How to Handle a Car Repair

men shaking hands at auto repair shop

Accidents. Breakdowns. Tune-ups.

Taking your car to a repair shop probably doesn’t top your list of favorite things to do. Yet a car repair can be much less stressful when you know where to go and what to ask your mechanic. Read on to learn some top tips for how to handle a car repair.

Find a credible repair shop

The first order of business is finding a repair shop you can trust. Keep in mind that the stress of an emergency repair could impair your judgment. So as it goes with finding a trustworthy contractor, consider identifying a shop or two you can turn to before your car needs work.

A good place to start is by asking friends and family members for recommendations. Then check in with the Better Business Bureau and your state’s Attorney General’s office; they’ll have information on which shops are satisfying customers (and which aren’t).

When choosing a mechanic, make sure he or she is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). An ASE certification guarantees that the mechanic follows the proper procedures and knows the more advanced computer programs and technology. Don’t be fooled by a sign boasting ASE certification—it could signal that just one mechanic, rather than the entire shop, meets the requirements. It’s good to ask if the specific mechanic who will be working on your particular car has the certification.

Your auto insurer may also have a trusted list of shops that meet certain guidelines for workmanship and service. For instance, Erie Insurance provides the Direct Repair Program as an option if you do not already have a shop in mind.

9 questions to ask repair shop staff

A shop’s answers to these questions will give you an idea of whether they can handle your car repair:

  1. Does the shop regularly handle my vehicle make and model? Some models (usually foreign and/or luxury brands) require the services of a specialty shop.
  2. How long has the shop been around? A longer track run is often—but not always—a good sign.
  3. What sort of education do you and your staff have? In addition to the aforementioned ASE certifications, other respected forms of education include trade school diplomas and certificates of advanced course work training from I-CAR (the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair).
  4. Does the shop provide a written warranty? If so, how long is it for and what does it cover? While repair shops are not required to offer a warranty, the better ones will guarantee work for at least a year (or 12,000 miles).
  5. Do you carry insurance in case something happens to my car while it’s in your care and custody? You don’t want to be stuck with the bill if something like a fire or theft happens while your car’s in their care.
  6. Will you use new, used or aftermarket parts on my car? Any of them can be a good choice, but ask if you have a preference.
  7. Can you give a written estimate? Getting one up front helps avoid sticker shock later.
  8. Do you have any references with whom I can speak? If they do, give those references a call to get the inside scoop about the shop.
  9. Do you offer complimentary shuttle service or a courtesy car? This is an added bonus that makes the repair progress a lot less stressful. Also check with your auto insurer to see if you have coverage to rent a car after an accident.

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