How to find a reliable car service center?

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tommy85
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How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by tommy85 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:44 am

Hello all,

Just wondering if Bogleheads have a secret for finding a reliable car service center. From previous posts, I have learnt local mom and pop shops are better than dealerships but dont know how to find a reliable one. Is there a directory of a review website that is reliable.

Thanks
Tom

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mhc
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by mhc » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:48 am

Talk to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, ... in your area. Listen to what they have to say.

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tommy85
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by tommy85 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:51 am

We are relatively new to the area and do not have many friends/acquaintances here. The people we know, most of them take their cars to dealerships. But thank you for your reply.

tydas
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by tydas » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:02 am

See if your town has a facebook group, that might help, otherwise its trial and error. Just remember, cheaper is not always better when it comes to mechanics.

BeneIRA
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by BeneIRA » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:08 am

Spend some time looking through the reviews and you should be able to tell if a place is good or bad. The more in-depth reviews are the most helpful. I reached out to various places that were highly rated and only one got back to me and they quoted me a reasonable price. I went with them and they actually told me one of the items the dealer told me I needed I really didn't. So far so good.

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tennisplyr
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by tennisplyr » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:17 am

I hesitate to suggest this but any port in a storm?

www.yelp.com
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dm200
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:26 am

Check to see if there is a neighborhood email list or group.

strafe
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by strafe » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:43 am

Your best bet is to trade your current car in for something less reliable.
You'll have more opportunities to evaluate your options. Win-win!

My car once broke down across the street from a repair shop. He turned out to be one of my favorite mechanics.

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dm200
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:08 pm

tydas wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:02 am
See if your town has a facebook group, that might help, otherwise its trial and error. Just remember, cheaper is not always better when it comes to mechanics.
Very true, in my opinion.

I do not mind paying for needed and appropriate car maintenance and repair - even if it is not "cheap". What I do mind is paying for things that do not need to be done. I also would be concerned about paying for something that was just not done.

I believe that the mechanics at a dealer are well qualified to do the work/repairs/maintenance needed. My reluctance to use the dealer is the possibility or probability that the work is not really needed at all, or if it is needed - the method and parts used are overpriced.

It is also my opinion (no mechanical expertise or experience) that it may take a few years for the non-dealer repair places to get up to speed on the newer models.

Our local repair place, from everything we experience, does not do or recommend anything that does not need to be done. If a repair does not work, depending again on the details, sometimes do it again at no charge. Before buying (from an individual) a 2002 Toyota Camry six cylinder - 18 months ago, I asked them to do a brief check it over of the car. They did that for me at at no charge, told me the car was OK and I bought it. There have been no unexpected "surprises" with the car. With two older cars, we give them our business - sometimes minor, inexpensive things - and sometimes higher expense items. In the last year, on one car, we had the timing belt and water pump replaced. Then, on the other car, they replaced the radiator, timing belt and water pump. They are also an inspection station and they get our inspection business once a year for each car.

What they also told me is that some kinds of parts on new vehicles must be purchased from that brand's dealers. After a few years, though, other, lower price parts become available from other suppliers.

Gretchen
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Gretchen » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:17 pm

We've had great luck with https://www.cartalk.com/mechanics-files. We found them when a wheel bearing died on an out-of-town trip. Per Cartalk, there was a top-rated shop a few miles from our hotel. The owner told us that Friday was his usual day off, leaving his adult sons in charge and a bit under-staffed, but he'd come in since we were on the road. He got us fixed up promptly and at a very reasonable price.

When we got back, we thought -- duh, this ought to work at home for our out-of-warranty older vehicles, too. We found a top-rated shop three miles from our house, and it's been our go-to for many years now.

Give Cartalk a try! Even though Tom has passed away, Ray is still active, and the site still records new reviews.

sk2101
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by sk2101 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:39 pm

Nextdoor is useful for these kind of things. See what your neighbors there recommend.l and then crosscheck reviews on yelp.

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dm200
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:57 pm

I could not find our local repair place on the referenced site.

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lthenderson
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by lthenderson » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:03 pm

tommy85 wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:51 am
We are relatively new to the area and do not have many friends/acquaintances here. The people we know, most of them take their cars to dealerships.
In that case, trial and error. My current shop I stumbled on quite by accident driving by it after having a less than desirable experience at a different place. It doesn't have a Facebook page or isn't on any of those list sites. As far as I can tell the only advertising is the sign out front and word of mouth.

