Most people spend lots of time considering which vehicle to purchase, but few put as much effort into finding a trustworthy mechanic to maintain and repair that car once it’s no longer covered under under warranty. If you want to keep your vehicle in top condition for the next five to 10 years, it’s important to work with a reputable auto shop — which usually offers repairs at a better price point than the dealership.
Here are some things to keep in mind — and some red flags to watch out for. Start with these questions.
Who do people recommend?
Get referrals from friends, family members and colleagues, suggests Amy Mattinat, owner of Auto Craftsmen, an independent auto repair service center in Montpelier, Vermont.
“Ask where they go, how long they’ve been going and what they drive,” Mattinat says. “You want the best facility that’s going to give you what you need to make informed decisions about your vehicle.”
Is the mechanic certified?
While automotive technicians aren’t required to be licensed in the U.S., the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers nine levels of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification that ensures mechanics are properly trained for vehicle repair and maintenance, Mattinat says.
“You want a repair facility that has an ASE-certified master technician on staff — someone who is certified in at least eight of those levels,” she says.
Other credentials a shop might have include ASE’s Blue Seal Program, the American Automobile Association’s AAA-approved Better Business Bureau accreditation, and AskPatty.com’s Certified Female Friendly designation.
“A shop that really cares is going to have as many credentials as they can, and [will] proudly display them,” Mattinat says. “Any shop that takes those extra steps to get accredited will also take extra steps for you.”
Can the shop repair your specific model?
While most garages can handle routine maintenance and standard repairs, many specialize in certain types of cars. When searching for a repair shop, ask whether they service your car’s make and model, advises mechanic Andrea Dello Russo, owner of Andrea’s Auto, a repair shop in Edgartown, Massachusetts.
“Vehicles are constantly changing, so the best thing you can do is ask, ‘Are you comfortable working on this?’ ” she says.
Make sure the garage has access to the manufacturer’s latest technical service bulletins, which detail how to fix common problems on specific cars. You want confirmation that the shop has the training, knowledge and equipment for your make and model, Mattinat says.
“Many drivability problems are connected to the computer of the car; it’s not just turning wrenches anymore,” she explains. “Unfortunately, there is not one scan tool that works on all makes and models, so if you drive a Volvo, you want a shop that has a Volvo technician and up-to-date diagnostic equipment so they can connect to your car and take care of technical problems.”