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5 Questions To Ask Your Mechanic

After you move to a new area, and get the important things nailed down like where your kids will go to school and who makes the best pizza, you might want to hunt down a good mechanic.

There is plenty of advice on this topic on the Web, but it all comes down to just five questions to ask the person who will be caring for your car. It is never easy to find a good auto technician, but the answers you get to these questions may speed you along:

What is your labor rate? While the price per hour you are going to pay is important, the answers to this question can provide you with a benchmark with which to compare shops. The fact that a shop has the highest labor rate may not be all bad, so combine this knowledge with information from reviews or personal feedback. This will tell you if the shop is charging more because of their reputation or just because they need to drive a 2011 Hyundai Equus.

Do you upsell? I like this because you are laying it right out there. You are telling your prospective mechanic that you are familiar with the system of selling a cooling system flush when all you wanted was your turn signal lamp replaced. Tell them that you like to suggest service operations yourself by using your owner's manual as a guide. The answer to this question can be very telling. Beware of the shop that becomes defensive.

Do you install used parts? There are not many shops that are willing to spend time hunting down used parts and installing them often without any warranty. If the shop answers “yes” to this question, you are may be in the wrong place and need to upgrade the standards of your search. Two exceptions to this would be in remote areas where a network of auto parts suppliers does not exist, or when there is a vast price difference between the new or rebuilt and used component that you are replacing. Differentials, transmissions or engines are examples.

Do you have a supply charge? Most shops charge a small percentage (1 percent is common) of the invoice amount as a surcharge to offset the cost of unbillable items like shop rags and rust penetrants. If the shop you are considering answers no to this question, it may really want your business and you may have saved yourself the surcharge, which can be easily disabled by adjusting the settings on your account.   

What happens when I pay for a repair and the symptoms return? This is tough one for anyone to answer, since there could be so many variables. So it is a good way to gauge the way the shop would handle negotiations if you had a problem. If the answer is that you would not pay a second time, you have broken the code and can use this response as the level of warranty they are offering. On the other hand if their response is more measured, something like "it depends on the circumstances," don’t consider it a deal-breaker--but be aware that you might have to barter if a repair goes south.

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