How to find the best, affordable repair shop for your car

Gray Mini Cooper being repaired in garage

ABBA famously said, “Money, money, money / Must be funny / In the rich man’s world.” If you dream of all the things you could do with ‘a little money’, just like the Swedish band from the 1970s, you are not alone. Inflation and rising prices are major concerns for US consumers. In reality, 59 percent of Americans said they lived paycheck to paycheck in July 2022, according to a LendingClub report.

The report also highlighted that consumers earning less than $50,000 annually were severely affected by inflation, with about three-quarters of them saying they lived paycheck to paycheck. Meanwhile, 63 percent of consumers with annual incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 in July also lived paycheck to paycheck.

Consumers who rely on personal vehicles for their daily commute are in an even more dire situation as they face higher repair costs. Vehicle maintenance costs have skyrocketed during the pandemic due to supply chain problems, a rise in the cost of raw materials and parts, and labor shortages. According to the Automotive Fleet, average light truck maintenance transaction costs rose to $382 in 2021 from $369 in 2020.

Meanwhile, average maintenance transaction costs for SUVs reached $269 in 2021 from $248 in 2020, and average maintenance transaction costs for cars rose to $259 in 2021 from $249 in the previous year. In this context, finding the best and most affordable repair shop for your used car becomes top priority. So, here’s how to fix the problem.

Related: These Cheap Luxury Cars Will Bankrupt You With Repair Bills

The Best Affordable Auto Repair Shop: Do Your Research and Check Online Reviews

This is a good idea, but every consumer should research online before choosing a repair shop. Research shows that 95 percent of consumers read product reviews before making a purchase, and 8 percent of online users use these reviews to find new businesses. Equally important, 72 percent of customers use Google reviews to find new businesses.

In this digital age, ignoring the information we have with our fingerprints is a big mistake, so to avoid scams and high costs, drivers need to search online and check consumer rating sites.

The best affordable repair shop: word of mouth is king, so be aware of your network’s recommendations

Marketers know that there is no recommendation that comes from a trusted source, so they are constantly turning to word of mouth to promote their products and services. But even drivers can take advantage of this strategy and ask their network for recommendations. According to Bright Local research, 82 percent of consumers read a fake review in the past year. The percentage is significantly higher among consumers aged 18 to 34, with 92 percent say they have seen fake reviews online.

With fake reviews becoming more common these days, drivers should turn to their network for recommendations. However, this does not mean that car owners should ignore online reviews if a friend or family member suggested a mechanic or repair shop. Rather, drivers should consider both before each visit.

The best affordable repair shop for your car: consider a test bench

If you know that a costly repair for your vehicle is ahead, it is recommended to start with a dummy run. Schedule a routine auto service or a more affordable surgery, such as an oil change, to see how the repair shop staff treat you. This gives you the opportunity to determine and evaluate costs with those of other service providers in your local community.

At least you don’t have to worry too much if something goes terribly wrong, because an oil change is cheaper than replacing an engine.

The best affordable repair shop: always choose a repair shop that gives you an extended warranty for the work of its team

Usually, repair shops give customers a warranty for the work performed by their technicians. If a repair shop can’t provide a warranty, ignore that company because their behavior shows they don’t even stand behind their own work.

According to Elite, the average shop owner normally warrants their repairs for a year or 12,000 miles. And if a part fails after that first year, they let their customers know they’ll do the repair at a discounted price. But Elite points out that “in today’s competitive environment,” the base warranty should be two years or 24,000 miles.

Undoubtedly, drivers will find repair shops with better deals and longer warranties on their jobs, as well as facilities with less than ideal conditions.

Related: 10 Cars with the Lowest Maintenance Costs on the Market

If your car’s warranty has expired, avoid dealers and select independent mechanics

In general, dealers are more expensive than independent mechanics because they employ factory-trained specialists who have gone through a tough and lengthy recruitment process. Dealers also have higher maintenance costs than a family-run repair shop, so in most cases these companies pass their high costs on to the consumer.

Drivers should consider using independent mechanics if their car warranty has expired and they don’t have a strong relationship with their dealer.