Avoid the “wallet flush” by following the directions below
Use reviews to find your potentials
Start off looking at Google reviews well in advance of needing to have your vehicle serviced or repaired, do not wait until you require a major service or repair to frantically find a mechanic. Filtering out the dishonest (they have multiple five-star reviews by reviewers with just one or two reviews written) and phony business listings can lead to long term confidence in your choice. Don’t rely only on the reviews but read them and get to know the shop (particularly the makes/models they will/won’t service) and staff based in this. Keep any negative reviews in the back of your mind and use them in your decision making going forward. BBB rating and reviews can also play a factor in your decision.
Look for shops that are licensed and freely share pricing
Once you have found three shops, call each of them and mention you are looking for a new mechanic, ask if they have a price list for common service/preventative maintenance items. If they are willing to share this information you can hold them to the pricing but beware most service advisors have a long list of excuses when passing along pricing. For instance, they may say it depends on the vehicle. Online mechanic services like Fiix and Go Wrench can be used to get rough estimates of pricing, if they beat pricing of brick and mortar repair shops, go with either.
You can also ask about their licensing and insurance in order to be doing the work. While a red seal mechanic will cost more, they will often take the time to answer questions and provide a guarantee with the work. Expect that there will always be a song and dance so not to anger easily once it comes time to settle the final invoice.
Start small and beware of sticker shock
Once a selection of shop/mechanic is made, start off small with preventative maintenance or a brake job. This will help you gauge your selection. Ask yourself if the honesty and transparency are ongoing and the pricing is flat, that does not inflate as time goes on. If you notice price increases, don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation. Some dealership service departments and mid-large mechanic shops will pass along inflationary costs to the customer which is acceptable. If there are large, unexplained increases in quoted prices be aware of this and quickly come forward or look for a new mechanic. Often, parts supplied by the dealer or shop are much more expensive than those that are sourced by the customer, be mindful of this to get the best possible price.
Vehicle inspections make the most seasoned car buyer sweat
When looking for a mechanic to complete an out of province or pre-purchase inspection specifically, know that most provinces mandate pricing for out of province inspections. A pre-purchase inspection may cost less or the same and be equally as comprehensive, I’m sure a service advisor would respect that one is thorough who asks if there is a difference and cost. See our list of questions to ask when purchasing a used car to protect yourself in any vehicle transaction.
Ask to see the item in need of repair, if they don’t already show you
About 20 years ago I met a mechanic who worked for a medium size chain, I knew nothing about cars at the time. What I like about this shop was their willingness to show customers the broken, deteriorated or damaged part before proceeding. They often took me into the repair bay and showed me the repair that was required, this helped to build trust in them.
Finally, always make an appointment, don’t just show up unless you are invited to do so or it is a policy that they do oil changes with no appointment. Making appointments will also help the shop build confidence in you and the relationship will grow from here. Before you know it, you’ll have a trusted mechanic for years as well.