Why Did You Ditch Your Old Car Repair Shop?

As has been demonstrated in episodes of both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the relationship between car owner and car repair shop can be all-too-similar to the relationships you have with your friends and loved ones. But what does it take to push consumers over the edge to the point where they break up with the people who fix their cars?

Our gearhead cousins at Consumer Reports took a break from tooling around the test track in $100,000 electric vehicles to put together the magazine’s Annual Auto Survey.

In addition to sifting through 67,000 reports on service visits to independent mechanics and 101,000 service visits to new car dealerships by CR subscribers, the magazine spoke to more than 1,000 respondents who had switched garages in the last five years to discuss in detail their specific gripes.

About half the people who switched repair shops said their negative experience had occurred at a dealership. About 1/3 were driven away by an independent shop, while franchised repair shops like Midas and Sears were only responsible for about 20% of these defections to another garage.

The biggest reason CR readers gave for jumping ship to another shop was that their old garage didn’t fix the problem properly; a full 50% of switchers cited this issue. 33% of those who changed shops did so because their garage was charging too much money. One in four claimed they made the switch after their old shop sold them unnecessary parts or service. And around 20% said their former shops took longer than expected to complete the work, or jacked up the price after the job had begun.

Also of note: The CR survey found that 30% of females who stopped using their old repair shop did so because they felt like the garage staff were trying to take advantage of them because of their gender.

You can check out more from the CR survey at ConsumerReports.org.

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    “Our gearhead cousins at Consumer Reports took a break from tooling around the test track in $100,000 electric vehicles…”

    Y’mean it actually made it all the way around the track this time? ;D

  2. scoutermac says:

    When I went into my local Toyota Dealer to have an oil change and they informed me that I needed new tires. But what they apparently did not realize is that they were brand new tires. There is also the problem that they were charging me $1 for a washer they never installed on my car. This happened routinely until I got frustrated and changed my own oil and discovered it.

  3. MutantMonkey says:

    “Why Did You Ditch Your Old Car Repair Shop?”

    Because I went in for an oil change and they brought out a list of suggested “repairs” that totaled $700, including a serpentine belt… I had replaced a week earlier, and when I said no, they told me I was taking my life into my own hands.

    • misterfweem says:

      Yeah, that “you’re taking your life in your own hands” thing convinced me my last mechanic only saw me as a bank account driving a vehicle that in his eyes was going to kill me if I so much as ran over a pebble after rejecting his proposed $2,000 in repairs.

      Took it to my wife’s mechanic and have never gone anywhere since. Not only did they look at the parts the other mechanic said were going to kill me and said he was full of manure, but also did much, much more to keep us as customers. Here’s just a short list: They did a cross-town service call, for free, on our van after a belt they replaced a week earlier broke. They’ve also worked on my truck brakes (they’d locked up five miles from the shop) on the side of the road and got it to the shop and did not charge for their time getting the truck to their shop. They replaced the engine in my truck for $2,000 when other shops wanted $4,500 for the same work. They do not talk down to my wife when she takes a vehicle in (nor me, a man bediviled by mechanical ineptitude).

      • jesusofcool says:

        This is a big point for me. I’m a woman but I know a decent amount about cars (more than my last boyfriend!). What gets me is when a mechanic (or worse, a car salesman!) talks down to or patronizes me, clearly because of the impression they get when they see a young woman walk through the door. I’ve had a boyfriend come with me when I’ve needed to drop off my car to get it serviced and been really angered by the mechanic or salesman immediately turning to speak to them although I’m clearly the one dropping off the car.

        • Yomiko says:

          The guy who sold me my last car lost brownie points when he asked me who would be paying for it.

          That’d be me, buddy.

    • TriplerSDMB says:

      When the oil change franchise we took our Hyundai to pulled the same ‘recommended maintenance’ list on us, they tried to act innocent; “This is what the manufacturer wants us to do to your car, we’re not involved in this decision.” As though A) that were true and 2) we were bound somehow to do as the manufacturer wanted to our privately owned vehicle.

