Dealerships tend to overcharge and chain shops will jerk you around, so how can you know which independent shops won't screw you? Jalopnik readers have ten tips on how to find someone trustworthy to work on your car.

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Photo Credit: Asim Bharwani

10.) Check Car Forums

Suggested By: waveridin1959

What you learn: If you have a problem with your car, go online and ask for shop recommendations on a car forum specific to your car's model or brand. Car forums are great for positive reviews, but be wary that it's extremely easy for people to give trashy, unwarranted negative reviews over the Internet.

Photo Credit: Four Eyed Pride

9.) Check With Your Local Car Club

Suggested By: solracer

What you learn: This is how you can be sure to get local advice. Get in contact with a local car club for your model or brand, and you'll get reliable advice on what shops won't rip you off and what shops will do the best work.

Photo Credit: Telstar Logistics

8.) Look For Any Classics

Suggested By: robertfoster

What you learn: If you go to check out a shop and you see a bunch of classic cars getting restored, you'll know that the mechanics at the shop are dedicated and will probably do good work on your car.

Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove

7.) Check the Shop's Appearance

Suggested By: Noah McCord

What you learn: Once you go to a shop, there's a lot to judge just on its appearance, as reader Noah McCord explains.

Peer in and look at the shop, a clean working environment keeps all of the nastiness you pay for filters for out of sensitive areas. The walls can be lined with tools, that's fine, but they should be neatly kept and organized. The shop as a structure should be well lit and well maintained. Poorly lit shops are a sign of management penny pinching.

Look for a clean well kept shop with a clean parking lot. Reputable businesses take pride in their appearance. Guess at how long cars are sitting in the lot. If it appears they have a dozen dead machines, know that there is a problem. The problem could be the customer base or it may have to do with their billing practices. A shop is a business and a smartly run shop will not let heaps of junk rust in the lot.

Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove

6.) Meet the Mechanics

Suggested By: It's pronounced "Deer-Tay"

What you learn: It's important to have a person working on your car who you can talk to easily and who you can trust. Talk to the mechanics at the shop and see if they're good people. Moreover, you can get an idea about what the mechanics will be good at by their age. If they're real experienced old guys, they'll be able to handle the torqueflite on your big Chrysler, but they might be confused by your BMW's ECU.

Photo Credit: Asim Bharwani

5.) Find Out What Parts They Use

Suggested By: GOstang

What you learn: Most car parts brands sell both high and low end parts, so it's hard to judge their quality at a glance. You should do your homework, however, to find out if you're getting ripped off or not. A Haynes, Chilton, or dealer manual will tell you how much parts should cost and how much time a repair should take. This will let you look up parts prices and be sure you're not getting charged double for your repairs.

Photo Credit: Asim Bharwani

4.) Look For Good Business/High Turnover

Suggested By: GirchyGirchy

What you learn: Again, check the mechanic's lot. Good signs are a large number of cars in healthy condition that regularly change. If you see half-repaired cars out front for weeks, go elsewhere.

Photo Credit: Bierlos

3.) Start With A Small Job First

Suggested By: Straightsix 9904

What you learn: You can always "test" a garage with a small job to make sure it won't rip you off, just as reader Straightsix9904 does.

I always test them out by getting an inspection sticker or a small job in which I know what it is and what it will cost. I learned this by my girlfriend getting a $137 inspection sticker from a national car shop (2 windshield wipers, one lightbulb, $12 for the sticker). If they are going to screw you over like that, chance are when the big jobs come they will screw you over even harder.

I went to a local shop and even though I had a blown tail light or blinker they replaced it for free and sent me on my way (for $12). Never gone to another shop since.

Photo Credit: Asim Bharwani

2.) Find A Specialist

Suggested By: Bob Loblaw

What you learn: General shops can be fine, but you'll get the best work done by a garage that specializes in your make of car.

Photo Credit: Oliver Wagemann

1.) Go On Word Of Mouth

Suggested By: $kaycog

What you learn: Talking to real, live human beings is still the tried and true way of getting mechanic recommendations. This is how you can find out if someone has had the same mechanic for years (high turnover in mechanics at one shop is a bad sign), what people were disappointed by, what kind of repairs went well, and how the service is.


Just remember to take everything with a grain of salt; judge your friends on who does and does not give good advice.

Tony Harrison