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How to find a good auto repair shop

How to find a good auto repair shop

"How do I find a good auto repair shop?" It's a universal concern, and is something drivers around the country ask. It can be unsettling having to take your car in for repairs when you are unsure of what is wrong, how much it will cost to get fixed or the reputation of the repair shop. No one wants to pay for repairs that don't solve the problem, or worse, pay for something they don't need. Below are some best practices to follow and the certifications to look for to help you find a reputable auto repair shop.

Shop for a repair shop before you need one
It sounds simple, but most people do not look for one until it's necessary. This often results in someone being forced to use a shop closest to where their car breaks down, as they do not have a better alternative. Some questions to consider are whether they guarantee their work, if their training is up-to-date and if they have a loaner/shuttle service available.

Ask if they are members of an association or certified
When looking for a repair shop ask if they are members of associations such as AAA, NAPA Autocare, Automotive Service Association, or TechNet Professional Services. A repair shop has to meet specific criteria as it relates to customer satisfaction, their estimates for work, the work performed and even how nice or clean their waiting area is to become a member in these types of associations. You should also check out the waiting room/service area for technician certificates from companies like The Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), AC Delco and manufacturers such as Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, etc.

Can they provide customer references?
In addition to asking the shop for references, you can ask people in the waiting room why they chose to get their car repaired there. It's always good to hear from repeat customers, as that usually means they are satisfied by the work performed by the shop. "They do great work," "Their prices are fair," or "They guarantee their work," or something along those lines is what you should hear for responses. If the best responses they can provide are "They are the cheapest" or "They have a lot of coupons or sales," you might want to reconsider the shop.

Is there a type of car or service(s) in which they specialize?
Is there a certain make of car or service a shop is known for? Some common areas of automotive specialties include:

  • A specific make of car or foreign car repair

  • Collision and paint repair

  • Transmission and drivetrain repair

  • Computer and electrical system repair

  • Radiator and cooling system repair

While they can cost more than a standard shop, it is sometimes best to go to a specialist for a given problem, as they can usually quickly identify and correct the problem. A more generalized shop may or may not be able to diagnose the problem as quickly, and can sometimes take numerous times before it's fixed correctly, which ends up costing you more in the long run. Specialists usually deal with specific problems or models of cars day after day, and have the knowledge, equipment, and information systems necessary to identify and correct a problem.

Is their work guaranteed?
Find out what type of warranties they offer on their work. This is always wise to do, but especially if you are getting major work performed on your vehicle. Membership in associations such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Professionals (ASP), the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (ICAR) lets you know the shop cares about the quality of their workmanship and operates by a code of ethics required by the association. Make sure to get the guarantee in writing, so there is no confusion as to what is covered.

Find out how long have they been in business
Has the repair shop been around a while? Are they an active part of the local community? See any pictures of teams they sponsor on the walls, or any local "Best Of" awards? These are usually a good sign, as it means they are invested in the community.

Online car repair resources
Should you need a repair on your vehicle, check out RepairPal. This website is a great resource to see what it should cost you to get your car fixed - before you are at the shop. The site provides info on the cost broken down by parts and labor, and even gives details of the usual cost to perform maintenance based on your zip code. There is also a smartphone app for both Android and iPhone users so you can check repair costs on the go or in an emergency. So, if you end up stranded away from home, you can use the RepairPal app to contact a local repair shop or to look up information about your car and a specific repair. You'll never feel like you've been overcharged again.

The final verdict
Ultimately, only you can decide what shop is right. Price, quality, location and timeliness all are important factors to contemplate. Also remember to consider not only the initial cost, but also the long-term costs of repairs. It pays to anticipate problems and look around for a shop the meets your needs. A little extra time spent up front by a trained shop or specialist can be more cost efficient in the long run if the repair is fixed correctly, and can save you many worries down the road.


Legal disclaimer:
This information is of a general nature for educational purposes only and must not be taken as advice. 21st Century Insurance is not responsible for any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or debt, and expenses arising from use of these educational guidelines. You are solely responsible for your interactions with any automotive repair shops or individuals.

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