I have talked a bit about my mechanic, Bill. This morning I came across this article in MSN about choosing one, which has way more detail than I would bother to pursue. However, it makes an interesting point about the different types of vendors:
Apparently, some people only go to the mechanic at their dealership. This isn’t a bad idea, if only to confirm that any work done maintains your vehicle warranty. I find them difficult to schedule, though.
Some people go to chains. Sears Automotive was the one mentioned in the article. I can’t really comment because I haven’t tried it. Is it better cost, or perhaps the comfort of the big name? When I was young and struggling, I did my oil changes at Jiffy Lube for a couple of years. I was never entirely comfortable because someone different was working on my car every time I went.
Independents might seem like a dicier prospect. The article says they are patronized by “community-conscious” people. I found mine because the original proprietor was my friend Susie’s dad. The current proprietor was the manager for many years when Susie’s dad was semi-retired.
I agree that getting referrals is the most important thing. If someone you know is pleased with the service, you will probably be fine. If that doesn’t work, I use Angie’s List. I also like the part about discussing your concerns with the mechanic.
Bill knows that if something on my car has to be fixed, the first thing I want to know is, “Did I do that?” Because when I was younger and my dad was paying for my repairs, it helped to know if I was in trouble. But that question helped me to understand, on an extremely low level, the operations of my car. These days, he knows that I am concerned with the beating my car takes on my commute.
The article doesn’t address being a good customer. Obviously we are paying for a good service, but I swear it helps if your vendor likes you. So my first rule is that I always call first, and do not assume that the rest of Bill’s operation stops because I need something. Second, we always drop our cars off for oil changes. I realize that not everyone can do that, but we leave a car there on Friday afternoon and pick it up on Saturday morning so that Bill can get to it when he has time and there isn’t an impatient person pacing his office when he is trying to help someone else. Finally, we are clear on the estimate rules. They are, “If it is $500 or less, just go ahead and do it. If it is more that $500, please call first.”
While I think building a relationship with vendors is always a good thing – like the snow plow guy – it is vital to me to be able to trust a mechanic. I don’t know much about cars and don’t want to know much about cars. Could I be cheated? Easily. But I am certain that is not happening.