  4. drowse says:

    Maybe a better question is – how do you find a good mechanic/car shop to work on your car? I’ve never been to one that I would trust or feel comfortable for the amount of money I’m charged.

    • Blitzgal says:

      Word of mouth. I’ve been blessed to have an uncle who runs his own shop. He’s honest, fair in price, and he never upsells. In fact, he always offers the cheaper fix first while being completely frank with you about how much time you have before it’s too dangerous for you to drive with a particular problem. If his people make a mistake, they admit the fault and they fix it for free. I’m still too broke to buy new cars, and I always buy my used cars through him. I refer everyone to his shop. I’m a little scared of what I’ll do when he retires. Although his mechanics assure me that he’s NEVER going to retire, lol.

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        The mechanic I most regularly use is like that. He’s getting up in age and down in health, so his employees are now the ones that mostly do all the work. Over the last few years, if I can’t talk to him first, I don’t let any of his employees touch my car. When he finally retires, I don’t trust his employees enough to continue going to them.

    • Ilovegnomes says:

      I come at them with a trick question. Like when I owned a car with a diesel engine, I’d ask how much to change the spark plugs. If they kept talking about spark plugs, I’d tell them no thank you and walk away. If they corrected me and told me that my car had glow plugs, I’d take a chance on them because they paid attention to detail.

    • Marlin says:

      When I had my shop is was word of mouth made up all my business after I got off the ground.

      Also get a 2nd opinion on any major repair. I told any customer of mine to get a 2nd opinion and it would not hurt my feelings. I even wrote up my estimate in detail so they could shop around.

    • juggler314 says:

      unless you are a car mechanic yourself, the only way to know for sure is word of mouth. I use the mechanic a friend of mine who had a decades long obsession of buying multiple fiats only to tear them apart to keep the one he liked running. Obviously he knows cars well, so the guy he went to when it was over his head…that’s who I use. Otherwise I’d have no way of telling. I don’t even care if he’s necessarily the cheapest guy (although it happens he is very competitive) so long as he is honest and good at what he does.

    • scoosdad says:

      Mosey on over to the Car Talk web site (from the NPR radio show by the same name). The hosts Tom and Ray (garage owners themselves) have a place there called “Find a Mechanic”. You put in your zip code, and up comes a list of shops in your area that Car Talk listeners have used and reviewed, mostly positively. I’d start there:

      ‘Car Talk’ website

    • alana0j says:

      I’m very fortunate enough to have a close friend who is a mechanic. He WON’T accept any money I try to give him for services and any time I need any parts he can find them cheaper than anywhere that I can access.

  5. chemmy says:

    It’s a tie between the one that I asked to replace my starter (which had gone bad) and they decided to replace my 1-year old battery instead…. and the one that I dropped my car off for new tires and they tried to convince me that the ghetto retreads were new tires (and when I made them put the old tires back on so I could take it somewhere else, they left my lights on and took forever and killed the battery so I couldn’t leave without getting another customer to jump it).

    Take your pick.

    • scoutermac says:

      That reminds me when I went into my local Toyota Dealer to ask for a quote for my sun visor ( it had broke off). I was told it was too much hassle to provide me with a quote. I spoke louder and said “Is this not a parts shop?!” around several staff and customers. He said “Fine I will get you a quote.” Of course he never did. I spoke with the manager about it and he did not apologize or offer to make it right.

    • chemmy says:

      I should also mention that the place that replaced my battery also liked to offer me a “loaner” when they knew I was waiting on them to get to work. When I questioned this one time, they said they have some customers that they know are not picking up their cars until tomorrow so I could just drive one of theirs instead as long as I brought it back tonight.

      Um, how about no?

  6. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I left my last shop after 3 ‘strikes’ – the last of which being I went in for an oil change and realized they’d forgotten to replace the oil they drained.

