Trying to find a great auto repair shop can be quite a challenge, yet finding a great shop can be quite rewarding. The question is, how to get from the looking stage to the found stage. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the “inside information” they might need. Just as unfortunate, in my opinion, is the lack of really helpful information on the topic.
I hope by writing this article I’m able to dispel some of the misinformation that is so out there.
|MYTH:||Look for industry affiliations|
|TRUTH:||Generally, trade associations are prohibited from denying membership to anyone in the trade. There are seldom any type of background checks and paying dues is often all that is required to be a member. A large advertising budget does not indicated competence or integrity.|
|MYTH:||Dealerships employ factory trained experts|
|TRUTH:||Dealerships hire from the exact same employee pool as the independent shops do. Choosing a dealership for service is no guarantee of anything. Training is available to any shop that is willing to invest in it. Some shops do and other shops don’t and the same goes for dealerships.|
|MYTH:||Look for ASE certification|
|TRUTH:||While there is nothing wrong with ASE certification, a sign hanging out front means nothing. A shop could have or at one time did have one technician that was certified and nine that are not. No one polices the use of signs that proclaim, “We employ certified technicians.|
|MYTH:||A dealership must perform regular maintenance to keep your car’s factory warranty valid.
|TRUTH:||As long as the maintenance items specified in the vehicle owner’s manual are performed on schedule, using parts and fluids that meet the factory specifications, the work can be done at any auto-repair shop. If you’re knowledgeable, you can even do the work yourself. Just keep accurate records and receipts to back you up in case of a warranty dispute on a future repair.|
So how is a person to choose a good shop?
There are two situations when you may need a shop, and a procedure for finding a shop in each. The first is the emergency repair. Clearly the best approach is to avoid emergencies with a good maintenance program. Still emergencies do arise. For example:
Your vehicle breaks down while traveling.
With emergency repair there is seldom time for a thorough search as outlined below, quick advice is needed. Seek advice from someone who does NOT stand to gain from your choice. Make a call to a parts store or a shop that does NOT do the type work you need. Ask, “If your sister’s vehicle was broken which shop would you recommend?” Call several places and see if one shop is referred more than others.
An even better approach
When looking for a regular shop, finding one before service is needed is a much better approach. A little time spent ahead of need can pay huge dividends down the road. The first step is to do a bit of homework.
Ask friends, coworkers and others that drive the type vehicle that you own, what shop they use. It is important to ask, “Why do you recommend them?” Be certain the reason given is what you are looking for in a shop.
Look for a name(s) that comes up more than once in referrals. Several people recommending the same facility is a very good sign. If the shop has a website, take a look. Read carefully the things that are written and how well they are written. Does the expressed information match your aims in auto service?
Lastly make a call or visit to the shop. A few observations can reveal a great deal. There are two very broad categories of folks in the auto repair trade, in my opinion. Those who are there to repair your vehicle and those that are there to sell you something.
One easy way to tell which you are speaking with is to see how they market their services. I find that a shop interested in performing quality repair will ask for symptoms and will not quote prices without knowing what is wrong with a vehicle. If you ask for a “tune-up,” they will ask, “What kind of problem are you having?” Knowing the exact symptoms, they can recommend the correct course of action.
Selling a “tune-up” or “a brake job” for $XX.XX is known as menu pricing. It might surprise many to know the words tune-up and brake job have no standardized meaning. Instead, they mean whatever the shop wants them to mean.
Menu pricing misleads folks into thinking a complex task can be made to appear simple. Instead it relegates the duty of diagnosing the problem to the client. Ask for a tune-up, pay the price and the car is still hard to start. “We did a tune-up, that’s what you asked for.” This shows me the intentions of the shop offering it. A low price offer is nothing more than a way to get the vehicle in the shop. Nothing is ever free and shops that mislead up front will likely mislead far more once the vehicle is disabled in the shop.
A good shop’s primary interest is fixing the vehicle properly
By offering great service the techs and shop owners earn an honest living. A little work up front can help you find the shop you trust and are happy to work with.