Update: Check out our Marvelous Mechanics checklist, which you can download by clicking here. Tick off each step as you go, and make sure you stay in control!
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a car genius to avoid getting fleeced by the few car mechanics that are looking to make a quick win, by following this simple guide and acting with caution you can protect both yourself and your finances.
Before deciding upon a garage to carry out any necessary work, make sure you ask around for recommendations. Word of Mouth is extremely influential in today’s society and if a company has a bad reputation the likelihood of you hearing about it is 8% higher than if they had a good reputation. 95% of people are likely to share a bad experience, whereas 87% of people would usually choose to share a good experience. (Marketing Charts, 2013)
If you turn up to a garage unannounced, are the staff friendly, helpful and knowledgeable? Car mechanics are highly skilled people so they should know their stuff! Take a look around – what are the cars like? Are they similar models to your own? Do they specialise in certain makes and models? Is the garage clean? – Signs of a cluttered floor with empty oil cans and worn tyres is a sign of a bad garage.
Is there any Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) or (AAA) certificates up on the walls? These are both good indicators of a reputable shop. If you’re still concerned, you could also check the local good garage scheme which will provide you with a list of garages that perform services to a strict code of conduct.
Ask whether the diagnosis is free. Most garages will diagnose a problem free of charge but don’t take advantage of this by asking one garage to identify the problem and then asking another to fix the problem.
Ask to watch. If you feel more comfortable watching whilst your car is being worked on, you’re well within your rights to do this. Any garages that tell you otherwise should raise suspicion.
Keep your receipts. If you have been jumping around from mechanic to mechanic for a while, make sure that you keep your receipts in an easily-accessible safe place. This way, you have a better reference for previous repairs to your car. If you’re advised that you’re a certain part needs replacing, you can see when it was last replaced and question if this is necessary.
Do your research. If you know what is wrong with your vehicle try and find an average price for any work that needs doing – that way you’re not going in totally blind.
Quote, not Estimate. Remember to ask for a quote NOT an estimate prior to the work being carried out. If you have a quote in writing they can’t really go back on this, but an estimate they can change more easily when you come back to them.
Make sure you understand what work has been carried out, if you don’t understand ask them to explain it to you. All good mechanics should thoroughly explain your repair quotes and why they need to do what they need to do. Don’t worry that you’re wasting their time – that’s what you’re paying them for. Also, make sure you pick the invoice over with a fine needle before you sign it, check that you have not been charged for any additional services or parts that you were not made aware of.
If a new part is recommended to you, demand proof, insist on inspecting the worn part if they tell you that you can not see the part take your business elsewhere. If indeed new parts are needed, ask if you can purchase the parts yourself. Remember, mark-up on parts is how they make their money so most garages won’t allow you to do this. It’s always worth asking, though, as you might save yourself a few pennies.
Once quoted a price for the work to be carried out, go and find another comparison. A good mechanic should be happy for you to go and get a second opinion – No pressure should be put on you to make up your mind straight away.
Make sure the total price includes VAT, and this isn’t going to be a hidden cost later.
There are organisations such as mycargossip.com and Motormistress which offer a friendly and helpful service for practical advice and support on motoring issues. Mycargossip also feature a section called mycargossip Motoring Services Directory which allows you to search for all types of female friendly motoring services. When you find the motoring service you are looking for you can click on their profile and see how many reviews they have. The best female friendly garages will have a female friendly stamp of approval, so keep an eye out for these particular businesses. Just enter your postcode into the search box, select the furthest distance that you are willing to travel and away you go – hassle and worry free!
Do you have any tips? Disagree with anything we’ve said? Let us know in the comments below!