    Good lesson to learn – always check the oil before you leave the shop :)

  7. Blueskylaw says:

    The shop I used to use for many years was sold and I found this out after I had my broken car towed there (CL500). I thought I would give him a try since the car was already there. He didn’t know what he was doing, he had my trunk open while two of his guys were cutting wood with a circular saw 5 feet away and all the dust was going in, he called to tell me it was fixed (after 4 weeks) and I drove almost 200 miles round trip to find out it wasnt (he wouldn’t even take $100 off my bill to compensate me for a day off and driving), finally when it was done, I picked it up and noticed he had broken my hood spring, didn’t put the fuse cover back on, left all his greasy papers and broken parts on my back leather seat and the car was covered in wood dust. I still have trouble believing that I held my composure without going off on him before I drove away.

  8. jvanbrecht says:

    I stopped using the dealer and independent shops just because, why pay hundreds of dollars to do something that you can easily do yourself. And, I do not exactly drive a cheap uncomplicated car (09 MB C63)…

    With the exception of warranty work, I have done the minor repairs and maintenance work myself.
    Oil change at the dealer $350 (Service A)
    Oil + cabin filter change at the dealer (Service B)
    Brake fluid flush, close to $600
    Brake pad/caliper replacement, $2000

    The only service I had to have my dealer do was the transmission fluid and filter change, which requires specialized equipment, that cost me $450.

    Cost for me doing my own work
    Oil Change ($100, 9q of oil I purchase from my dealer because I have a good relationship with the parts dep, and an oil filter)
    Brake flush ($60 for the fluid, $50 one time purchase of a pressure bleeder, 2 hours of my time, and most of that was just jacking up each corner of the car)
    Cabin filter ($50 for the damn filter, but about 15 min and a philips screwdriver is all you need)
    Check all of the boots (the rubber things on the drive shaft), belts, plugs, wiring etc for wear and tear).
    Brake pads and rotors (pads are around $250 for fronts, $150 for rears, rotors are between $170 and $700 depending on where you get them for the fronts, about $250 for the rears), and takes about 2 hours.. that is a hell of alot cheaper then $2k at the dealer.

    These are all repairs and work that anyone can do rather easily, and do not require any special tools

    • TheWraithL98 says:

      note to self – do not ever buy a mercedes benz.

      I do all my own work on my Chevys, including a Corvette, and the prices you listed for doing things yourself are mostly about 3 times what they would cost me to do them, and that’s with internet-sourced quality brand name parts. Using bargain basement autozone parts would be far less yet.

  9. Hoss says:

    Charging too much aggravated by recommending repairs that can wait and replacing things like exhaust systems when they just need a patch job… that’s sums my experience up. So I use local shops for different jobs, depending on what is needed. Asking a general repair guy to patch the exhaust or do electrical stuff.isn’t gonna work

  10. GMFish says:

    I took my wife’s car into my regular repair place for a wiggle/jiggle/wobble at highway speeds. It turned out to be bad rear tires. I normally go to a local Discount Tire for tires, but had my regular repair place install new ones.

    Big mistake.

    In less than 6 months one of the tires blew. I called my formerly regular repair place for a replacement. I was told they do not cover wear and tear. I said, “Well, I think a tire should last more than 6 months.” I was told there was nothing they could do.

    So I went to Discount Tire, and even thought I didn’t buy the tire from them, they tried calling the manufacturer to get a replacement tire for me. They couldn’t get a replacement tire for me, but at least they fricken tried!

    • Hoss says:

      That’s really bad service Post an on-line review on the shop so others know.

      FYI — tirerack.com is a great place to price out tires and get recommendations. even if you don’t buy from them, it helps to know exactly what you want and then call around for best price.

    • scoutermac says:

      I have been going to TireBarn in Indianapolis. They have been great.

    • Bativac says:

      I had a puncture in a tire my local, reliable, trustworthy shop had put on six months previously. They replaced the tire for free, rotated the tires while they had it on the lift for free, and also changed out a headlight for free while they had it. Customer for life!!

    • smarmyjones goes cattywampus says:

      We’ve had some trouble from our local Discount Tire.

      We changed out two of our original factory tires about 9 months ago and finally decided to get the other two replaced this March. Neither Hubby or I know a whole lot about cars and when they put the new tires on we assumed everything was fine. About a week later we noticed our low tire light kept coming on (which was why we wanted the tires replaced.) When we took it in they tested the tires and it was at that point we realized we still had our two factory tires on the car.