Topic Author
tommy85
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by tommy85 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:04 pm

strafe wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:43 am
Your best bet is to trade your current car in for something less reliable.
You'll have more opportunities to evaluate your options. Win-win!

My car once broke down across the street from a repair shop. He turned out to be one of my favorite mechanics.
I currently own a 2014 Lexus ES 350 which has good reliability. Thank you for your reply though

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tommy85
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by tommy85 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:07 pm

dm200 wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:08 pm
tydas wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:02 am
See if your town has a facebook group, that might help, otherwise its trial and error. Just remember, cheaper is not always better when it comes to mechanics.
Very true, in my opinion.

I do not mind paying for needed and appropriate car maintenance and repair - even if it is not "cheap". What I do mind is paying for things that do not need to be done. I also would be concerned about paying for something that was just not done.

I believe that the mechanics at a dealer are well qualified to do the work/repairs/maintenance needed. My reluctance to use the dealer is the possibility or probability that the work is not really needed at all, or if it is needed - the method and parts used are overpriced.

It is also my opinion (no mechanical expertise or experience) that it may take a few years for the non-dealer repair places to get up to speed on the newer models.

Our local repair place, from everything we experience, does not do or recommend anything that does not need to be done. If a repair does not work, depending again on the details, sometimes do it again at no charge. Before buying (from an individual) a 2002 Toyota Camry six cylinder - 18 months ago, I asked them to do a brief check it over of the car. They did that for me at at no charge, told me the car was OK and I bought it. There have been no unexpected "surprises" with the car. With two older cars, we give them our business - sometimes minor, inexpensive things - and sometimes higher expense items. In the last year, on one car, we had the timing belt and water pump replaced. Then, on the other car, they replaced the radiator, timing belt and water pump. They are also an inspection station and they get our inspection business once a year for each car.

What they also told me is that some kinds of parts on new vehicles must be purchased from that brand's dealers. After a few years, though, other, lower price parts become available from other suppliers.
I agree with both of you, I am not looking for cheapest option. I dont want to be taken to cleaners for something i do not need done. My brother who was visiting from out of town took his Corolla to a local repair shop for oil change who recommended some engine gasket replacement which would cost him 700$. His previous repair shop never said anything about this. Who know it was really needed or was just an upsell. So just trying to be careful. Thank you for your insight.

Broken Man 1999
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:18 pm

I have noticed a real turnover at a small chain place I have used for tires/alighnment, light maintenance/repairs. Even in the service writer and manager level.

As well, even with the limited electronics in my 2008 E150 van, the repairs were not possible.

I used the link from cartalk, found one shop in 15 mile radius, and they specialized in small foreign engine rebuilds. Nothing for our needs.

My BIL visited us this past weekend, and he said even the MB shop where he works can't get and keep nechanics, even with decent pay and benefits.

There is a real shortage of mechanics, actually pretty much any trades. Real opportunity for those willing to get their hands dirty, and not rack up a boatload of student loans.

More and more of our vehicle repairs and maintenance needs are ending up at the dealership. Tire places are still plentiful, and most can align our high top van. Other than that, not so much.

Broken Man 1999

ETA: At least I can run things through my BIL to see if what is proposed is within the realm of an actual legit need. He does a look-see on the van every time he visits.
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

BruDude
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by BruDude » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:06 pm

Yelp and read reviews

Scrapr
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Scrapr » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:01 pm

strafe wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:43 am
Your best bet is to trade your current car in for something less reliable.
You'll have more opportunities to evaluate your options. Win-win!

My car once broke down across the street from a repair shop. He turned out to be one of my favorite mechanics.
Did he have a break down force field outside his shop? Like an EMP generator? When my truck mechanic gets slow he calls me to see if we have anything done soon. Never fails. Truck breaks down the next day

To OP. I have used specialists for our car brand. Volvo. They typically know the brand in & out & up & down. They can't do warranty. Generally chaper than the dealer shop

HawkeyePierce
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by HawkeyePierce » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:04 pm

I asked around the car guys I at my office. A few of them raced sports cars on weekends, two in particular did a lot of their own maintenance. They pointed me to two local shops and I've always had good experiences.

