Automotive repair is not a commidity...there are huge differences between shops. Some shops have
insurance, some don't. Some shops have trained technicians, some don't. Some shops are dirty and some are clean.
Some shops offer extra services like rides home and donuts in the waiting room, some shops don't even have a waiting area. So, before you venture out to find a good repair shop, be aware of your needs.
Here are a few questions that will help you decide what kind of repair shop is right for you and why these questions are important.
1. Do I need the shop/mechanic to test and diagnose my vehicle or is the mechanic's best guess close enough?
Testing cost money because it requires time, specialized knowledge and often expensive tools. The mechanic's best guess is free, BUT, if the mechanic guesses wrong you still have to pay for the repair that your car did not need.
2. Do I require a clean shop...or is not so clean ok?
If you are fine with dirty finger prints on your vehicle's hood, windows and steering wheel and dirty shoe prints on the floorboard of your vehicle then you are probably ok with taking your vehicle to a dirty shop.
3. Do I want someone that has invested their time and money to learn how to accurately repair my vehicle or is Jerry (my next door neighbor's friend's brother that is pretty good with a wrench) good enough?
Shade tree mechanics like Jerry are less money and often are able to fix most mechanical problems...but if they mess up it will cost you big bucks. How lucky do you feel?
4. Do I care if the shop has insurance (in case my vehicle gets wrecked or stolen at the shop)?
Yeah, this seems like a stupid question but did you know that 80% of shops in Texas DO NOT have insurance? And of the 20% that has insurance most do not have the "extra" insurance needed to make your car insurance secondary. What this means to you is that if the mechanic wrecks your vehicle your insurance company pays first (it is a claim on your insurance) and the shop insurance is a secondary insurance used only to cover lawsuits. If you give your keys to an uninsured or underinsured shop it is your fault.
5. Do I want a warranty?
There are lots of different kinds of warranties: parts and labor, parts only, labor only, in-house, nationwide, 3month/3,000 miles through lifetime. What kind of warranty do you need? Do you drive out of town much? Are you keeping this car for at least another year or are you trading it in next week?
6. Do I need to understand what is wrong with my car?
If you don't care what is wrong and you just want it fixed then almost any shop will be good for you (as long as they have tested and accurately diagnosed your vehicle). If you want to understand what is wrong with your car then you will need to find a service advisor that is patient and experienced (don't waste your time talking to mechanics because they speak a different language). Most shops are not willing to spend the time needed to educate you so that you can make good car repair decisions.
7. Do I care if I'm treated respectfully?
Many shops make their mechanics work in the office (answer the phone, talk to customers, write up work orders). Most mechanics became mechanics because they like to work on cars...not talk to people. If you want to speak to someone and have them listen to your concerns then you require a shop with professional office staff.
8. What are the two most important things to me regarding auto repair - cost, quality or time?
My husband taught me early on that you have to choose between cost, quality and time. I've found his wisdom to be true for every service industry. You can have it done right and done cheap but it takes a long time. You can have it done right and done now, but it costs more money. You can have it done now and done cheap but it's only going to work for a little while. What is your poison?
9. Will I need a ride home or a rental car?
Notice I didn't say wait. Most shops have a waiting room so you can wait for hours and hours and hours. With that said, do you need a ride home or do you need a rental car? Some shops offer rides and/or have agreements with rental car agencies.
10. Do I want to know about small problems before they become big problems or do I just want to fix what is broken right now and worry about the rest when it breaks?
Some shops look for prospective problem so that you are not stuck like Chuck on the side of the highway. Some shops want to get done with your vehicle fast and are unable to look for possible problems. What kind of service do you want?
Here are some tips to help you find a reputable repair shop:
1. Ask around. Do you know any neighbors, family, co-works or friends that have had good luck with a shop and are their needs the same as yours?
2. Try to find a shop that has a lot of repeat customers. Customers are more likely to stay with a repair shop that they trust and one that does a good job for them.
3. Check with the BBB regarding the reputation of the shop. If the shop has unresolved problems then you probably will too!
