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How do you find great auto repair?

Matt Allen and I often contemplate on what is the best way to advise the public on how to pick a great automotive service and repair shop. We don’t want consumers to be taken advantage of when purchasing a product that frankly, most don’t understand. At the same time, consumers need to understand that auto service and repair is a legitimate and necessary expense that needs to be built into their budgets.

This past week when communicating a repair to a customer at Tri-City Transmission, the customer gave me the “Gold Standard” for auto repair.

He said, “Dave; I only ask three things of a good auto repair shop; that is that they are honest, competent, and fair.”

To boil it down to just that seems so simple. Maybe it’s a bit too reductionist, but isn’t that what we all want from any service that we don’t understand. It’s a great definition, but it isn’t just that simple, so let’s break it down.

Honest: In my estimation there is a higher level of honesty in the automotive industry than most would venture to think. However, the trouble with auto repair is it is so easy to paint somebody dishonest with the high level of subjectivity and a low level of customer understanding. So how do you spot an honest shop? You are looking for people that are diligent in listening to your concerns and truly know how to embarrass.

Competent: I believe this one is in shorter supply then the one above. Whether it’s at the dealer or an independent, it doesn’t matter. I have seen honest technicians that didn’t honestly know they weren’t any good at their trade. This one is harder for the consumer to spot. Maybe all shops sound the same. But are they? You’re going to have to trust your gut on this one (if your gut is no good, I can’t help.) Auto repair is harder than it seems and a good shop does not play that down. They know it’s difficult but they show diligence and they exude confidence.

Fair: You’re going to need to be exquisite at the two above in order to be fair. A good technician knows how to honestly see things from both paradigms, yours and his. Let’s face it; you may be at the mercy of the business when it comes to auto repair. So you are going to want someone who has the ability to see both sides long before making a recommendation.

When working with a good auto repair shop, these questions will rarely come into play if you have already found one. The business will be well established, the staff is competent and the business exhibits the “Care” gene.

Remember as the consumer you want to cultivate this relationship with your repair shop. In order to do this, you have to exhibit the same qualities that you ask of your auto repair professional. Fair is a two-way street and you are going to have to show some competence in the complex realities of life. If you walk away smiling feeling like the auto shop got the short end of the stick then you need to reconsider how you do life. In a relationship both parties have a goal of a fair transaction.

For more in-depth look at topics like this, join Matt Allen and Dave Riccio on Bumper to Bumper Radio, Arizona’s top automotive show heard every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on News/Talk 92.3 KTAR. Call in your questions at (602) 277-5827 you can also reach us at for the best partners, products and advice!