How to Find a Good Auto Mechanic

When it comes to finding a good mechanic, I’ve always relied on the recommendations of others. We’ve moved around a good bit over the years, so finding a new mechanic has been a fairly regular occurrence for us. While our friends and colleagues have never steered us wrong, there are a number of things that you can do to increase your odds of having a good experience.

Ask the right person

Beyond simply asking for personal recommendations, I’ve found that it helps to ask the right person. Look for someone that’s lived in the area for awhile. Someone that’s been around the block a few times can not only steer you to a good mechanic, but can also warn you away from the bad ones. Another tip here is to ask someone with a similar car to your own — not every mechanic knows how to work on every brand of car. Another reasonable source of information is the Car Talk Mechanics File.

Choose the right kind of shop

It’s important to understand the difference between the different types of repair shops. While dealerships will be full of mechanics that specialize in your particular make/model, they also tend to have the highest prices. When it comes to warranty work, the dealership is a no-brainer. But if you’re paying out of pocket, you’ll wind up paying more by going to the dealership. If you can’t find a good alternative, this is likely worth it. But if you can, you’ll save yourself a decent chunk of money.

Next up, we have the chain store auto shops. While these places typically offers lower prices than a dealership, the workmanship may suffer. Often times, such places are staffed by entry-level employees and the quality of work will be highly variable. If we need anything more than a new battery, we usually go elsewhere.

Finally, we have independent repair shops. This is by far my favorite option, but it’s not always easy to find a good one. In most cases, the prices will be a good bit below what dealerships charge, and they’ll have mechanics on-site that specialize in a wide vareity of makes/models. You’ll also get a bit more personal attention at an independent repair shop, and you’ll probably also get better continuity, with the same people servicing your car year after year.

Check for trade association affiliations

So you’ve decided that you want to go to an independent repair shop, and you’ve gotten a few recommendations. What next? One thing to look for is whether or not the shops you’re considering are affiliated with trade associations such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA), National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), American Automobile Association (AAA), etc. This isn’t foolproof, but these sorts of associations require members to adhere to certain ethical standards and, in some cases, certification means that mechanics meet minimum training standards.

Miscellaneous warning signs

When choosing a mechanic, it helps to do a bit of extra homework. Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

  • Double check to make sure they handle cars like yours — a quick tour of the parking lot should suffice.
  • Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Check the terms of the warranty — six months is great, 30 days…. Not so much.
  • If the shop operates on a cash-only basis, you might consider taking your business elsewhere.
  • While you want to be able to get in to see your mechanic on relatively short order, an empty shop is a bad sign.

Other considerations

A good mechanic is really only useful if you can make use of their services. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Is the shop open convenient hours?
  • Are they located in a convenient (and safe) area?
  • Are they near public transit?
  • Can you get a ride to where you need to be while your car is being worked on?

Photo credit: sgrace

21 Responses to “How to Find a Good Auto Mechanic”

  1. Anonymous

    how do i find an expert mechanic to testify in small claims court. An elderly lady crashed into the side of my stopped car and sustained damage to her front bumper and side of her car.she promised to pay for the damagesto my car but then changed her mind,. I have pictures of my car with tire marks and paint from her car and the police report. Is it possible for a mechanic to determine who was at fault with this info and where do i find one to help me in small claims court?

  2. Anonymous

    @ Brad … who were you replying to? Your opinion of MASH is just that … your opinion and totally unrelated to auto repair.

    When I needed some work done a couple years ago I asked around. The local independent was so-so (used him 3 times) and the local chain is big on ‘add-ons’. The local dealers are no bargain … the parts are no better, the work is no better, the preventative advice is no better.

    Whenever possible, I do the work myself. There I KNOW that the mechanic is taking care to do a good job and replacing only parts that cannot be readily fixed.

  3. Anonymous

    Do you know why MASH reruns are still on the air??? NO! it wasn’t a good show…EVER!!! It’s still on because old farts like you just won’t let it die. That’s why!!! Your ideas of repair shops and value for the dollar are stuck in the 1950s when Goober was still the only mechanic in Mayberry. Listen, I’ve been in the automotive business 24 years. Most in the dealership but a fair amount in the independent sector also and the difference is basically “what do you want for your money”. Simple answer…VALUE. Lets DEFINE value in very plain terms. The highest quality work, using the highest quality parts, carrying the best warranty (nationwide I might add), in the most efficient timeframe possible. However, please do your part to keep the independents in business. I make money fixin their messes too. Enjoy the retirement home in Phoenix there Gramps. I got alot of rides to fix for alot of busy people and they ALL expect and deserve to be treated like they’re the only customer on the lot.

