Every August, students make their way back to college, sometimes hundreds of miles away from home. They may be in a brand-new city, where they don’t know many people and aren’t familiar with local businesses. Often, new drivers find themselves unsure of how to find a trustworthy, dependable mechanic who will ensure their car is operating safely. Read on for our tips for students looking to choose a local car mechanic in a new town.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A MECHANIC?
- Reviews – Whenever you’re considering doing business with a company or service, the best place to start is with an internet search. Look for reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook. If you’re seeing a lot of negative or one-star ratings, you probably want to look elsewhere. A car mechanic with a poor reputation on the internet probably isn’t a dependable one.
- Cost – As a newer driver, you might not be familiar with the usual costs of car maintenance. Whether it’s something as simple as an oil change or something a little more complicated, like failing wheel bearings, prices are generally pretty consistent. Unfortunately, there are people out there who might take advantage of a new customer and charge extra for a job for which another auto repair service would have charged a lot less. Call a few places and request a quote for the service you need and compare. Do some internet research on average prices in your area for that service. If one mechanic quotes much higher than the others and it’s not clear why, they might not be your best option. You can always ask a mechanic to explain what they’re charging.
- Location – If you’re living in a new town and you know some local people, ask for a recommendation. Oftentimes, people find a good, reliable mechanic in their town and return to them time and again. If a local auto repair shop has a good reputation and is recommended to you by a few local people, there’s a good chance they’ll provide quality service. People who have actual experience with a mechanic can give you the most authentic recommendations.
AM I BEING QUOTED THE RIGHT AMOUNT?
You might understandably feel a little wary of trusting that a mechanic you’ve just met is going to quote you the right price. It’s important to ask around. Use the internet to conduct research, and ask people you know – your parents, friends, and even teachers, if you feel comfortable reaching out to them. If someone with a lot of car knowledge or experience tells you the price sounds unreasonable, the mechanic might not be quoting you a fair price. Remember, however, that prices may vary depending on things like location, labor and resources. Always get a second opinion, even if the price seems reasonable to you.
When requesting a quote, calling a garage on the phone for an oil change or other common maintenance task question is perfectly fine. However, it’s a bit more difficult to assess your needs and all of the work and/or parts that will be required. The cost of a job is also often dependent on the age of a car. Newer cars are much different than older ones, and even something as simple as an oil change could be more expensive for an older car. If you’re not sure what’s going on with your vehicle or you need more complicated work done, like a brake repair, it’s important that a mechanic can inspect the vehicle in-person before giving you an accurate quote.
Make sure to ask questions and be open-minded to guidance from an auto repair professional. A credible mechanic will provide comprehensive diagnostics the first time they inspect your car, replace only the parts that need to be replaced, and let you know in advance what the charges will be based on symptoms and/or check engine light code. If there are unforeseen issues, an ethical shop will contact you immediately rather than simply add it to your bill without asking you first.
ARE THEY CREDIBLE?
The internet has made it a lot easier to determine whether a mechanic is good quality or not. Dissatisfied customers often leave reviews on various platforms. If you see a lot of negative reviews, it’s safe to say you don’t want that mechanic working on your car. However, you can’t always be certain of a service’s quality based on reviews alone. Sometimes reviews are spammed by competitors or even by the business itself in order to improve them. The best way to ensure you’re working with a mechanic who is going to provide the best service possible is to consult with locals.
Another positive sign is an up-to-date website or social media page. Do they interact with their clients and community? Do they provide a lot of transparent information on the internet? Do they have a professional internet presence? A company that is concerned with the way it is perceived by clients, both current and potential, is more likely to also be concerned with providing the best auto repair service possible. Are they involved in the community or mentioned in any local newspapers or magazines? Mechanics that have been named to lists of the best in your city are almost always a safe choice
When it comes to deciding whether to do business with anyone, regardless of industry, there are a few things you should always consider. For example, if they seem unfriendly or off-putting, that might be a red flag. If the auto repair shop is in poor condition or appears to be dirty and neglected, look elsewhere. Trust your instincts if you think they seem unprofessional. Consider the following questions when choosing a mechanic:
- Payment methods – Before working with a mechanic, make sure they accept the payment method that you want to use. This information should be available on their website or over the phone. It’s also best to avoid places that require pre-payment. Making a deposit for special orders is OK, as often a garage will need to request specific parts for your car. It’s a red flag, however, if a mechanic asks for payment, half or in full, upfront.
- Was the person in a rush that gave you a quote? – Customer service is an important indicator of the way a company does business. If you’re treated with respect, friendliness, and full attention to your individual situation, that’s obviously a good sign. If the person who gives you a quote for the auto repair service you need seems irritable, unfriendly, or like they aren’t really sure that they’re giving you the right price, it’s probably best to look for another mechanic.
- YouTube/repair videos – There are thousands of videos on the internet claiming to offer mechanical advice and tips for fixing your vehicle yourself. While occasionally these might be accurate, there is no way to really vet the person giving the advice. It’s important to be wary of these videos. Without inspecting your specific car and the individual issues you’re experiencing, it’s impossible to make an accurate diagnosis. It’s so important that a professional look at your car in-person in order to ensure that it’s safe to operate. Never take unnecessary risks with your car – you could be endangering yourself and other drivers on the road.
- Is the shop busy? – A clear sign that an auto mechanic service practices ethical, high quality service is a busy shop. Drive by a couple time on different days and look for a full parking lot. Are they working on lots of cars? Are a lot of people coming and going? For any business, this is a sign of loyal customers and good reviews.
Courtesy of hollenshades