A short guide in a shady industry

It is nearly impossible to pick a decent and honest doctor or mechanic based on a phone call alone.  Thankfully, you can expect one of the two to talk to you reasonably.  There are a few things that may help to determine if you are dealing with a facility that can protect you properly.  It is fair to expect honest, clear answers to your questions that allow you to gauge if you are in the right place.  Remember: any lack of willingness to disclose information may, in itself, be a red flag.  Ask them:

How long have you been in business?  Believe it or not, there are facilities that do not last long in this industry for a number of reasons.  The worst is a facility that is in business for a few years, shuts down, and then opens again with exactly the same people.  This is sometimes a way to get out of warranties or paying bills to parts stores.  Look for a place with decades of stability.

Are you insured?  Many technicians work out of their homes, some are pretending to be an actual business.  They are not.  Although they have the ability to work on cars, they lack some key elements that are in place to protect you, most commonly, insurance.  These rogue repairers are often limited based on availability of tools, diagnostic information, and basic needs such as a vehicle lift.  These things are not optional.

Are your technicians certified?  Although certifications will not guarantee that your technician knows what he is doing, certifications do show a desire for professionalism and continued education.  To become certified requires an understanding of a particular system and an ability to demonstrate that understanding.  Not all technicians are certified, it is important that you ask.

Do your repairs have a warranty?  Any repair that you pay for should have a warranty.  Don’t get stuck using a small shop that requires you to return to them in order to enact your warranty, nation-wide warranties should be standard.  You don’t pay to have things done to your car, you pay to have things done right, any facility should be willing to stand behind their work and state that they intend to do so in writing.

Can I wait for my car?  The answer will always be yes, you need to dig a little deeper.  What you mean is, do I need a tetanus shot to wait in your waiting area?  Should I bring bleach if I’m bringing my kids?  You should expect that your repair facility has a clean and comfortable waiting are that is suitable for men, women, and children of all ages, wearing anything from sweat pants to suits.  Many times there are activities for kids, a place to take a walk, or books, magazines, or televisions.

If you look at my car, will I get an estimate before you work on it?  Not only is this a fair expectation, but it is required by law.  You are not liable for any bill over $100 that did not first gain you approval.  There are many shops out there who are dishonest and prey on your ignorance, make no mistake, they do not care about your well-being.  Make sure that your technician knows that you demand to be in control of your repairs and your finances.  Do not become a hostage, if you do, don’t buckle.

If I bring my car to you, can you bring me home?  Not all facilities are staffed to run a shuttle service, you know that you are in a place that cares if they off one.  Shuttle service can include a ride to pick you or drop you off, or to pick up or drop off your vehicle.  Imagine that while you are at work your technician comes to get your car, repairs it, and then drives it to be dropped off with you before you even need it for lunch.  That type of service may deserve a mention on Facebook, just saying.


Well, there you have  it, the short list of what to ask on an initial phone call to a repair facility.  Of course there are many other indicators that will help you to determine if you want to do business with whomever is on the other end of the phone.  If you want to maximize the effectiveness of these questions, ask them in person.  Remember: the best indicator may be your gut feeling.  Make sure that you feel comfortable with the people who work in the repair shop everyday, good people honestly intend to take care of your interests.

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