So, ask any car guys you might work with. :happy

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Nicolas
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Nicolas » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:07 pm

Cartalk.com
Find a great mechanic!
https://www.cartalk.com/mechanics-files
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend.” Wm. Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act-I, Scene-III, 75-76)

iamlucky13
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by iamlucky13 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:15 pm

Recommendations and trial and error, preferably trying out scheduled maintenance before dealing with any repair service. Online reviews can potentially help identify consistent bad experiences, but frankly, even the best companies get a few bad reviews, while those that get overwhelmingly bad reviews go out of business.

For some perspective on how that's worked out for me, when I trialed the two places closest to me, both relatively large, independent shops with good locations, my conclusion was "error". One was dishonest with us. With the other we had one neutral experience, but another where they neglected to top up coolant after a water pump change, leading to an overheat that is probably why I later developed a head gasket leak.

After that, we asked around and found out several of our acquaintances were devoted customers of a smaller shop that has been around for a while, but frankly, does not have a very professional appearance. Had we not gotten those consistent recommendations, we would have had to continue with the trial and error method looking for a better shop than the second one.

Both of the times we've had service done at the latest shop so far, they have "downsold" us rather than upsold us: I initially thought more work needed to be done than they recommended after their diagnosis. I have yet to discover any shortcomings in their work.

I haven't had any service done that would provide a direct comparison to the first two shops, but my estimation is pricing is in between Shop 1 (high) and Shop 2 (low).

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ClevrChico
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by ClevrChico » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:17 pm

Only 100% method is to diy. Even good independents have bad days and can overcharge.

onourway
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by onourway » Thu Aug 08, 2019 5:33 am

ClevrChico wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:17 pm
Only 100% method is to diy. Even good independents have bad days and can overcharge.
DIY is far from 100%. Anyone who works on a vehicle for themselves or as a business makes mistakes at times or comes up against problems they don't have the tools or expertise to solve.

You really need to ask around, especially among anyone you may know or be acquainted with who has an interest in cars as a hobby.

FWIW I looked at my area in the CarTalk link posted above. As much as I loved CarTalk, while the best shops in my city were listed near the top, virtually every shop in town was on that list with at least 4.5 stars. And there are some real stinkers on that list.

carolinaman
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by carolinaman » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:10 am

tommy85 wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:51 am
We are relatively new to the area and do not have many friends/acquaintances here. The people we know, most of them take their cars to dealerships. But thank you for your reply.
That makes your challenge greater, but you can still find reliable and honest shops with a little effort. Dealerships will always be more expensive (often a lot more expensive) and not necessarily any more competent than a good independent. Ask people you come in contact with and over time you will find some.

wade22
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by wade22 » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:44 am

I usually just depend on online reviews, but they're so mixed so it can be hard to decipher who's worth seeing. Worst trouble I had with my car, it stalled with oil change and check engine light. Started up again, got the oil changed after. Had check engine light on, about cam sensor or something. Take it to local old mechanic with a few perfect reviews that I totally found trustworthy. He said the cam sensor was bad. I was like okay, maybe the dealership will fix it since I had warranty. I take it to dealership, they say cam sensor is fine, but you have sludge so we need to replace some valves for $700. I go to third repair shop with perfect reviews on yelp, they say cam sensor is fine, they see sludge, but doesn't warrant repair other than timely oil changes. Charge me nothing. I think I got a case of honest but wrong, dishonest, and honest and right. No one local near me currently really has a perfect yelp reputation, and the bad reviews sound legit and like real turn-offs. Makes it tough. I need new brake pads.

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dm200
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dm200 » Thu Aug 08, 2019 11:10 am

Last year, my wife took advantage of a AAA discount offer for the nearby AAA service center to do something (cannot remember) - for both of our older Camrys.

The AAA place also came back with a list, for each car, of things they said needed to be done and the estimated cost.

When we consulted our local shop, they told us that many things on the AAA list did not need to be done or done immediately. Some, though, were valid - and we had our local shop do them.

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dratkinson
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dratkinson » Thu Aug 08, 2019 2:19 pm

Interesting topic.



Bad shops. Back in 1999, when I listened to Car Talk every Saturday, I tried to post a review of an independent shop to which I'd been referred. Friendly manager, terrible work*. Up selling, which might have been okay, except they messed up everything they touched and induced more problems than they fixed. Long story short: Car Talk did not accept my negative review.


