When you need a doctor, you probably approach the situation with savvy. You ask around for referrals and recommendations, giving special weight to those who are medical professionals or who have medical challenges that seem to demand they know best. You want to separate the wheat from the chaff and find the best doctor for you. So why do any less when you need to find a good mechanic?
You want someone you can trust with the health and safe operation of your automobile. After all, how well you are able to meet your schedule and daily obligations depends on reliable transportation. Even if you live in an area with public transportation – which a good part of the U.S. does not – you can find it terribly inconvenient to move to a train, bus, or cab if something goes wrong with your car, truck, and SUV.
Start your search for a good auto mechanic much the same way you look for a good physician or dentist. Ask as many people as you know. As they answer, see what names come up again and again. If you know someone who has recently had extensive vehicle repairs, especially on a part of an automobile that you know may cause a problem for you, make a point to ask that person who he or she used to do the work.
The Internet can also help. Use any of the major search engines such as Google or Yahoo, go to their Local section, and search for auto repair businesses in your area. There are also many Web sites that specialize in automotive information like Autozone.com and TrustMyMechanic.com that can help steer you in the right direction. Some even help you find and even schedule an appointment or service job.
Once you go to the first mechanic, be prepared with questions. Try to get a feel for the prices, the wait time, and the mechanic’s experience especially related to your make and model of vehicle. Ask about special services they may offer, like the use of a loaner vehicle or pickup or drop-off capability to make a repair easier on your tight schedule.
Understand, too, that you may not be able to make a decision to stick with one mechanic or garage until you have used their services for a period of time. I usually test a mechanic with small services first before I commit to using them for a major repair such as a transmission fix, deep engine work, or other bigger jobs.
Your community or state may have specific rules that govern automotive repair estimates. For example, some states require that all estimates be placed in writing and that the work done cannot exceed the estimate unless the mechanic or garage receives your approval in writing first. Know what your community or state laws on this subject before you request an estimate so you have a better sense of how to deal with the situation if it seems like you are being forced to pay more than you should.