  4. Anonymous

    My mechanic is ASE certified, which is posted visably as soon as you walk in the door. He’s been in business for years, provides pick up, drop you off service, and calls you BEFORE he turns a wrench. HE’ll drive it, or put it on the computer, and only fixes what you need fixed. If he finds something else wrong, he doesn’t bs you about it. It also helps that he is my neighbor, and my friend.

  5. Anonymous

    The shop I am at we offer labor and parts warranty. If we miss diagnosis the customers car the customer doesn’t pay for it to be fixed again. So we have hardly no and I mean NO come backs. Also If I was to pull into a shop and see all those throw away tools in the mechanics box I’d be really really scared. Also ask to see credentials from ASE for the technition working on your vehicle

  6. Anonymous

    I have been a tech for 35 years. I am certified by ASE and proud of it. Worked in GM dealer for 23 years before working for a so called chain store. Stll there and will be due to pay and benefits compared to dealer. The comment about chain stores is the only reason i am posting. The so called independent in our town that works on Police cars etc is 15.00 an hour higher per hour than we are and this is why. Perception is everything. DON”T fall for it ! We offer customers pick up and delivery of vehicles within 15 miles also. I agree ask friends or neighbors where they take vehicles for repairs.

  7. Anonymous

    I found my mechanic at a Midas Muffler shop here in Michigan. When he started his own business “Complete Auto Pros” I followed him. You can’t beat the service. He also provides discounts, now there’s an original idea. Ron, Chris and Don treat all their customers with respect and will not waste the customers money on other areas that don’t pertain to the problem the customer has like the dealers do. They will put your car on a hoist, check all your fluids and look for potential problems with a flashlight. They will sit down with you and explain what they found and YOU the customer can decide if you want to have them fixed or not. If your car has to stay with the shop, they will drive you home or arrange a rental. I have a 1995 Taurus SHO, which has over 170,000 miles on it, the mechanics keep a running log on the computer for warranty data on repairs being made to my vehicle. As a result, Ron, Chris and Don do a professional job on keeping it running like new. I am very happy finding a mechanic that treats me like a person and doesn’t take advantage of me. You can’t beat the courtesy and respect from these mechanics. I can relate to one experience I saw at Ron’s shop involving a woman having a noise problem. She told Ron about it and Ron went with the woman for a test drive to hear the noise. Ron could not fix the problem because the vehicle was covered under warranty at the dealership, Ron told the woman what needed to be fixed. When the woman returned to Ron again for the same problem, Ron told the woman that the dealership replaced the wrong part and that they didn’t correct her problem. Had the vehicle been in Ron’s care it would have been fixed properly and the customer would be happy.

  8. Anonymous

    I certainly echo your comments about the independent garages. Since our Lexus is still under warranty, it sill goes to the dealer. however our other cars go to my trusted mechanic of 25+ years. While I can handle a lot of problems having taken two years of auto mechanics at our local technical college several years ago, he’s sucessfully maintained and kept running everything from a 1977 Excalibur to a 1985 VW Quantum Synchro (an Audi Quattro in disguise) and a 1991 Buick Reatta Convertible (only 156 sold). My referrals to him have all praised his work and pricing as well as their switching to his shop. I usually drop off my car and tell him to let me know when it was ready.
    But when i really needed a job done (three weeks ago my Buick A/C went out) he was able to fix it in 6 hours. The repair involved switching from R-12 (freon) to R-134, replacing the compressor (the old compressor had locked up and was leaking) and condensor and having an outside welding shop repair a steel coolant line which was not available on a Friday afternoon. And he loaned me his truck to drive while the repairs were being made. And the bill was well under a grand!!!

  9. Anonymous

    want to find a credible mechanic? start by unpluging a fuse from your aircondition,or even your wiper motor, and see if they will be honest enough to admit that it is just a fuse,as oppose to charging you for a expensive electrical job.

