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Need A Car Mechanic? With RepairPal, A Higher Chance Of Satisfaction

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RepairPal Top Shop Network - mechanics with high customer satisfaction

RepairPal Top Shop Network - mechanics with high customer satisfaction

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If your family is typical, it's quite likely that you have at least one vehicle in the garage or driveway that's well over a decade old. In recent years—due probably as much to better durability and reliability as to the economy—the average U.S. vehicle age has risen rapidly, from 8.9 years in 2000 to 10.6 in 2010, and then up to 10.8 years in 2011. And more than two-thirds (68 percent) are owning their vehicles past 150,000 miles.

What does this mean? More Americans who were otherwise only doing routine service visits, or repairs under warranty, will need to worry about finding a reputable mechanic for the major maintenance visits and repairs that higher-mileage vehicles demand.

For those households, how do you find a good mechanic, and how do you avoid paying too much?

We've known how to get an easy answer for the latter part of the question for some time—really, ever since we found RepairPal several years ago, unsolicited. We've long been fans of RepairPal's depth of data—available in mobile apps as well—in estimating the cost of vehicle repairs. With estimates based on where you are, your vehicle, and all sorts of survey, demographic, and economic data, they're on the mark more than other sources when it comes to guessing whether or not a minor or major repair is adding up to what it should cost.

Building on numbers

RepairPal's data, built by expert staff, now covers more than 100 of the most common repairs and services, for 40 of the most common models for the 1990 to 2012 model years—including more than 96 percent of all the vehicles on U.S. roads.

Now for that second question—how to find a good, honest mechanic, if you can't find one through friends or co-workers—RepairPal is finally coming to the rescue for that, too. As of today, the site has a new Top Shop Network, which represents the upper echelon of repair shops.

“It's a problem everyone has,” said the company's CEO, Art Shaw, pointing out that from the street, or from listings or (easily tampered-with) review sites, it's otherwise sometimes impossible to tell the shop that has a very low “not trusted” score from one that otherwise has only highly satisfied customers.

A system that's better than crowd-sourced

Car repair

Car repair

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According to Shaw, RepairPal boasts an advantage over other best-of listings such as Angie's List, as well as other open crowd-sourced business listings, in that it guarantees that its own listed mechanics have been through an exhaustive approval process. That process checks aspects like how many of their mechanics are properly trained, what tools and equipment they have on site, how long it's been in business, and which vehicles or components they're trained to work on. Mechanics must then also agree to offer specific repairs—pretty much all the commonly done ones—at the prices listed by RepairPal, and it must extend a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty on them.

But the final—and most important—differentiator for the Top Shop Network nod is that through the application process (the shops pay a fee) RepairPal gains temporary access to the shop's list of recent customers, and it spot-checks them at random, asking a few questions to gauge satisfaction. It's not just a one-time thing, either; every year, RepairPal will do another check-in with customers to make sure the shop isn't sinking.

How well does it work? Although the system is new, Shaw boasts that shops in the Top Shop Network do have an average Net Promoter Score (a formal gauge of customer loyalty, from -100 to +100) of +64—the same as Apple. “Having someone actually do the work, to know that customers have consistently rated the shop like Apple, is something,” he said, pointing to the higher likelihood that customers will be happy taking their business there versus to the average auto-repair industry Net Promoter Score of -13.

Above all, emphasizes Shaw, these shops all have a history of doing what is truly right for their customers, and this is what's shown through the full accreditation process—and especially those spot-checks with actual customers.

RepairPal already has about 150 shops in 22 states signed on to the new system—mostly small independent shops so far, although it's open to approving dealerships that meet the criteria—and it hopes to sign shops in all 50 states in the near future.

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