Most people just arent familiar enough about the inner workings of their vehicles to determine whether an auto repair facility is honest and charges fair prices. Fortunately, there are a number of recommendations that will help provide assurance that an auto repair shop is both competent and honest.
In the first place, dont choose a shop simply because its location is convenient. Youre just gamblingand you may be a big loser. The National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) recommends that you find a reputable repair shop before you need repairs. You can make better decisions when youre not rushed or needing repairs immediately.
When you first contact the shop, ask about its experience with your particular vehicle make and model and whether they specialize in certain types of repairs. Dont hesitate to ask the shop for a few references. Any facility that wants your business should be happy to provide them. A few minutes on the phone contacting references could save you a lot of grief later. Also, ask family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to recommend shops they have used that do good work at fair prices.
You can also check with your local Better Business Bureau or Department of Consumer Affairs to see if there have been complaints against the repair shop youre considering. You may also inquire if an independently owned and operated shop is affiliated with NAPA. To be certified as a NAPA Auto Care Center, the shop must have gained a reputation for service quality in its community.
When visiting the shop, notice whether there are vehicles being repaired or in the parking lot equal in value to yours. Is the facility neat and well organized? Does it have modern equipment? Is the staff courteous and helpful?
All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction. Also, find out if the facility offers a written guarantee on parts and labor as well as a customer satisfaction policy.
Some garages promote free inspections, but this is usually not to your benefit. The shop must recover the cost of the time it spends on the inspection in some way, and that usually results in trying to sell you repairs-whether you need them or not. According to NAPA, All reputable auto care centers charge a nominal fee for basic inspections.
NAPA advises against basing your choice of facility on price alone. Youre paying not just for parts and labor but also for the expertise of the mechanics. Around the shop look for signs that it has the equipment and skilled technicians required to make the needed repairs. Look for the ASE symbol, a national standard of technician competencewhich is prominently displayed at certified facilities. ASE-certified technicians must be trained and tested to achieve certification in a variety of repair specialties, and must be re-tested every five years to maintain certification. The display of trade school diplomas and certificates of advanced course work from car manufacturers can also identify qualified technicians. Since it is the technicians themselves, who are personally certified, not the shop, you may want to be assured that a certified person will do the repairs on your vehicle.
Discuss beforehand what parts will be used to repair your vehicle. Brand name parts are typically engineered to original manufacturers quality or better, and they often carry product warranties. However, remanufactured parts and non-brand name parts often cost less and may also carry warranties. Discuss with the shop the pros and cons of which parts to use.
Misunderstandings often occur due to poor communication between the customer and the shop. Its easy to become intimidated when communicating with a car repair shop and youre hearing a lot of words and concepts you dont understand. A hallmark of a good facility is the ability to communicate to you what is wrong with your vehicle and what your options are for fixing the problem. Dont be afraid to ask questions until youre sure you understand to your satisfaction everything that will be repaired and what it will cost. Equally important is to give the shop a full description of the problem. If the vehicle is making a funny noise, try to convey exactly when it happens. Does it occur when the engine is hot or when it is cold? when turning right or left? when braking or accelerating? with the lights on or off? on a full or empty fuel tank? For some problems, the best way to communicate may be to take the service writer or technician for a road test so they can see the exact conditions in which the problem occurs. The point is to do your part to help the mechanic accurately diagnose and repair the problem.
These days with the average cost of a new vehicle exceeding $23,000, people drive their cars longer. Basic automobile maintenance and good repair service is the best way to keep your car running well for many years.