Don’t choose a shop just because of convenience. Once you have determined that the shop is qualified, Convenience is a plus. But only if they have a good reputation and back up their work with a good warranty (at least 12 months/20,000 KMs). Remember that a good shop may be convenient, but the most convenient shop may not necessarily be the best shop for you.
Don’t pick a shop based on “special offers”. OK, we all do it. It seems to be the market trend nowadays. You want your shop to be competitive, of course. But even more important you need to have the job done right. Unfortunately, it is all too common for many shops to bring the car in the door with a loss leader and then charge a higher amount as the work progresses. This is due somewhat to the nature of the industry. But if you see a price that seems unrealistically low it probably is. You will be better off going with a shop that gives you professional service and backs up their work. Quality will win out over low price every time. The savings will come with a longer lasting and more trouble-free repair.
Don’t pick a shop just because they look like “good old boys”. Poor choice. Some of those good old boys are great. Others have never moved out of the past and can’t cope with today’s vehicles very well. Get recommendations and proof of qualifications rather than looking for a good old boy shop.
Choosing a shop based on a low “labour rate”. This is one of the worst ways to choose a shop. Price shopping for a service this way just does not make sense. There are just too many variables. Only one of those is the price. And the final price may not be even remotely related to the “labour rate”. If you need an idea of cost just ask for that and not the labour rate. If you base your buying decision on the “labour rate” you may find a shop that gives you a low rate, takes longer and charges you more for the job than you would have paid at a higher rate shop. The end result could be a shoddy job for about the same price as you could have paid for a professional one.
They can get me in right away! Oh really, then they must not be that busy. If that is so then maybe they are really not that good? Sometimes a good shop can get you in quickly. Often they are booked up for a day or two in advance due to their reputation though. This could really backfire on you if you end up in a shop that is never busy because they are doing terrible work. Getting your vehicle back soon is important. But, getting it fixed correctly is even more important. Wouldn’t you agree?
They can get it done FAST! A good job takes some time. A good shop can reduce that time but they cannot eliminate it. Most people do not realize the amount of time their vehicles must be in the shop for certain jobs. Choosing a shop based primarily on this criteria is usually a mistake. Some shops will, unfortunately promise anything to get the job. That does not mean that they will necessarily deliver on that promise once the job has started.
They are open weekends. While potentially convenient, skilled tradespeople are very in demand right now, and no shops A-Team works weekends, so if you want the second stringers working on your car, Saturday is your day. Look for courtesy cars instead.
They don’t have very many staff or support people so they can charge me less than a shop that does. Again, this reasoning is faulty. Most modern facilities have a ratio of almost one support person to each technician in the shop. This allows the technicians to do the maximum productive work without undue interruptions and distractions. Therefore, the entire procedure is more efficient. With too few support people the production staff will spend way too much time doing tasks not directly related to the services or repairs on the vehicles. The end result will often be lower quality work due to interruptions and higher prices because of an inefficient business model.
My neighbour went there and he said they were great. Actually this is one part of a good plan to choose a good shop. However, before you buy into this recommendation ask a few more questions. What did your friend have done? How many times has he been there? If he had any problems how were they resolved? If he went in one time for an oil change and you need a transmission repair, there may be a problem here. Make sure the shop is qualified to do the type of work that you need. And try to find a shop where an acquaintance has been to more than once. Recommendations are an excellent way to find a good shop. Just make sure the recommendation is qualified.
They seem really nice and I feel that I can trust them. This is actually a very good sign. A feeling of trust is very important when dealing with a service or repair shop. Just be sure that this is one good component out of several. Some folks are very good at schmoozing you on the front counter. That, in itself does not mean they are a good shop. You need to take more into account than that. You need to find out if they are qualified and give you a good warranty as well as a good feeling.
Jumping around to just any shop for small jobs until you need something really important. Not a good idea at all. There are shops today that can and will take care of almost all of your vehicles needs. If you establish a good relationship with them on the smaller jobs they will be much more likely to get you in and treat you right when you need a larger job. Some shops won’t even talk to you for an emergency job unless you are already and established client of theirs. Start with an oil change to check out the shop and to help you decide if that match is right.
