Choosing a Repair Shop
By Kimberly Graf. Published on December 10, 2022
For many car-owners, choosing a repair shop is one of the biggest decisions to make when it comes to your vehicle. Especially when you don't live in big cities with transportation services, your car becomes your lifeline to work, groceries, getting your kids to school, and many other things we take for granted until it breaks down.
So you want to choose a repair shop that's going to take care of it, right? Here are some tips for choosing an auto repair shop that will meet your needs!
First off, check online to find reviews. This is a valuable resource when you're looking for a reputable business anyway, but when you're looking for a place that's going to be fixing one of your most expensive and important assets it's especially important.
Don't immediately dismiss a shop based on any negative reviews that you find. Sometimes this isn't necessarily the fault of the shop, so read the negative reviews and take them into consideration. But don't make a decision based on the fact that they exist.
One of the most understated tips that we cannot stress enough is do not choose a shop based on price. This is really difficult to do, especially when you have a repair that's going to be expensive anyway. Your instinct will be to go with the shop that you can easily afford. But keep in mind that they are charging less for a reason.
Techs with less experience make less in labor, so chances are that a smaller price tag comes at the cost of someone who actually knows what they're doing. There's also a chance that they aren't using the best parts for the job – just the least expensive. Don't chance having the same problem a year or two down the road because of a shop using salvaged parts.
Furthermore, it's obviously not a good decision to wait until an emergency to choose a shop. Make a decision when your mind is clear and you aren't stressed out over the repair, that way there is a plan you can fall back on when or if something does go wrong.
Prevention is the key to avoiding large auto repairs, so establish a relationship with your chosen shop by taking your car there for any minor repairs or scheduled maintenance. A shop that knows your car and knows you will benefit you in the event of a major issue.
Of course, make sure that you talk to the shop. Ask all the questions that you feel you need to without feeling bad about it. You want a shop that's going to take the best care of your car, so shops should expect this level of screening. Ask all sorts of questions about their experience, if they've worked on your particular issue on your particular make and model before, and where they get their parts from. Be curious and protect yourself in the long run.
So you need to choose a repair shop that makes you feel comfortable. Chances are you're going to be talking to a service writer when you walk into a shop, and if they seem at all unfriendly or condescending, it's probably not the best shop for you to go to. You don't want to dread the process of getting your car repaired more than you already do! Ask to talk to the technician that's going to be working on your car if you can. If they are happy to talk to you and explain what they're doing, that's a really good sign that you've found a great shop.
National chain repair shops often have a high employee turnover, and employ techs with less experience or knowledge than local repair shops. If you need something done quickly or inexpensively, national chains are a great way to go. But for more intensive repairs or preventative maintenance, local shops are the better choice.
Most car dealerships have a service department, where you can take vehicles of any make or model. Obviously, a dealership that sells a certain make is going to be more knowledgeable about that type of car, but they won't turn down any car that you bring in. In fact, many car dealerships will use factory parts when you ask for them, and most dealerships have parts for the makes they sell on hand.
Local repair shops will be less expensive than dealerships for the most part. They will use aftermarket parts, and may charge less for labor. And most local shops will work on any type of car no matter what make or model – but they very rarely have parts on hand.
So if you're looking for something quick with quality parts and service, and price isn't an issue? Dealership service departments are the best for you. Local dealerships stimulate your local economy, but repairs often take longer unless you take them the parts yourself.
While taking your own parts might be cheaper, it's also sometimes discouraged. Certain shops would rather order their own than put the parts you bring them on your car, so you're going to have to ask if you'd like to purchase them yourself.
From lowest to highest, your shop options are: national chains, local shops in your area, and car dealerships. Mileage may vary.
Choosing a repair shop is a tough decision, but it doesn't have to be. Follow these tips to find a shop you can have a healthy relationship with, one where you benefit each other with continued business and quality repairs.