechanics is an important mission for every driver.
But whether you’re new to the area or have lived in the same place for 20 years, sometimes finding a local repair shop you can trust feels daunting.
Shopping around during a time of need can be stressful, so we asked our expert FIXD Mechanics for their best advice on how to choose a repair shop.
By the time you hit the bottom of this page, you’ll not only know how to spot a good shop (without solely relying on word of mouth), but also how you can best prepare for your first visit stress-free! Before you pick a shop, you should be familiar with the signs of a good or bad repair shop so you don’t get taken advantage of.
While checking online reviews can be a great place to start when it comes to avoiding a bad repair shop, not all shops have an online presence. And there are some things reviews and testimonials forget to mention. However, there are a few specific things most people don’t even think of when it comes to choosing a quality local repair shop.
What to Look for in a Repair Shop
This is one of the most underrated qualifiers of a repair shop. How do they communicate with customers? AND… what’s your preferred communication style?
For example, some car owners want to get as detailed information about their car problems as possible. On the other hand, some drivers just want to get the work done right, at a reasonable price, and get on with their day. They don’t care about the mechanics behind the problem or what’s required to fix it.
Before you choose a repair shop, think about which type of person you are and choose a shop that aligns with your values and communication preferences.
This might come as a shock, but the best shop isn’t always the closest one to you. While convenience is often an important factor in the decision-making process, do some upfront research to find a shop that’s a good fit, not just nearby.
You can do this by asking friends and family for recommendations, and then trying a few out for yourself.
Treat picking a mechanic like picking your family doctor. Look at what others are saying online, check out their building (or view pictures online), and even go in for something minor like an oil change to get a feel for how the relationship will go.
A surefire sign of a BAD repair shop is a lack of certifications. You want to look for things that mention ASE Certified, RepairPal Certified, and BBB rated both inside the shop and on the shop’s website.
These certifications show that an objective, third party has found that this establishment meets their requirements and can go a long way in building trust with potential customers like you.
If you live in a state that requires repair shops to be licensed and/or registered, the Federal Trade Commission recommends checking the shop’s license beforehand to ensure it’s up to date.
Good shops will always prioritize these accreditations, and a tool like FIXD makes it a snap to find well-reviewed, RepairPal Certified shops nearby.
Never choose a shop that doesn’t guarantee their services. If the shop you’re considering doesn’t offer warranties on parts and labor, get up and walk out the door. It’s not worth the trouble.
Don’t hesitate to ask the shop about other policies as well, including methods of payment, labor rates, and drop-off procedures. These should be posted or explained ahead of time to your level of comfort.
By looking for these 4 signs of a good repair shop, you’re already well on your way to finding a trustworthy shop. The next step is to call around and ask the following 7 essential questions BEFORE selecting a repair shop.
7 Questions to Ask a Mechanic before Hiring
These questions will help you see how open and communicative the shop is while ensuring you make the best choice for your specific needs and vehicle. A good shop will always take the time to answer questions openly and explain things in detail. Not only will these 7 questions help alleviate any anxiety you have around going to the repair shop, but they could also save you money and avoid mechanic scams!
1: Services Offered
Ask: “Are you a full-service, bumper-to-bumper shop?”
Some shops do everything: Diagnostics, electrical, mechanical. While others specialize in one or two areas, such as tires, breaks, or fluid changes.
If you have an idea of what repairs and services you’ll be needing or you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for repairs, it’s important to choose a full-service shop.
2: Imports vs. Domestic
Ask: “Are you familiar with [state your make and model]?”
Just like some shops specialize in tires, some specialize in specific types of vehicles. Before selecting a repair shop, make sure they have experience working on your specific make and model and avoid shops that specialize in a type of vehicle you don’t own.
There are key differences between vehicles that not just any mechanic may know about. To get the most for your vehicle, find someone who knows all the ins and outs of your engine.
Ask: “Do you stand by your estimates?”
Any solid repair shop will have a service writer who can give you an accurate estimate for repairs upfront. They will ask for your approval before doing anything so there are no unwanted surprises on your invoice.
Be sure the repair shop stands by these estimates and doesn’t change them without talking to you first.
Ask: “Do you offer a warranty on your repairs?”
As we already mentioned, honest repair shops don’t have any trouble backing up their parts and labor with a warranty. It’s always a good idea to ask about the details of their warranties ahead of time so you have peace of mind.
Ask: “What are your hours of operation and how soon can you fit me in?”
We understand it can be frustrating to wait around on a vehicle that’s getting repairs done. One way to pick the right shop and avoid this frustration is to verify hours of operation ahead of time.
Call up the shops you’re looking at and ask them about their typical hours and process for vehicle drop-off, as well as typical turnaround times so you can set clear expectations of whether or not this shop will work with your schedule.
Ask: “Do you offer towing?”
Want to save time and money? Ask the shop if they offer towing services or are familiar with a towing company.
This can help you save time and money in the event of a breakdown as towing can be quite expensive, and the shop may offer discounts with the towing companies they work with.
7: Diagnostic Fees
Ask: “Will you let me know how much it will cost before you do anything?”
A good shop will always diagnose your car problem before throwing parts at it. Even if you have a tool like FIXD that can tell you the code and give an idea of what’s going on, the shop will still inspect and assess your vehicle as they are professionals who charge for their time.
However, they should always okay this diagnostic time with you as they go. Many times, if the shop ends up completing your repairs, they will even waive this initial diagnostic fee. Even if you have a repair shop you trust, it’s critical to communicate what’s going on with your vehicle to the shop. This not only gives the technician a clear starting point when it comes to accurately and efficiently diagnose repairs, but it also helps take the stress out of car repairs.
When you’re educated about your car problem, you can walk into any repair shop confidently and know right away if someone is trying to take advantage of the situation.
A tool like the FIXD Sensor can give you a clear description of what’s going on right on your smartphone as soon as the check engine light comes on.
Know what’s even better?
This handy gadget will tell you what your code means in plain English so you don’t have to translate complicated car jargon. It will also guide you to a local RepairPal Certified shop (especially handy if you’re new in town or vacationing).
With FIXD Premium, you can even access our on-call mechanics for trusted advice, repair cost estimates, and more.
There’s no faster, easier way to take care of car problems.
Here’s the Bottom Line:
By doing a little bit of research in advance and walking into your repair shop prepared to communicate what’s going on with your vehicle, you can save a ton of time, money, and hassle. We hope the information in this guide has helped you do just that!
Have another tip for picking a repair shop you’d like to share? Let us know by dropping a comment below!
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.