      They had taken off the new tires we got 9 months ago and replaced them instead of our obviously worn out tires. Genius. Had we not noticed this we would have had to eat the cost of the new tires we just paid for.

      At least they did own up to their mistake and we have two new tires coming to us hopefully today at their expense, but we will not be going to them again.

  11. deathbecomesme says:

    When the “mechanic” installed a brake part backwards and caused one of my brakes to be stuck on engaged. I asked him about the slight squealing and he said it was normal for new brakes. A week later I had to have my rotor resurfaced.

  12. zandar says:

    The shop that gets my ongoing support is, ironically, one that has NOT been able to perform all the repairs I’ve needed. That’s one of the reasons I like them: if they feel like they can’t do the job adequately, they suggest I take it elsewhere. For everything that they CAN do, they have been honest, timely, and nothing short of professional. They also do all kinds of things for me for free. They are a small shop run by a bunch of brothers, and they have earned my complete trust.

    How did I find them? It was quite by accident. No one suggested them. They just happened to be in the neighborhood. I have been turned onto other shops by word of mouth though, and frankly I consider that to be just about the only factor worth considering other than direct experience.

    • Derigiberble says:

      Yes, the real test is if a mechanic will tell you “well I can do it but it is cheaper and just as good at XXX”.

      For me it was when my mechanic told me not to bother with a transmission rebuild to fix a slipping first to second shift because it would cost the same when it failed all the way because of the way it was failing and that since it already lived with the slip for 27k miles or more it likely would last until the end of the life of the car. 30k miles since that and it is still running strong.

      • Weighted Companion Cube says:

        Yes, the real test is if a mechanic will tell you “well I can do it but it is cheaper and just as good at XXX”. “

        Then my next statement is why are you overcharging me for everything else and why can’t you just do it for the $$ that I would be charged at XXX?

      • Saltpork says:

        That’s just a transmission rebuild. Any shop can do it.
        If you’re mechanically inclined you can too, I would highly recommend having someone there who knows how to pull transmissions and tear them apart.

        If you don’t have that, you can take it to a transmission shop when you notice other things(slip in reverse, first, etc). A rebuild will probably fix that slip without any issues. If it was going to do damage to your tranny after 57k miles it would have already.

  13. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    It was definitely right after I bought my new used car. The timing belt needed to be changed (which I knew going into the purchase).

    Within a month of the work the belt snapped and the engine was destroyed. It was under their own warranty, so of course the shop would remedy this issue, right? Not at all!
    It took a BBB case to get them to do the repairs. The shop owner took no ownership of his shop’s mistake, despicable.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      That is awful, I hope you’ve found a better place.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Independent shop, recommended on the Car Talk website (users rate shops). They’ve saved me hundreds just from recommending I NOT do work that a franchise would undoubtedly have told me to do.

  14. Birdie says:

    My advice for anyone looking for a shop to take your car to: find out where serious car enthusiasts take their cars. Me and my husband got envolved with a car club that does autocross and TSD rallies. Through that we got a ref for a great local shop that specializes in german cars. I have taken my Jetta and now my Mini there. We have never had a single problem and the prices are probably way less than any dealership would charge. I wouldn’t waste my time/money taking my car anywhere else. I’ve had problems from other places over tightening/not tightening lugs on the wheels, ruining wiring trying to diagnose problems, or other random crap that makes for a dangerous situation or large repair bill. I love that I can rely on my current shop to fix the problem and not create new ones.

  15. katarzyna says:

    I had a dealership lose my car once. Hours later they realized one of their sales people tried to sell it to another customer.

  16. Tegan says:

    You know, we actually have a pretty awesome service department at the Infiniti dealership we go to. Recently the brakes had started squeaking like they were about ready to be replaced, so we took it in to have it checked. Not only did they not charge us for the inspection, but they told us that the brakes were still at 70% and were likely just squeaking because they’re metallic pads and can do that sometimes if they get a burr or something. We walked out without having to pay a dime for them being honest when we would have easily believed them telling us they needed replacing at around $400 bucks for pads and rotors (which was what we were anticipating). On top of that, they detailed the interior and exterior while they had it just because they had the time, at no cost.

