Choosing the Right Repair Shop

No matter what you drive - sports car, family sedan, pick-up, or mini-van - when you go in for repairs or service, you want the job done right. The following advice should take much of the guesswork out of finding a good repair establishment.

Don't just drop your vehicle off at the nearest establishment and hope for the best. That's not choosing a shop, that's merely gambling.

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I. Preliminaries

  • Read your owner's manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer's suggested service schedule.
  • Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one; you can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic.
  • Ask friends and associates for recommendations; even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word of mouth reputation is valuable.
  • Check with your local consumer organization(s) regarding the reputation of the business. Inquire about complaints and the rate of resolution of complaints.
  • If possible, arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a shop solely on location.

Once you choose a repair shop, start off with a minor job; if you are pleased, trust them with more complicated repairs later.

II. At the Shop

  • Look for a neat, well organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.
  • Professionally run establishments will have a courteous, helpful staff. The service writer should be willing to answer all of your questions.
  • Feel free to ask for the names of a few customers. Call them.
  • All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.
  • Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize.
  • Ask if the shop usually does your type of repair, especially if you need major work.
  • Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards.
  • Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications - a national standard of technician competence.

The backbone of any shop is the competence of its technicians.

III. Follow-Up

  • Keep good records; keep all paperwork.
  • Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship.
  • If the service was not all you expected, don't rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.