How to Find a Good Mechanic

by Lori Straus

Finding a trusted mechanic to repair your car is important for not only the condition of your vehicle but also for your own peace of mind. Is the mechanic overcharging you? Taking shortcuts? Or being honest with you? Ideally, you don’t want to wait until you’ve been in an accident or need to change your tires at the last minute.

Automotive technician Bruno Lopes began working on cars in the mid-90s, opened his first garage with a partner a few years later. In 2015, he received his Bachelor of Education. He now teaches automotive courses at Resurrection High School in Kitchener, Ontario. He shares a few tips.

Start Looking for a Good Mechanic Online

Lopes suggests first reviewing online comments about a garage you’re considering for auto repairs. Read both positive and negative comments. In addition, don’t forget to inquire at the local Better Business Bureau, either.

However, online reviews are never enough: they’ll only show you what those who bothered to comment thought and may not truly reflect the garage’s experience.

Inspect the Garage

You may not be allowed to enter the mechanics’ bay because of health and safety regulations, but you should be able to look at it from the outside.

“Look at the quality of the shop area,” Lopes says. “For me, that’s number one: Is the shop clean? Does it look respectful?” Lopes says you should also expect good customer service. “If you’re getting that, chances are you’re going to a good place.”

See the Mechanic’s Certifications

While you’re visiting the auto repair shop, ask to see the mechanic’s certifications. The Government of Ontario requires that all mechanics be licensed. In addition, an auto repair shop must have at least one licensed mechanic, and one licensed mechanic is allowed to have up to four apprentices, says Lopes. Also ask about them.

You can also ask if the mechanic is Red Seal-certified (they may have “RSE” after their name to show this.) Although this isn’t a requirement to repair vehicles in Ontario, it shows that the automotive technician also meets national standards for their trade and can practice anywhere in Canada.

Anything past that is less important, says Lopes. “It all comes to the mechanic themselves. Are they capable of doing the work or not?”

Mechanic helping a customerAsk about Rates

Don’t be shy. Dropping your car off somewhere isn’t the same as buying a new winter jacket. When you’re searching for a new car mechanic, ask about their rates.

Lopes says that a rate that’s too high or too low could signal a bad shop. He believes the going rate is $110-$120/hour at a dealership and about $90-$100 at a private business. Each shop has a labour rate guide: ask to see it.

Interview the Mechanic

Don’t be afraid to ask additional questions like these:

  • What is the garage’s policy on misdiagnosed work?
  • Will a garage cover the costs of fixing something that wasn’t the actual problem? Or will you have to pay for two jobs?
  • Will the garage call you if the quote changes?
  • Will the garage ask you permission if more work is necessary than you originally thought?

“Based on the attitude of the person, should you get your car fixed there or not?” asks Lopes.

Should You Hire a Mechanic Who Specializes in Your Car’s Make?

Lopes says that if a mechanic specializes in a certain make, it’s possible they’ll work faster on your car or have an easier time diagnosing it. However, there are many excellent mechanics out there who can work on a variety of cars.

“It’s a touchy subject,” Lopes admits, “because some think you have to go to the dealer and a specialized mechanic will do a better job. But that’s not always the case.”

Do Your Due Diligence

“People need to be empowered when they’re having their car serviced,” says Lopes. “They should do their due diligence to do the research that’s required.” For example, if you’re getting work done on your house, do you take the first person who shows up at your door? Or do you get three quotes?

And never forget referrals. “If you know somebody who can refer you to a good mechanic and has had a good experience, that’s a good sign.”

In the end, Lopes says, you own your vehicle: “You need to do your due diligence.”