4. Check online to see if they have any reviews. Good and bad reviews will give you insight into how the company will treat you and how they solve problems.
5. Set up an appointment and take your vehicle in for something minor before you trust them with a big job. See how they do. Are they finished when promised, did they call you when they said they would, did you feel comfortable?
6. Drive by the shop and see what it looks like.
There are many good shops in our area - but almost everyone one of them have different ideas about what is important....price, speed, service, quality of repair...that's why it is so important that you know what kind of shop you need.
Below are the questions you should ask prospective repair shops so that you can find the right shop for you.
1. Do you guarantee your work?
2. What is the length of your warranty and what does it include (parts, labor, time and mileage restrictions, nationwide or just in house)?
3. Do you have the tools needed to work on my car?
4. Are you ASE certified and what type of training do you have regarding my car's problem? (ASE is a nationally recognized certification test that requires mechanics to know basic information.)
5. Are you able to honor my vehicle's warranty or extended warranty? (You'll need to supply them with the warranty paperwork or the VIN on the car, your name & 800 phone number on the paper work).
6. Do you charge to diagnose/test my car? Remember - if they do not charge for testing then they are guessing at what is wrong.
7. Do you carry shop insurance? Is your insurance primary or is my insurance primary (if they don't know then your is probably primary).
8. Do you have the most up to date training & diagnostic equipment for my car?
9. Do you perform a vehicle inspection to uncover other potential problems? If so what do you check?
10. Will you provide me with a list of satisfied customers that I can call?
11. Are you AAA approved and what is your Customer Satisfaction Rating? (AAA requires shops to have minimum insurance and satisfied customers.)
12. If they give you an estimate over the phone, will they absolutely guarantee the price, no matter what?
13. Do you offer a shuttle service or can you help me with a rental car?
14. How long do most repairs take? How long will my car be at your shop?
By following the suggestions and asking the repair shop these questions, you'll gain all the information that you need to make an informed, intelligent decision! Now here are the big misconceptions I had when I was younger and less knowledgeable:
Misconception #1: Your car manufacturer specifies regular maintenance schedules just to get you back into their shop to make more money off of you.
REALITY: Cars are rolling computers that still require regular maintenance. Although vehicles are lasting longer and require less overall maintenance, they do still require some preventative maintenance. Things like oil changes, cooling system flushes, oxygen sensors & timing belts should be replaced before they are bad!
Misconception #2: I have to take my car to the dealership or I'll void my warranty.
REALITY: This is not true. In fact, it is against the law for the dealership to even suggest that you'll lose your warranty if other repair shops (or you) work on your vehicle.
Misconception #3: A shop can give you an accurate price quote over the phone without seeing your car.
REALITY: You can call 20 different shops and get 20 different prices and they'll all be wrong. Unless the shop has had a chance to examine and/or test drive the car in person, there is no way to accurately diagnose your problem and give you an accurate price. Beware of any shop that is willing to give you a quote over the phone without seeing the car. Most likely they are guessing and will give you a real low price just to get you to come in the door.
Misconception #4: Most repair shops will recommend extra work just to get you to spend more money.
REALITY: The fact is that any repair shop that doesn't look for potential problems is actually doing you a great disservice. Quality repair shops do an overall inspection on every car that comes into their shop to uncover those inexpensive repairs that may be needed now, before they turn into major expenses later. Something as simple as discovering and then changing a worn belt may save you the danger and expense of breaking down on a busy highway.
Misconception #5: All repair shops are the same.
REALITY: There are huge differences between repair shops. New car technology requires constant training to keep up with all of the changes. It also requires the shop to have the latest diagnostic equipment. The repair shop with the best trained and certified mechanics and most up to date equipment will usually do the best repair for you. Like we talked about before, almost every repair shop owner has an idea of what makes their shop the best (price, service spiffs like coffee & donuts, speed of repairs or
making sure that your vehicle is in tip top shape).
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment please call (713)688-0805.
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