  10. Anonymous

    i think all mechanics are hardworking and honest, if they say you need more work than you came in for, they are doing you a favour. let’s face it, cars are prone to breaking down and i would rather take out a loan to pay for the work than be stuck on the side of the road or dead.

  11. Anonymous

    My wife and I have learned that 1) it is incredibly hard to find competent AND honest shops, 2) when/if you do find one, keep going there (we have been saved much money by simple honesty), and 3) spread goodwill for the shop (after all, you want them around a long time !).

    Good luck !

  12. Anonymous

    Having been the recipient of more than one dishonest, and/or dumb, mechanical diagnosis, I will go by a shop several times to see who is using the service. I already know that typically a repair shop that does its own machining does a smarter job of diagnosing problems. This is given further impetus if you see racecars or high-speed boats in the shop. Then, if you see state or local police cars being services in the same shop, it is a really good bet that you can trust the shop.

  13. Anonymous

    All great advice.

    I do the majority of my uaot work myself, but when I need to seek professional help (for the car, that is) I’ve got a trusted mechanic who I’ve been going to for years.

    One thing I always look for in a mechanic is whether he or she is willing to offer any replaced parts to you for inspection. This lets you know that the part actually needed replacing and was in fact replaced. It also shows a willingness on the mechanic’s part to keep you informed and educated.

  14. Anonymous

    I have always used independent auto mechanics. You should ask around and see who other people use. I would rather pay more money and feel I can trust the mechanic.

  15. Anonymous

    You forgot the best one – find a good friend, relative, or family friend who is a mechanic! LOL! Everyone probably has someone connected to them that is a mechanic, I’m from a family where everyone has graduate degrees but we still have some family friends who own repair shops, etc. It is remarkable how big the price difference is when you go to a mechanic who is a friend or family member versus a stranger. I’ve had quotes for car work that came in at $5000 from my insurer’s mechanic and I’d take it to our family friend who would do the whole job for $2000 – yes that big of a difference. In a related sense, even if you don’t have anyone connected to you who is a mechanic, whoever you choose be loyal to them if they are good. I’m sure that loyalty pays off over the years especially if you have a family and everyone uses that mechanic.

  16. Anonymous

    I came across a new site recently that aims to help you find a mechanic. It’s called It’s pretty helpful for general information, but nothing beats a recommendation from someone you trust.

  17. Anonymous

    Another thing to watch out for is that a mechanic may always find something else wrong. For example, if your alternator goes out, they may tell you that you also need a new battery. Or if you need new brake pads, but they tell you that you also need new rotors. Or they may even tell you that something is about to go out, like your AC, or transmission. Sometimes they are telling the truth, but be wary of any place that always finds something else wrong with your car.

  18. Anonymous

    I was fortunate to find a mechanic shop in town that is owned by two brothers, and they both are trained and worked for a large dealership. They have all the tools and training as the big dealership, but lower prices and faster service. Since they know the car personally, I can always count on them to find issues quickly and give me direct feedback. I also like that they personally drive me home and pick me up when the car is ready. A huge bonus!
    I’ve also given them some referral business over the years because of this great service.

  19. Anonymous

    I found my wonderful mechanic in the yellow pages cause he specialized in Nissans, which I owned at the time. But when I started working I found out a lot of other people with imports used him, too. All these “other people” were women (librarians, in fact) – many of them single. So if you find smart single women ask them who they use. Sure you’ll get a lot “Oh, I take it to the dealership”, but you’ll also get some trusted mechanics names.

    Another thing I look for is a dingy shop. I’m not talking disorganized, I’m saying it isn’t shiny and new. You pay for shiny and new. You don’t pay for cheap linoleum and wood paneling from the 70s – its already been paid for.

  20. Anonymous

    Tom is spot-on when he mentions Angie’s List. I found an amazing plumber through them. The reviews by customers is what makes the site. They have all sorts of things to look for (electrical, dentist, mechanic). Great site to be a part of.

  21. Anonymous

    Check Angie’s List for user recommendations.

    My auto shop has a parts and labor warranty, which is very rare. If they are willing to put their reputation (and money) on the line, they are worth a look.

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