Clark Howard: Find a good car repair shop

All over America, people complain about the conditions of their roads. These poorly maintained roads are taking a real toll on our finances. Transportation research group TRIP reports the average driver spent $516 on repairs in 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal.

With that in mind, here are six tips to help you find the right mechanic:

  1. In general, the best time to find a mechanic is before you have a car problem. Get to know a repair shop and develop a relationship over time by having them do routine maintenance like oil changes. That way when the chips are down, you know where to take your vehicle.
  2. Look for a single-brand mechanic that’s not affiliated with dealership. Read reviews on Yelp and Kudzu for guidance. Or if you’re an AAA member, use one of their recommended shops.
  3. Always talk with the mechanic doing work on your car. I am not a fan of the traditional dealer service model where you only talk to the service ticket writer, not the mechanic doing the work. If you are dealing with a service writer, be sure they note the symptoms you’re seeing in your vehicle, not the remedy.
  4. If you get an estimate that’s very high, go elsewhere for another quote. And if you’re a woman getting a quote over the phone, have a male friend call up and see what story they get. Women are generally quoted higher on car repairs than men, according to a study out of Northwestern University.
  5. Do your scheduled maintenance to reduce the chance of a big repair.
  6. Start with Consumer Reports to buy vehicles that have the highest level of reliability, especially if you drive your cars for the long haul. Then you’ll limit the amount of time you’ll need to have your car in the shop.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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