  17. HenryES says:

    I took my truck for an oil change, and the shop said I needed a new serpentine belt, so I said go ahead and replace it. Fast forward a year (and 5k or so miles; I didn’t drive it much), I took it for another oil change, and they told me the same belt needed replacing. When I informed them they had just recently replaced it, the guy didn’t really have an answer. I don’t have the truck anymore, but I found another shop that so far, I haven’t had any problems with.

  18. Brie says:

    Front desk would suggest I change part X.

    I’d say fine, do it.

    Then the techs wouldn’t do it. (“Hm, he didn’t do it. We’ll take care of it next time.”)

    After a year of this they implemented a new e-mail program that would send me nagmails: “We strongly advise you to change part X!” I’d take the car in, they’d look in the computer and suggest changing part X, and I’d say fine, go ahead, and then the tech just never did it, and three months later I’d get a nagmail…

    I could’ve complained, but there are lots of repair shops out there.

  19. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I know for a fact that various repair shops do indeed act skeevishly as noted…I can also say though that sometimes customers do too.

    Back in the day I was a motorcycle mechanic at one of the bigger shops in a sizeable midwestern town. A guy brought a bike in complaining of odd noises coming from the rear end…it was a driveshaft model (not chain & sprockets), and when the mechanic pulled it apart to look (luckily it wasn’t on my bench), what he discovered was that the driveshaft had actually cracked all the way through, and was only managing to transmit power to the rear wheel by virtue of the fact that it was all still wedged together in the swingarm.

    So the message goes back to the customer that the driveshaft is broken, and it would cost $X to install a new one. Which is something like 0.9X more than the guy was willing to pay for a repair to a fairly old bike that, truthfully, wasn’t worth the cost of the repair.

    So the customer says “just put it back together and I’ll ride it like it was.” Well…can’t. Not really. The only reason it was still working at all was because the 2 pieces of the driveshaft were trapped against each other by the fact that they simply had nowhere to go…there was really no way to try to push the 2 pieces of the driveshaft back together to get them so wedged ever again.

    The customer becomes very belligerent, refusing to believe that you can’t just put something that’s broken back together. Leaves in a huff shouting something about us hearing from his lawyer…right. Because a guy who is riding a $300 motorcycle and can’t afford a $400 repair has a lawyer.

    The service manager gets phone calls back and forth from the guy, and eventually the guy convinces the service manager to direct the mechanic to do as good a job as possible putting the thing back together, and he’d pay for the labor and take the bike.

    So…mechanic does his best trying to get it back together. Naturally it’s pretty horrible…the 2 pieces of driveshaft are now just slipping past each other inside the swingarm, and the machine is as close to utterly dead in the water as it can get.

    Guy shows up and pays by check. Jumps on his bike and manages to convince it to convey him down the road. Our admin takes the check immediately to his bank to cash it…the moment the guy leaves.

    …and the bank says the check has a stop payment order on it. The guy put a stop payment on it before he even wrote it out to us.

    So yeah…sometimes repair shops can be dicks, but remember that swing goes both ways.

    • TheWraithL98 says:

      I seriously hope that guy signed some sort of waiver taking the bike back like that. if that driveshaft broke further and parts hit the guy or another vehicle on the road, or he dropped the bike, who do you think he’s going to blame?

      He was obviously a dick, but he probably did the shop a favor stiffing you like he did. Since he obviously can’t prove he paid the shop for the work, it would be far more difficult to sue if there was an incident.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        Our service manager made a point to indicate on the work order that the machine was not safe to ride. So our butt was covered.