Can try calling vehicle corporate office. After above shop, my vehicle had so many problems it was either: (1) get rid it, or (2) find a good dealership to put it back to factory specs. Not finding any vehicle I liked better, I called "Mitsubishi of America" and asked for the identity of the dealership(s) in my area with the highest customer service satisfaction rating. Took it to one and they fixed all problems.


When that dealership went out of business, again called "M of A". And was again happy with next dealership... but they've now also gone out of business. (I'm beginning to notice a pattern with Mitsubishi dealerships.)

So I'm again looking for a new mechanic. And a quick search of reviews of remaining local Mitsubishi dealerships is not encouraging. So I'm back to searching among independents.


While my '90 Mitsubishi Montero has been the most reliable vehicle I've every owned (when repaired by knowledgeable mechanics), next time I'll buy something from Toyota. Or maybe Subaru or Honda. Something with dealerships expected to stay around longer.



* Lessons learned.
--Any shop that tells you it has, "...a renewed focus on customer service"... does not.
--Any shop that wants to be paid in advance, has learned it's harder to get paid after customers see the results of its work. (They'll also delay your work to focus on other work/money: a 1wk job will turn into a 1mo+ job.)
d.r.a, not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.

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Elsebet
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Elsebet » Thu Aug 08, 2019 2:29 pm

Join nextdoor.com for your neighborhood and ask there.
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Nicolas
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Nicolas » Thu Aug 08, 2019 2:43 pm

onourway wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 5:33 am
FWIW I looked at my area in the CarTalk link posted above. As much as I loved CarTalk, while the best shops in my city were listed near the top, virtually every shop in town was on that list with at least 4.5 stars. And there are some real stinkers on that list.
Just pick the one at the top of the list then. I just checked CarTalk for the last two communities I’ve lived in and the top picks at CarTalk were also my top picks for both places I’ve lived in. In fact, those are the two shops I always personally used, and I didn’t know about CarTalk at the time.
Last edited by Nicolas on Mon Aug 12, 2019 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ClevrChico
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by ClevrChico » Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:28 pm

onourway wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 5:33 am
ClevrChico wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:17 pm
Only 100% method is to diy. Even good independents have bad days and can overcharge.
DIY is far from 100%. Anyone who works on a vehicle for themselves or as a business makes mistakes at times or comes up against problems they don't have the tools or expertise to solve.

You really need to ask around, especially among anyone you may know or be acquainted with who has an interest in cars as a hobby.

FWIW I looked at my area in the CarTalk link posted above. As much as I loved CarTalk, while the best shops in my city were listed near the top, virtually every shop in town was on that list with at least 4.5 stars. And there are some real stinkers on that list.
I'm guilty of taking a lot more time than the pros would to fix things. But I certainly haven't done some of the boneheaded things the pro's do to myself either. The industry has a reputation for a reason. DIY is by far the best. Second are independent mechanics. Dealers, I won't even address.

EnjoyIt
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by EnjoyIt » Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:41 pm

dm200 wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:08 pm
tydas wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:02 am
See if your town has a facebook group, that might help, otherwise its trial and error. Just remember, cheaper is not always better when it comes to mechanics.
Very true, in my opinion.

I do not mind paying for needed and appropriate car maintenance and repair - even if it is not "cheap". What I do mind is paying for things that do not need to be done. I also would be concerned about paying for something that was just not done.

I believe that the mechanics at a dealer are well qualified to do the work/repairs/maintenance needed. My reluctance to use the dealer is the possibility or probability that the work is not really needed at all, or if it is needed - the method and parts used are overpriced.

It is also my opinion (no mechanical expertise or experience) that it may take a few years for the non-dealer repair places to get up to speed on the newer models.

Our local repair place, from everything we experience, does not do or recommend anything that does not need to be done. If a repair does not work, depending again on the details, sometimes do it again at no charge. Before buying (from an individual) a 2002 Toyota Camry six cylinder - 18 months ago, I asked them to do a brief check it over of the car. They did that for me at at no charge, told me the car was OK and I bought it. There have been no unexpected "surprises" with the car. With two older cars, we give them our business - sometimes minor, inexpensive things - and sometimes higher expense items. In the last year, on one car, we had the timing belt and water pump replaced. Then, on the other car, they replaced the radiator, timing belt and water pump. They are also an inspection station and they get our inspection business once a year for each car.

