ay you were looking for dog collar. One made by THE DOGGONE GOOD CO. A red one size 6. Knowing all of the details you could be very assured as to getting exactly what you wanted. You'd be a fool to buy it anywhere less then the cheapest wholesaler right?... It's the same collar no matter where you bought it. It just makes since that because you can verify it, why spend anything more for the same thing.
That may be true for hard goods but for service it couldn't be further off. Would you expect fast food service at an expensive French restaurant?
Warehouse shopping has some how crept into American thinking for service too. Quick change oil or muffler shops are one thing but general repair and maintenance is very much another.
The usual criteria that a customer uses for picking a new repair shop, is to ask for the cost of a repair or service, and then pick the lowest bid. The conversation goes something like this . . . . "How much for such and such repair?" My response is, "Why are you looking for a new shop?" Their answer is almost always the same, "Because I'm unhappy with the last repair shop, and the one before that, and the one before that" and so on and so on . .
Because people have so much trouble finding a good shop, I have devised this method to help them. This formula is simple and works a majority of the time, on most makes; don't skip any of the parts though.
- Pick a very definable repair, like a water pump, and be specific that you only want a NEW ONE. Compare "apples to apples" on what is included.
- Call shops that specialize in the fewest makes of cars as possible, preferably only your make.
- Find the shops whose estimates are the highest for the repair AND have been in business the longest. (remember, flat rate -charge per hour- is useless for comparing)
- Go to those shops and inspect them, looking for all of the following:
- Cleanliness of the shop and the employees.
- Special tools and current manuals for your vehicle make.
- A comfortable feeling when conversing with their service writer and technical people. Do they look you in the eye? Smile? Take time?
- Look for recent recommendations from repeat customers.
The reasons are simple; shops that knowingly charge more, usually provide quality service, using better parts, more complete methods, have more experienced "tech's" and can afford to take the time to do it right.
A clean shop usually represents the pride of the owner and his commitment to run an orderly repair shop, and it usually reflects the type of work done too.
If they have also been in business for five or more years, someone else thinks they're good too. It's no secret, "cheap" is easy to provide, (for a short time) and in high demand. On the other hand, "quality" is very seldom properly sought after and therefore more rare. Quality service can not be cheaply produced in a foreign country and imported in mass quantities. With "cheap" you're only happy with the price. You are seldom satisfied with the "quality" of the work, or the long term negative effect on your wallet and good nature. Many "cheap" trips cost more than fewer "quality" ones
Things NOT to base your opinion on.
- A full lot.
- Snappy uniformed "Service Writers."
- Claims of "Factory Trained Technicians."
- Number of years in business ALONE.
A full lot doesn't always mean the shop is good. All it means is, there are a lot of cars waiting for something to be done, such as parts, comebacks, service to be paid for, some that they own, and usually several abandoned cars. Full lots sometimes represent poor organizational skills. Another consideration is... do you really want to be among those long lines waiting? I have seen many a shop close with full lots, for lack of profit, good business sense, and happy customers. Cheap shops are always busy, right up to the end.
A sharp looking Service Writer is no guarantee either. Clean yes, but it's what they know about business, cars, and people that counts. How do they make you feel? Do they promote trust? Good will? Do they spend time with you? Do they show you parts, illustrations, etc.? It's a lot of money you're going to spend on "whatchamacallit's." Your gut is the best defender you have, TRUST IT!
"Factory Trained" can mean little. It might be, it was a long time ago and not the "tech" working on you car. Training is like practicing law or medicine - it's ongoing and a matter of pride, resources, and basic skills. The difference between "parts replacers" and "tech's" that diagnose the cause of your cars ills will mean more. Good manuals, special tools, reward by the shop owner for doing work right, and personal care, are what really counts in technicians. Many years at repair for a technician do not necessarily mean he's good. Attitude and professionalism far out weigh the damage that an "aged" technician with a "hacker" mentality can do.
In a big city, a shop can go through lots of unhappy customers before finally going out of business, so years alone are no guarantee.
Specializing in a narrow range or exact make is important. It is virtually impossible now days to "know them all." There are just too many parts, methods, and changes to keep up on. There is an enormous value in your favor when they specialize in few or your make only.
So, while the methods for picking a good shop are still 90% certain, using "price only" is usually 99% certain to put you back on the phone, looking again, and again.......