        But the fact that he presented an already-stopped check for payment made his life suck quite a lot. Straight to court he went and not only did the shop get it’s money out of him, but the court imposed other fines on him too. Because that’s fraud.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        …reminded myself of another dick customer tale. Will be brief:

        Guy brings in a bank of carbs from his own 4-cylinder bike…he was apparently handy enough with a screwdriver to take them off but didn’t know how to do a carb clean, so he wanted us to clean them.

        Mechanic takes them apart to do the clean, notes to service manager that the ~20 year-old gaskets came out in pieces…which is pretty normal for gaskets that old. Needs a gasket kit.

        Customer refuses to pay for gasket kit when service manager calls him. Mechanic forced to reassemble with crappy gaskets. Guy comes and pays for cleaning, takes carbs home.

        Comes back in a fury because his carbs leak gas. Service manager calmly points out that we did recommend that the gaskets be replaced but he declined. Guy escalates his voice and for a couple minutes is fairly irate spouting things like “what the f%ck does that have to do with my carbs leaking gas all over the place?”

        I happened to be near by, and interjected (as calmly as possible) “What is it that you think gaskets do?”

        Guy stops…and for the first time in a long time has a thought. Then manages to get even redder in the face than he already was, spews a loud “F&CK YOU!”, grabs his carbs and leaves.

    • shepd says:

      Putting a stop payment on a cheque before you use it is actually proper cheque fraud.

      I hope your shop called the police. He would absolutely end up in jail for that, and would learn a very valuable lesson.

  20. Marlin says:

    Another thing to look out for, bad way, is shops that offer coupons.

    I’ve yet to find any shop that was honest that did this. Its usually the national chains but I knew of a couple bad apples that had to do this once their reputation got out.

    When I was a tech I opened my own shop and after I told family, friends, and some people at my College; all my business was from word of mouth. Never advertised and only time I gave out cards was when I write on the back something they needed but could do themselves.

    I still do work on the side now and a lot of it is reviewing what shops keep trying to sell to people they don’t need. That and NoVA is not cheap to begin with, let alone unneeded repairs on top of what is needed.

  21. sherrasama says:

    Left the dealership…my Honda Passport had been jittering while braking so I took it in to have the brakes checked, walked out with $400 worth of maintenance and told my brakes were fine.

    A week later it made an awful noise and refused to accelerate, come to find out the brake system just tore completely apart because I was riding metal on metal with no pads and the calipers had locked up. Almost a grand to fix.

    I found a nice little shop in town, run by a woman who’s the nicest lady but she will f you up if you step on her flowers. They’ve always been good to me and given me a fair price and will do anything I need without payment in advance. They even teach me how to do some basic stuff like oil changes and spark plugs because admittedly, I’m not the most car savvy person in the world.

    You couldn’t pay me to go back to the dealer. Car is 12 years old, 200k miles and still runs like a dream.

  22. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    In two visits:

    Sears. Broke the hood latch and said it was that way when I brought it in.
    Sears. They installed a “new” Diehard battery. Later on inspection, found that it was a used battery.
    Sears. After draining the oil they ran the engine until I ran over and shut it off. Said they were making sure ALL the oil was drained.

  23. tinmanx says:

    Went to the Honda dealer for the duration of the 3 year warranty. Seems every time I went in for an oil change they tell me something else needs replacing or it’s time for some scheduled maintenance.

    Warranty’s been up, and I haven’t been back since. Last straw was them telling me my car won’t pass inspection because my tire pressure light is on. It clearly states on the DMV website that tire pressure is not grounds to fail a car, but should notify the owner of the issue. But apparently Honda wants $130 from me to fix it, so they said they’ll fail the car.

  24. Cantras says:

    We had someone come door to door selling a groupon type thing for services. it was $50, it had a free oil change and some $10 oil changes, a bunch of 20% of brake work, $10 off work more than $100, free fuel economy inspection (which I’d generally say is just “let us tell you things on your car to replace, but):

    When I go to jiffylube or whatever, their $18 advertised oil change ends up being $30. My free oil change just had a $3 environmental fee which I’m fine with. He did not try to sell me a new air filter. He did tell me my battery was getting old which is true. Nice guy. So I’m a smidge impressed.

