Pardon my silliness, but doesn’t it feel like sometimes you have to use binoculars to looks for an honest mechanic? I can help with that! In the last article in this series, I detailed the different types of repair shops. If you haven’t read that yet, start there, and then read this.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of shop you want to proceed with, you need to start looking for a shop. Do this BEFORE you need a shop. You certainly don’t want to have your back against the wall, experiencing a major failure, and then to have to start looking. At that point, you’ll end up going to the first place with an opening. If you’re getting a tow, perhaps the closest one to where the vehicle failure occurred.
This article will focus on how to find an independent shop since independent shops are a bit more tricky to find. For most people, an independent shop will be ideal. If you, however, prefer to go to a dealership, usually, there are only a few options in your area. A little trial and error, and one of them will be a good fit for you.
My method of finding a good quality, trustworthy mechanic is simple. Start by figuring out what type of shop you want to use. Then, make a list of shops that you want to consider. Then, go to the shop before you need them, for a simple service. Use the opportunity to “interview” the shop to see if they are a good fit for you. Rinse and repeat until you find the right shop.
Finding a trustworthy, quality mechanic that you can build a relationship with is the key to properly taking care of, and extending the life of, your vehicle.
Today, we’re on step two: Finding the shops that you want to consider. We’ll talk about actually testing out the shop and how the interview works in the third and final part of this series. Subscribe for an email digest of what’s happening on Mechanic Shop Femme, and know when part three comes out.
Ask Your Network
The first place to look for a mechanic, before you head off into the depth of Google or Yelp hell, is your own network. Yes, that’s right. Post in your Facebook groups, the What’s App chat group, Slack communities and don’t forget to ask the people you know. When you make a post, ask people if they have a mechanic they love. You want to know who’s been taking care of their cars for years and who they trust.
After asking around, especially if you are looking on a hyper-local level, you’ll find a pattern emerges. There will be a few shops that people recommend over and over again. Those are the shops that you want to put on your list of places to check out and consider.
If you don’t have a network or you just want to have an extra layer of security, the RepairPal network is a place to look for a new mechanic. If you already made a list from your network, you can use Repair Pal to cross-check it, perhaps starting with the shops that are on their site.
The RepairPal website is one of my favorite resources for car owners. RepairPal is a certification network, and shops that are part of it are required to meet a lot of requirements to ensure that that they are top-notch. Jill Trotta, one of RepairPal’s vice presidents, is a master mechanic, a friend, and a mentor. She helped build the company from the ground up, and I trust her, and the program she built, immensely.
The RepairPal network is unique in the way that it offers car owners pricing information and access to vetted shops all over the country. RepairPal ensures that shops provide excellent customer service, are qualified to do the work that they do, have the right tools to do it well, and provide transparent and honest pricing. They also guarantee the pricing offered on their site, as long as you put the right information in, of course.
One of the reasons that some car owners prefer corporate shops is the national warranty they are offered. This is really convenient for people who drive long distances for work, take frequent road trips, snowbirds, and people who like to live a more nomadic life. I have a different solution for those of you that need that kind of protection.
Napa Auto Care Centers is a network of independent shops. One of the benefits of using a shop that is part of Napa is that they offer a national warranty. This allows you to go to a shop that’s an independent small business, and get the warranty you need.
If you need financing for repairs, Napa is also a good option for that. They have a branded credit card that usually has interest-free promotions that you can take advantage of, and can be used are any Napa Auto Care Center.
The ways to narrow your mechanic choices are not limited to the ones described in this article. These are the ones that I can personally verify work and suggest that you try them. There are others, however, including the AAA network of shops and Ask Patty – Certified Female Friendly. These can also help you at this stage of your mechanic search.
At this point in the process, you should narrow down your list of opinions to the top two or three mechanics that you want to check out, and interview. In part three of this series, you’ll learn what you want to look for when you take the car to the mechanic, and how the interview process works.