What they also told me is that some kinds of parts on new vehicles must be purchased from that brand's dealers. After a few years, though, other, lower price parts become available from other suppliers.
The problem with dealerships is that the mechanics tend to be on the younger side and less experienced. The pathway for these shops is to plug the car into a computer and whatever is faulty gets replaced. Period. In my experience the computer may throw off a code showing a problem but it may need a different solution compared to just replace everything. A good experienced mechanic very well may know what to do instead of the mindless replacement process.

wade22
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by wade22 » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:11 pm

dratkinson wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 2:19 pm
While my '90 Mitsubishi Montero has been the most reliable vehicle I've every owned (when repaired by knowledgeable mechanics), next time I'll buy something from Toyota. Or maybe Subaru or Honda. Something with dealerships expected to stay around longer.
I almost bought a lightly used Mistubishi Lancer for my first car because it looked cool, and was very low priced with a lot of factory warranty left. Then I noticed there was like 1 dealership per state, so I didn't like the prospect of having to possibly drive hours to take advantage of the warranty. Then I ran the car insurance cost and that made up my mind for me. I don't know if there's a low cost car that can beat the Lancer in insurance costs, I guess because it's popular with the street racing and car mod crowd. I think it was like $250 a month, while I ended up paying like $130 a month for the car I got.

onourway
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by onourway » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:25 pm

ClevrChico wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:28 pm

I'm guilty of taking a lot more time than the pros would to fix things. But I certainly haven't done some of the boneheaded things the pro's do to myself either. The industry has a reputation for a reason. DIY is by far the best. Second are independent mechanics. Dealers, I won't even address.
A good mechanic will have already done most repairs before, many of them dozens of times. That experience is of huge value when you are not paying dealer 'book' rate. For example, my independent does timing belts on most of our recent cars, including all parts, for about $400. The parts are about half that, and it's a job that'd take me most of the day. Or, recently we had a very expensive exhaust piece connected to the catalytic converter rust. It was in a very difficult spot to access (even with a lift - a complete non-starter on jack stands), and the only available replacement part cost $1500. We have an awesome custom exhaust shop nearby that has made a minor specialty in replacing this part. It takes them 2-3 hours, including often having to drill and tap the badly rusted fixing bolts, then they cut out the bad piece, weld a new one in. For $300.

I don't let the reputation of a few bad actors tarnish the trade. Nor do I think so highly of my own skills that I'm above paying for quality work.

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RootSki
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by RootSki » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:47 pm

Find a forum specific to your make/model of cars and ask the experts and enthusiasts there where's a good place in your area. There's probably a Facebook group specific to your car also if you play on there. For Volvo's I use Swedespeed.com and 3 or 4 different Facebook groups. There's tons of Subaru forums, Honda too.

megabad
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by megabad » Thu Aug 08, 2019 10:06 pm

The only way I have been able to find one is via trial and error. My friends/acquaintances typically have terrible suggestions since they don't know anything about cars apparently. Price has absolutely no bearing on quality in my experience. There are no consistencies. Dealer is sometimes great, sometimes terrible. I do some work myself. Sometimes I cause more problems than I solve. Every time I go to a new place I start off by telling the service person--just don't lie to me. About 50% of the places I go break that rule on the first visit. The new dealer method of assigning you an "adviser" that knows nothing about cars is inefficient and stupid, but I have had some good experience with the actual guys doing the work at some dealers so I go to some repeatedly. Independent shops are far easier to deal with in my opinion, but some are good and some bad.

sk2101
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by sk2101 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:05 am

RootSki wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:47 pm
Find a forum specific to your make/model of cars and ask the experts and enthusiasts there where's a good place in your area. There's probably a Facebook group specific to your car also if you play on there. For Volvo's I use Swedespeed.com and 3 or 4 different Facebook groups. There's tons of Subaru forums, Honda too.
Good luck finding a Lexus ES enthusiast forum. :D

dbr
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Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dbr » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:02 am

Word of mouth combined with trial and error. These days word of mouth includes social media of all sorts. It probably helps to live in the same neighborhood for a long time. Where I live local businesses really can't hide and everyone knows who is good.

