Hassles, headaches, and high bills, choose the wrong auto repair shop, and you could end up with all three. Whether your ride of choice is a sports car, sedan, crossover, or truck, you need to know exactly who you can rely on for quality workmanship and fair prices when your vehicle needs repairs or service. You depend on your car, and you need it in tip-top shape. Take the guesswork out of choosing an auto shop, so you can drive with confidence.
Know Your Vehicle
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) recommends becoming very familiar with your vehicle before you need to take it to the shop. Take some time to read the owner's manual to familiarize yourself with all the components and features, troubleshooting steps, and the recommended schedule for routine maintenance servicing.
Understand Your Options
Not all auto repair shops are created equally. Ideally, you want to find a great full-service repair shop, but that's not your only option. The four basic types of repair shops include the following:
- Dealerships: Dealers sell cars and employ factory-trained technicians who know how to service them. As a result, they are great sources for common problems and routine maintenance, but they often have the highest prices.
- Independent Repair Shops: At independent shops, you usually pay less and have more personal interaction with the owner or the professional working on your vehicle.
- Specialists: Some independent shops specialize in working on specific vehicles or systems. If your vehicle needs a specialty repair or service, these shops tend to be very efficient and produce quality work.
- Auto Repair Chains: Chain stores and auto parts shops often have auto repair chains affiliated with their businesses. The American Automobile Association (AAA) notes that these shops typically offer solid value and low prices, but they also focus on cranking out high volume services performed by mid-level pros.
How to Find a Quality Repair Shop
You shouldn't just drive to any shop and hope to get the kind of service you need. Doing a little research ahead of time is the best way to narrow your list of options. Use the following tips to guide your search:
Check with friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. If you're in an unfamiliar city, ask the concierge at your hotel or other professionals you encounter. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and most people will give you an honest review before referring you to an auto repair shop.
Check online reviews for the shop, and check with the Better Business Bureau to review feedback from other customers and research unresolved service issues. Don't get stuck on price. Sometimes the shops with the worst service are the ones offering the cheapest prices. On the other side of the coin, high prices don't guarantee great service.
If time is on your side, get estimates from two or three different shops and compare prices. This is an effective way to keep costs down, but as noted, the lower price tag isn't always the best choice. Reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations are equally important.
Pay Attention to Details
Whether you're still shopping around or you've already narrowed your choices to one or two, several characteristics help you identify a quality repair shop. Look for the following features:
- Professional Appearance: The best shops look clean, organized, and professional.
- Amenities for Customers: Waiting areas should be clean and comfortable, and bathrooms should be clean. Access to a shuttle to drive you to work or back home is also a nice perk.
- Skilled Technicians: Look for auto repair shops with technicians who are well-trained, preferably with ASE certifications or equivalent training.
- Updated Equipment: You probably won't know if equipment is cutting edge, but repair professionals at quality repair shops are happy to tell you all about their first-rate equipment.
- Warranties: Quality repair shops offer a warranty on parts and labor, such as 12 months, 12,000 miles.
After servicing or repairing your vehicle, be sure to keep all your service records, and reward quality service with your repeat business.
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