Questions to ask when picking an auto repair shop

AAA Auto Repair Article
By AAA Automotive
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AAA has found that people want the 3 C’s when it comes to auto repair – confidence, cost and convenience. Ask these questions to find out if a shop you’re considering offers all three.

Confidence

Q: What is the range of experience and expertise of the technicians working in the shop?

A: You want to find an auto repair shop that has technicians with a good variety of experience and expertise. Cars are unique and so are their repairs – it’s good to know if the shop can handle the unexpected or at least refer you to another trusted shop if they can’t.


Q: Are the technicians certified?

A: There are several certifications a technician can earn but one to be on the lookout for is the ASE certification. Technicians must meet certain requirements like the number of years on the job before they are eligible to take the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification test. After passing, technicians are required to retest every five years to remain certified and keep up with the latest in automotive repair. Some dealers use factory certifications for their technicians, which indicate the technician has gone through specific training for those vehicles sold by that dealer.


Q: Does the shop specialize in certain types of auto repair?

A: This is important to know for different reasons. Your vehicle may require specialized repair. If that’s the case, you want to be sure to pick an auto repair shop that can meet those needs and are experts in this area.


Q: What do the customer reviews say?

A: AAA found that 38% of people rely on recommendations from friends and family when they are looking for an auto repair shop. Word of mouth can be very helpful when deciding where to go including customer reviews. Look for reoccurring issues and the tone of the shop’s response (if any) to the review if it is negative. Always sort the reviews from newest to oldest. This way you’re getting the most recent information regarding people’s experience with the facility.


Q: How long have most employees been with the shop?

The average length of employment can be telling with regards to how the shop is run. If there is a lot of turnover, it could be a warning sign. If an auto repair shop has trouble keeping employees for a long time, how does that translate to its customers?


Q: Are there any Better Business Bureau complaints?

A: Like customer reviews, complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau can be telling about how a shop operates. Including how do they deal with conflict? Was the issue resolved quickly? Are there multiple complaints and are they similar? What grade has the Better Business Bureau given the shop?


Q: What is the feeling you get when you walk into the facility?

A: When you walk into the repair shop, are you greeted? Is the staff friendly? What do the interactions between other customers and the staff look like? Is the shop busy? Does the staff look happy? Frantic? Is it clean and well-organized? Taking a moment to observe your surroundings can tell you a lot.


Cost


Q: Can you get your estimates in writing? Will it be itemized?

A: Many shops will give estimates in writing as standard practice. That may be on paper, through email or via text. If the shop doesn’t do this, ask if it’s an option to get estimates in writing. If the shop refuses or gives you a hard time, this is a warning sign. A written estimate protects both the customer and the shop plus helps to build trust. Also, it should be itemized breaking out parts from labor and show any discounts if applicable.


Q: If the repair costs are higher than the estimate, will the shop get your approval first?

A: A repair shop should do its best to give you an accurate estimate at the beginning of a repair job. But other issues may arise that cause the costs to go up. If this is the case and they exceed a certain amount (say 10%), it is important to know if the shop will get your approval first. A reliable shop will not surprise you with a much larger bill than you originally expected.


Q: Will the shop give you a schedule or list of upcoming services and their costs?

A: All vehicles come with an owner’s manual that lay out the types of services your car will need and when. Share this with your auto repair shop and ask if they can price out upcoming maintenance. This will help you budget and be prepared for when these expenses come up. A shop should be willing to do this to build a relationship with you and earn your future business.


Q: Does the shop offer a price list for routine services?

A: Some auto repair shops may price out routine car maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations. It may vary slightly by vehicle type but they may have will have a price list for these types of services. If not, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern, however, when asked, the shop should still be able to quote pricing for these types of services.


Convenience


Q: Does the shop have standard hours of operation? Or do they change often?

A: Most businesses, whether an auto repair shop or something else, will have posted hours of operation that rarely change. If it’s unclear when they are open or if it changes a lot, then you probably can’t rely on them in an emergency. A car repair usually pops up when you least expect it and you want to know your repair shop will be ready and able to help.


Q: Does the shop offer transportation if your car needs to be there for an extended amount of time?

A: Some repairs and/or maintenance may take several hours to complete. Does the shop offer a shuttle or other type of transportation you can use so you don’t have to wait? If they don’t, it isn’t a deal-breaker but it does show an extra level of customer service.


Q: Does the shop take appointments? Can you make them online? What is the cancellation policy?

A: A shop that can’t take appointments isn’t cause for concern. Just like complimentary transportation, it’s an added perk but not a sign that the shop doesn’t offer quality service or isn’t a trusted option.
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