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dm200
Posts: 21485
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dm200 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:26 am

One, related, factor is that some makes, models and model year can be easier (less expensive) or more difficult to maintain and service.

Since I know close to nothing about cars, repairing, etc. I sometimes ask the opinion of my local repair shop about such matters when deciding what older car to purchase, when I need to.

Not 100% sure yet, but it seems likely that I will soon need to replace our 21 year old Camry. :(

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RootSki
Posts: 243
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:52 am

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by RootSki » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 am

sk2101 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:05 am
RootSki wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:47 pm
Find a forum specific to your make/model of cars and ask the experts and enthusiasts there where's a good place in your area. There's probably a Facebook group specific to your car also if you play on there. For Volvo's I use Swedespeed.com and 3 or 4 different Facebook groups. There's tons of Subaru forums, Honda too.
Good luck finding a Lexus ES enthusiast forum. :D
Is this a joke? It took me all of 10 seconds

https://lexusforum.com/forum/lexus-es-11/

FI4LIFE
Posts: 167
Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:27 am

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by FI4LIFE » Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:35 am

It is worth repeating... nextdoor app. If you don't know anyone in the area, this will be a great resource for finding tradespeople in the area.

Restless
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri May 18, 2018 7:33 pm

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Restless » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:43 pm

I found my local mechanic through Tirerack, which has a directory of local installers for tires and suspension components bought from them, along with customer reviews. I think they vet local installers based on competence, equipment and cost. I picked one near me that had the best reviews, and had reasonable cost.

I was very happy with the work they did on installing the tires (I'm very particular about proper wheel balance to avoid vibrations), and started to use them for other mechanical work (brakes, shocks, wheel bearings, alignment, etc.). All their mechanics are ASE-certified; the service manager I initially dealt with is still there (~10 years). They stand behind their work and any follow-up is at no charge (I did detect some wheel vibration at very high speed on one occasion). The limitation is they can only perform mechanical and more basic electrical service; high-tech/computer stuff is beyond their scope. They are not the cheapest, but I have complete trust and peace-of-mind on the work they do.

https://www.tirerack.com/content/tirera ... installers

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dratkinson
Posts: 4644
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Centennial CO

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by dratkinson » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:58 pm

Some comments from above.



"Don't lie to me", works sometimes. In the mid-80s, had a leaking rear heater core on '80 Dodge B250 Sportsman van. (Beautiful van, comfortable on road trips, but I eventually learned it was built during Chrysler/Dodge "dark days" and couldn't stay out of the shops.)

Took it to a shop and asked if they "...could repair leak, and 'don't lie to me.'" They said "No, take it to a radiator shop." I did, and radiator shop fixed the problem.



"You get what you pay for", maybe not. Shortly after above, needed an automatic transmission repair on same van (did I mention it was built during Chrysler/Dodge "dark days") so took it to a coworker-referred shop. Didn't what to pay AAMCO $1K. They said they could save me money and would do the job for $600 and give a 1yr guarantee on the work. They also warned me about the low-quality of the repairs done by shops charging only $200.


Doubling down. Van was running nice so I was feeling good after the transmission repair at the $600 shop, so had them work on my AC when it failed. They replaced leaking seals (~$150?) in the AC compressor, but it failed soon after so paid for a second repair (~$150?). They said the high temperature in the engine compartment caused their first repair to fail. :annoyed Even I didn't believe that.

When AC quickly failed a third time, took it to a long-established and recommended AC compressor rebuilder. He listened to AC compressor running in van and said seals would not fix it. Why? Because it was vibrating slightly, which indicated worn parts. Putting new seals into a compressor with worn parts would only cause the seals to fail. I needed a new/rebuilt AC compressor, and he had several in stock*. His fix held. (* He installed a rebuilt AC compressor from stock, then rebuilt mine to return to stock. Faster for the customer.)

Lesson learned. An AC compressor should run as smoothly as an electric motor. Any slight vibration is an indication that it is too worn to be repaired simply with new seals.


The other shoe drops. The transmission failed ~6-7mos later so took it back and they repaired it again (free, under warranty). After 2nd repair, it failed again ~6-7mos later. Enough is enough.

Took it to AAMCO, told them my story, paid $1K to fix transmission... and it stayed fixed.

