The best time to find a good mechanic is before your car needs one. Solicit mechanic recommendations from friends, family and local consumer organizations. Check with the Better Business Bureau to identify shops that have received numerous complaints. Once you narrow your list, ask the following seven questions:
1. Is the facility endorsed by the American Automobile Association? AAA has established strict criteria for technician certification and customer satisfaction.
2. Does the shop have certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence? This independent, nonprofit organization offers exams that stress real-world diagnostic and repair problems with brakes, electrical systems, engines, heating and air conditioning, and suspension and steering. Repair facilities with one or more ASE-certified technicians display a blue and white ASE sign and post their certified technicians’ credentials in the customer service area. ASE-certified technicians must re-certify every five years to stay in the program.
3. Does your state track complaints and offer dealer’s license verification through a Bureau of Automotive Repair? California does.
4. Is the facility clean, neat and well organized?
5. Is the staff courteous and willing to answer your questions?
6. Do you understand the shop’s policies regarding labor rates, diagnostic fees, guarantees and acceptable forms of payment?
7. Will the shop give you a signed written estimate? The estimate should identify the repairs and parts needed. It also should include an anticipated labor charge and a statement that the shop will contact you for approval if other work needs to be done. If not, go elsewhere.
Reprinted from U.25, a young adult publication produced by USAA, a financial services company committed to serving members of the military and their families since 1922.