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How I Found A Good Auto Mechanic

by The Happy Rock on September 14, 2008

While my tires were being installed by my local Sunoco they mentioned that both front struts and the left outer tie rod needed to be replaced.  I had seen some oil in the right wheel well, so the struts weren’t too far out of the question, but tie rods are a notorious rip off part to replace.   The quote was almost $700 for just parts, so I told him just to install the tires.  He obliged, but now I had to get the new work checked out and done.

I had been wanting to try a new mechanic for a while and this seemed like a good oppurtunity.  I had been happy with my current mechanic and felt that they were honest, but I didn’t feel like they did a good enough job with preventive maitenance or finding existing problems while it was in for other stuff.    Also, who knows what I could be missing if I could find a great mechanic.

With that settled, now I had to go through the scary prospect of finding a new mechanic. Here is how I found a new mechanic:

1. Ask all friends and neighbors. An excellent review from a trusted source is about the best you can hope for.  Really positive and really negative recommendations are the most helpful, but things like ‘my mechanic is OK’ isn’t particularly useful.  I had already tapped my network and hadn’t found anyone that made me want to switch.

2. Paid rating services. Angie’s List and Checkbook.org are at the top of the list.   I have seen mixed reviews about Angie’s list and I personally don’t like the business model.  Checkbook is only in limited areas, but I have read that the library often carries their magazine.  I hadn’t used either and didn’t want to pay for the information, so it was on to step three.

3. Free Auto Mechanic Review Websites. Car Talk’s Mechanic’s Files was the best in terms of content, ease of use, and number of reviews.  I was able to find a few great leads and was able to narrow it down to two.  If you are interested in trying some of the other sites, just google for “car mechanic reviews” and search a few of the first page sites.  I found a little extra information between them all, but no particular site was worth a mention.

4. Call The Mechanic. I called the first mechanic and I was impressed with the counter women and the time he took to give me an accurate quote and the honesty with which he treated me.  I prefer a mechanic that is willing to take their time to talk me through the problems and my options and even show my parts when I pick up the car if I ask. No need to try the second mechanic, I set up an appointment.

He confirmed the problems and fixed both front struts, the tie rod, and completed a full digital alignment for $869.94.  Big bill, but it was right in line with what I expected and was going to be much cheaper than the Sunoco which originally found the problem.  The alignment also came with the before and after computer printout, which added to my opinion that he is honest and doing a complete job.

Do the readers have any other tips they have used to find a good mechanic?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sid Savara September 15, 2008 at 12:00 am

That’s one of the hardest things for me, to find good auto repair help. I always go with personal recommendations. When I go to a mechanic, it’s one of those things where you won’t know for years later if it was done well or not, and so I always ask people where they have been going for years.

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ChristianPF September 15, 2008 at 9:45 am

thanks for sharing this – finding a good mechanic has always been a major source of frustration for me and you have some good ideas here…

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shela September 15, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I live in a large town, but the small town next door has a police force that does not maintain its own vehicles. I asked and was told that a nearby shop maintains and repairs all of its patrol cars.

If the police force can depend on this guy to maintain their patrol cars, which log a lot of miles and have the occasional high-speed pursuit, then he could probably take care of my aging Ford sedan.

I have been extremely satisfied with the service. The shop’s owner doesn’t do work unless it needs to be done and he guarantees all his work. He’s also a really nice guy, and my boyfriend enjoys dropping in to talk about motorbiking and offroading.

I was just looking for a good mechanic, but I ended up with a friend in the process.

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The First Creditor September 15, 2008 at 9:09 pm

It’s a difficult thing to figure out. I went with someone based on the feeling they gave me when I spoke eye to eye to with them. But now I go with a referral. By the way, could you do a similiar post on finding an insurance salesman? That might be an even trickier proposition.

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The Happy Rock September 15, 2008 at 10:35 pm

@ChristianPF – Hopefully the tips help.

@shela – Exactly. That was some nice thinking to draw the connection and to find a good mechanic. Nice work, I like the ingenuity.

@First Creditor – Referrals tend to be king, especially if it is someone you can trust. As for insurance salesman, I personally don’t think the same tips apply, because there is little or no reason to use an agent IMO. Insurances are usually pretty easy to figure out and and agent charges you a fee over top of what you would pay direct through the company. If you don’t want to put in the effort of shopping and figuring than a salesman might save you money. For life insurance usually any products other than level term are usually not of interest and usually make the salesman or the insurance company even more money. Here is a decent overview at Bible Money Matters. Sounds like I should schedule a post on the the issue. Thanks for the idea. Hope that helps.

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The First Creditor September 16, 2008 at 9:23 pm

THR, thanks for the link and the info. I guess I always just assumed I needed an agent. Thanks for having a different opinion on the matter! I’ll definitely do some research.

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Helen August 3, 2009 at 8:59 am

This is a very tricky one and easy to become unstuck. Great post tips, you can also join an automobile club for emergencies, but best to check around whilst you have time for a good mechanic before the incident occurs because at that point you will be stressed and go for the nearest garage, which could be the dearest.

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