When I picked up the van from AAMCO, they said they had inspected my old transmission*... and it looked like a $200 job. Suspected $600-shop may have send van to $200-shop to do the work. :annoyed (* AAMCO installed a rebuilt transmission from stock, then rebuilt mine to return to stock. Faster for the customer.)

AAMCO also discovered why the transmission had failed the second and third times. The repair shop had not checked the transmission cooler (in bottom of radiator). It was plugged with debris from first transmission failure so caused repaired transmissions to overheat and to fail the second and third times.


Small claims court. An attempt to get my $600 back.

Judge, to me: What's the problem.
Me: I paid them $600 to fix transmission and it's failed twice since then. They didn't earn the money.
Judge, to shop representative: What did you do wrong?
Shop representative: Its been over a year and I have no clear recollection of the events.
Judge, to me: Guarantee was for 1yr, van was running at the 1yr point, case dismissed.
My lawyer: My court appearance fee is $150. :annoyed


After I got all of the problems fixed with that van (I also had to replace starter, neutral safety switch, front disk pistons myself at separate times at auto hobby shop, and an alternator at a long-established shop while on a road trip), I traded it before something else failed, and swore I'd never buy another Chrysler/Dodge produce.


Lesson learned. That van had a limited-slip rear differential and I thought it would work well in winter in Omaha NE. It didn't. So it would be better to have 4wd/awd for my move to Cheyenne WY.


Lesson learned. Long-established shops that specialize in doing only one thing (repairing: radiators, AC compressors, transmissions, starters/generators/alternators,...) seem to do it well. Have never had to go back a second time for the same work.


[rant]
Lesson learned. Any shop that warns against low-priced shops may have found a way to earn a low-cost referral fee. Only cost to them may be spending part of a day in small claims court, before case is dismissed.

Lesson learned. Any shop with "Pro-Am" in its name, may be short for "professional amateurs".
[/rant]
d.r.a, not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.

Sandi_k
Posts: 1063
Joined: Sat May 16, 2015 11:55 am
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Sandi_k » Sun Aug 11, 2019 12:30 pm

RootSki wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 am
sk2101 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:05 am
RootSki wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:47 pm
Find a forum specific to your make/model of cars and ask the experts and enthusiasts there where's a good place in your area. There's probably a Facebook group specific to your car also if you play on there. For Volvo's I use Swedespeed.com and 3 or 4 different Facebook groups. There's tons of Subaru forums, Honda too.
Good luck finding a Lexus ES enthusiast forum. :D
Is this a joke? It took me all of 10 seconds

https://lexusforum.com/forum/lexus-es-11/
clublexus.com/forums

michaelingp
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:46 pm

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by michaelingp » Mon Aug 12, 2019 5:16 pm

tommy85 wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:44 am
From previous posts, I have learnt local mom and pop shops are better than dealerships but dont know how to find a reliable one.
I've read a lot of posts on this forum concerning car repairs, and I haven't got the impression that there is a consensus that mom and pop shops are better than dealerships. In my experience, consensus is extremely rare here. Personally, I use dealerships a lot. They generally have good mechanics and stand behind their work. The problem is that some of them (I emphasize SOME) over maintain, so if you just say yes to whatever they suggest you end up paying for a lot of work you don't need and doesn't make your car any more reliable or last longer. On the other hand, some independents UNDER maintain, so you have to be very specific about what you ask them to do. In my experience, you have a lot more chance of running into total dishonesty at an independent. Except for the over maintaining, I don't think you'll find dealerships a lot more expensive than independents. They all use labor tables (a book that states how long a job should take) and I don't think you'll find huge differences in the per hour rates in a particular area of the country.

UpperNwGuy
Posts: 2310
Joined: Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:16 pm

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by UpperNwGuy » Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:20 pm

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the CarTalk link shared above and searched my own city. I found a lot of obsolete information, including a five star recommendation for an Exxon station down the street from me that closed down its auto repair operation over 20 years ago.

Trader Joe
Posts: 1024
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:38 pm

Re: How to find a reliable car service center?

Post by Trader Joe » Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:29 pm

tommy85 wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:44 am
Hello all,

Just wondering if Bogleheads have a secret for finding a reliable car service center. From previous posts, I have learnt local mom and pop shops are better than dealerships but dont know how to find a reliable one. Is there a directory of a review website that is reliable.

Thanks
Tom
My local Toyota dealership service center is always reliable.

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