Much like a doctor, an automobile mechanic is somebody we are all going to have to have in our lives. We all have cars, cars that will break down from time to time. In order to save money, it is important that you find somebody that you trust, who will do a good job, and only fix that which you need fixed, without trying to talk you into a dozen other things that you don’t need for the sole purpose of padding the bill.
The appeal of the dealership is the name recognition. The obvious plus is that you are taking it somewhere with mechanics who work on your type of car all the time and are well versed in that particular model. A GM mechanic works on GM cars all day long, which is a plus. The downside is that dealerships tend to be much more expensive than other shops.
In my opinion, the local shop is the way to go. Local mechanics have their reputation on the line, and aren’t going to do anything to tarnish that. They are going up against the dealerships and national chains, and they have to create that level of trustworthiness without the promotional and advertising budget the big boys have. This is only done by word of mouth, fueled by quality work, good attitude, and solid customer retention.
When it comes to finding a good mechanic, word of mouth is the best way to find somebody. Talk to friends and neighbors and see who they use. Check with local car clubs or enthusiasts and see who they trust their prized wheels with. Some newspapers or area magazines also run “Best In Town” articles, which may include automotive repair shops or individual mechanics.
A good mechanic will also have the proper credentials, such as affiliation with industry groups such as the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), Automotive Service Association (ASA) or the Triple A. Of course no membership in any organization is a guarantee against incompetence, but it does let you know that the mechanic has had a considerable amount of training to qualify for membership.
Does the mechanic give you options designed to save you money? This is one surefire way to identify a good, trustworthy mechanic.
And my favorite measuring stick….will the mechanic let you sit nearby and watch your car being repaired? A good mechanic will. Some things never change.
As a rule, local mechanics know that they may be seeing your car again, so they will take time to get to know it and you. Contrast that with a dealership where you may take your car in ten times and have it worked on by twelve different people. There is a personal touch to the local shop that not even the best equipped dealership can duplicate.