Get those recommendations from friends and neighbours. As I said before, just make sure they are qualified. Any shop can have a few folks that have had a bad experience or a bad attitude. However, they should be a very small minority of the total clients. Take into account the personality of the person that is giving you advice before you decide not to consider a shop that seems OK to you.
Search for Revies on Google and other Independent sources. Look for the star rating, but also the text of the review, look for comments about your type of vehicle and also see how the shop replies to poor reviews to see if they care.
Next phone some shops from your list above and ask some questions. Call them to get a feel for how they answer the phone and how you are treated on this first contact. Tell the person that answers the phone that you are looking for a qualified shop for your vehicles. Ask if they can spare a few minutes to answer some questions. If you catch them at a busy time ask for a good time to call back.
Next, ask them what services they can provide. Ask them if they have any industry affiliations such as trade associations. Ask if they have a code of ethics and if they follow it. Ask them how many of their technicians are certified. Ask them how long their technical staff has been in the industry. Ask them how long they have been in business. What is their standard warranty for most jobs? One year is a minimum standard. Ask if they have a technical resource like Alldata or Mitchell on Demand to access service bulletins and recall information.
Evaluate the call: Were they nice or rude? Did they seem distracted when they were on the phone with you? They should be able to handle your phone call with grace. If you like their attitude and answers so far go to the next step. If not go back to your abbreviated list and start again with the shop with the next most qualifications. Keep up this process until you find a shop that feels right to you and then go on to the next step.
Visit the shop. Drive by at first and see if it looks like a place that you would want to leave your vehicles.
If it passes that test, park in their lot and visit the office. Note how you are treated, the look of the office and the attitude of the staff. They should look professional and be friendly, courteous, helpful, and efficient and act like they want your business.
Look for certificates on the walls that show government certifications and other affiliations. Let them tell you a bit about themselves. Ask the history of the shop and so on if they have time. Ask if they have any handouts that would help you to decide if they could be your shop.
Let them know that you are looking for a shop to take care of your vehicles needs. See how they react to that. A good shop will appreciate your research and will be glad to start a new relationship with a potential good client.
Ask if you can meet the owner or the shop manger. If they are not too busy ask for a quick tour or a look at the shop. See if it looks clean and organized. Get a general feel for the attitudes in the shop.
If the shop passed so far schedule an appointment for an oil change or other minor service.
A note of caution here: If they can’t or won’t set up an appointment for service you probably don’t want to pick them as your shop. A shop that does not set appointments usually does not focus on preventative maintenance and is more of a “breakdown shop”. This is not what you need if you are going to get the best bang for your service and repair dollar. Also, getting you in quickly without an appointment usually means that getting you back out on time with a quality job is not very likely. A well-run shop will schedule appointments and also be able to handle some minor emergencies. If they cannot get you in for an emergency they should have a contingency plan such as rental car availability or a shuttle service to your home or work to help you when you need it.
Keep your appointment. Call ahead and reschedule early if you cannot make it. A good shop will appreciate that courtesy. Make your final decision after your first appointment. They should call you up and send you some follow up information to solidify the relationship. A really good shop will ask you to follow up, maybe write a review to make sure that your service was good. They will also ask you for input to help them make the business better for you and their other clients.
Your final decision. If the shop has met all the above criteria to your satisfaction reward them with your loyalty. Schedule your oil changes and other preventative maintenance services with them. You will be glad that you took the extra effort to locate a GREAT shop when you have an emergency. You won’t believe how much less stressful it can be to have your own shop that you can trust with your vehicles from now on. If the shop did not meet all of your standards or if you had a funny feeling about them you will need to start all over with step one again until you find a shop that you can make your own. Sometimes it is not just the shop itself. Occasionally you may have a personality conflict with someone at the shop. You don’t want or need to go to a shop that you feel funny about. Look around a bit until you find one that treats you like a friend.
© 2021 Scott Waddle