For several years after college I moved a lot. I’d pack as many of my belongings as possible into my yellow Dodge Neon, Clunky, to settle into my new home in a new state and a new city. Michigan. Ohio. Florida…and when my oil needed changing or something more, I brought my car into a shop the same way one would spin a globe, close their eyes, point to a location and say, “Someday I will live here!” I never knew if I was going to be treated well or get the care needed for my car and I rarely brought it back to the same place twice. It’s this near recklessness with searching for a mechanic shop that causes me to joke, “Well, it’s a good thing I married a mechanic!”

You’ll often read about the importance of building a relationship with your mechanic on this blog and it’s not because I’m married to one. Rather, it is because someone who is familiar with your vehicle, its maintenance and repair history, and who knows you will be more likely to take the greatest care of you and your car. This trusting relationship will reduce the stress of the inevitable major repair and you’ll be able to drive down the road confident in your vehicle’s performance and safety.

So, what should you look for in a auto-mechanic shop? Here are six qualities to consider:

1. Customer Service

Will the mechanic (or their Service Writer) sit down with me and talk through the repairs needed, the urgency of each, and cost? Will he or she listen to my experiences driving the vehicle and hear out my questions and concerns?

2. Quality of Parts

Does the mechanic use Original Equipment (OE) or high-quality aftermarket parts? The shop should look out for you by selling you quality parts that last. Some parts are too cheap, will fail prematurely (or never work correctly to begin with), and cost you more money in the long run.

3. Diagnostics

Does the mechanic apply skill and effort toward diagnosing problems instead of guessing with parts? You should always be given a good reason to replace a part, and it’s ideal to replace parts based on a confirmed diagnosis. A trustworthy mechanic won’t want to recommend more parts than needed.

4. Labor Practices

If there is a quick way to do a job versus a better way to do it, which one will your mechanic choose? Will they charge you fairly for a lasting quality repair or charge you less for inferior work that causes you to return sooner?

5. Pricing

Consider how their pricing compares to other mechanic shops. Are they the cheapest? Why? Are they the most expensive? Why? Cheapest or most expensive doesn’t always mean better or worse. Good work that costs more now will be less painful on your bank account than lesser quality work which needs to be revisited multiple times.

6. Tools and Resources

Is a shop equipped for a variety of diagnostic, maintenance, and repair jobs? In addition to tools and equipment, do they have access to professional service information and resources to get the job done well?

I speak fondly of Clunky, my yellow Neon, because I no longer have her. I didn’t have a trusted mechanic to tell me she was worth keeping; that the price for fixing her was worth the miles she still had left. I didn’t have a trusted mechanic to advise me against my next car (whom we will simply call Zelda in order not to hurt the feelings of others like her) due to her impracticality. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that anymore but I realize that not everyone can marry a good mechanic, so I hope these tips will help you find a great one!

-From the Mechanic’s Wife

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