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How to find an auto mechanic

Regardless of make or model, eventually your car will require some service. From a simple oil change to new tires, scheduled maintenance, or the repair of a failed part, a good auto mechanic is crucial to keeping your car on the road and running well for as long as you own it.

Finding a car mechanic can be stressful, especially if your car is broken and you don’t have somewhere to take it for a repair. The first step for planning for such an eventuality is to find a local mechanic, and there are a few ways to ensure you find a capable mechanic that meets the needs of both your vehicle and your lifestyle.

Before we get into specifics, there are a few things to consider when deciding what you need from a mechanic. The following questions will help to identify if you have any special requirements that may limit your options when it comes to finding an automotive service provider.

Do you have a warranty to protect?

Newer cars or cars with aftermarket warranties may have requirements concerning how (and by whom) they are serviced. If your car is still under warranty, speak with the provider to ensure that you select a service option that doesn’t endanger the balance of your warranty.

Does your car have special needs?

Some cars, including high-performance models, highly modified cars, or brands that are rare to your given area, may require the mechanic to have very specific training and tools to work on your car. If you have a specialized or rare vehicle, be sure to confirm that any prospective service provider is both qualified and capable of servicing your car.

What kind of service do you want for your car?

Not only does every car have specific needs, owners too will vary in the amount of service they want for their car. While some owners will want any and all scheduled maintenance completed to the exact requirements of the manufacturer, others would prefer to wait until the car is broken before seeking a repair. Those looking for exhaustive preventative maintenance may be better served by a dealership, while more casual owners may find a local garage is a better fit for their needs.

Additionally, location plays into this decision. If you want to have your car maintained along a service schedule, it may be preferable to select a dealership or mechanic that is closer to your work. This would allow you to leave the car in service during the day.

Alternatively, if you plan to only visit a mechanic when something on your vehicle fails, you may prefer to use a mechanic close to home to provide optimal flexibility for pickup and drop-off and to access other vehicles, public transport, or even rides from friends or family members while your car is in the shop.

How busy are you?

When setting out to find a service location for your vehicle, consider the reality of just how flexible you can be with your time. If your job and family demands don’t allow for the possibility that your car will be in the garage for a couple days, you may want to have your car serviced at a provider that offers a courtesy loaner vehicle. The same is true if your living situation is one that does not allow for easy or reliable access to public transportation, or a ride from a friend, co-worker, or family member.

If your car breaking down poses a serious problem for your employment or your family, consider a preventative maintenance plan for servicing your vehicle and be sure to have a plan-b for any scenario where your car requires immediate service.

With those questions helping to identify your needs, here’s the best way to find a mechanic for your car.

Ask your friends!

Assuming you have some friends or co-workers who live in a similar area, ask them for a referral to the garage that services their vehicles. A referral can limit a lot of the variables in selecting a quality garage. Ask your friends about how the garage works, how well they communicate, if they’ve been fair in the past, and if they make recommendations as to the condition and future service need of the vehicle.

Read reviews!

Not unlike restaurants and hotels, you can find reviews for auto service providers on various websites. To get an idea of the reputation of the garages, dealership, and various service locations in your area, be sure to do a search on Yelp or a mechanic-specific review service like Car Talk’s Mechanics Files. Dig deeper than the star ratings for a more accurate idea of the accuracy of a review and keep in mind that in an ideal scenario a mechanic will likely know more than the average car owner so be sure to consider the knowledge of the person writing the review.

Additionally, consider cross-referencing any well-reviewed options with services like the Better Business Bureau or AAA’s (no membership required to search).

Ask questions!

Having hopefully uncovered a few well-reviewed garages in your area, give them a call or stop in for a chat and consider asking the following questions:

  • Are they capable of servicing your car?
  • How long would you wait if you brought your car in for a repair?
  • Do they offer a guarantee for their work?
  • Do they post their hourly rates and do those rates vary by brand/model of car or by the type of work being done?
  • Are their mechanics ASE-certified?
  • In the event of a larger and more costly repair, do they charge for an initial inspection or estimate?

Following the above recommendations will help you to find a garage that can work with your specific needs for service. From a cheap daily commuter to something decidedly more special, a good mechanic is crucial in ensuring your car gets you wherever you want to go—and that you don’t arrive in a cloud of smoke or on the back of a tow truck.