    Then my husband goes with his oil change, and they let him know his battery is old aaand they broke his hood latch, “Sorry, our bad, we’ve got it shut securely but we’ll order one and replace that for you, our fault.” So he does, and decides to get his battery replaced while he’s at it. And they didn’t charge him labor on putting it in. Waved him off when he pointed it out.

    So I have a place to go now, instead of the last place which told my husband his engine was leaking and would probably need a $2000 repair. He got a second opinion at the dealership and it’s not leaking at all.

  25. howie_in_az says:

    My previous mechanic wanted to charge me $1200 for a valve adjustment on my 2003 BMW M3. Another local place said it was $200 or included as part of the $750 Inspection II process, wherein I also get all the fluids and spark plugs changed in addition to other things.

  26. mrvw says:

    This has been many years ago, but my wife’s car needed a new themostat put in and I was out of town.
    She took it to her parents mechanic along with the $12 thermostat and gasket. Waited 20 minutes, they brought it out and said $107 please. WTF? The invoice listed the themostat for $28, even though we provided it and 1 gallon of coolant for $10, the rest was labor. She argued that it was crazy that they charged for the themostat, they removed that and we still had to pay $79. I went back and complained, but they wouldn’t refund anything and were rather huge dicks about the whole thing.
    That was 8 years ago and I still tell me to not go there and I’ve successfully kept 17 people from using that shop.
    I used the mechanic locator on Cartalk.com to find a good mechanic. Anything I can’t do myself I’ve gone to the same one I found on there.

  27. Rick Sphinx says:

    Whenever I get the diagnosis, pay for the repair, and find out the car has the same problem it had before I brought it in, and I now have to pay more money, this is what pisses me off the most. And places that charge outrageous prices. I thougth I would try a AAA Repair Shop, big mistake, higher than anyone else!

  28. ahecht says:

    I left my last mechanic when they installed my directional snow tires backwards, never called me to let me know when my car was ready, charged me double what they had quoted (“sorry, the quoted price is only if you bought the tires from us”), didn’t have bags to put the removed summer tires in, and left a banana-sized chunk of hard plastic inside the tire that rattled around as I drove (and insisted it was normal snow tire noise — it wasn’t until the new place installed my summer tires that the hunk of plastic was discovered).

    Best mechanic I ever went to was a semi-retired guy that ran a car repair business out of the barn behind his house. Charged next to nothing, did a great job, and if the repair was taking longer than he expected he’d lend me the keys to his car. I only stopped going to him when I moved out of state.

  29. Bob Lu says:

    My reason is that it is getting ridiculously hard to make an appointment with my old shop. Oil change? No problem! How about you drop the car on th Wednesday five weeks from now?

    Seriously?

    • TheWraithL98 says:

      that’s actually the sign of a quality shop in a lot of cases. Most people aren’t going to put up with that kind of wait unless it’s worth it, and obviously people were if the place always had that problem.

      • shthar says:

        this is how you find a good mechanic. If they say they can see you that day, call someone else.

        About a week’s wait is right.

  30. Buckus says:

    Ditched the Hyundai dealer when I asked for the 30,000 mile service, which is about $200, and they charge me $400, which included services I didn’t agree to.

  31. Offspring22 says:

    When they charged me $180 to have a key cut after quoting me $100 before hand, and had the gull to include a $15 “environmental fee” in with that. What is the key made of that requires the filings to be disposed of in such a way that it would cost an additional $15??? I refused to pay it. They told me they’d take it off, but it’s a standard fee for all service and will be there next time. I told them thats fine, I won’t be back, and haven’t been since.

  32. donovanr says:

    How about uselessness? Had wobble; bad garage replaced ball joint stuff and whatnot costing some good bucks. Wobble still there. A better garage replaced one tire with a broken belt; wobble gone.

  33. Captain Walker says:

    Hell, I moved to my current residence to be closer to a mechanic I had found that did good work. Find a good mechanic, stick with him!

  34. Saltpork says:

    I have to preface my comment by saying that I grew up around vehicle repair and know how to do most things on cars/trucks. Some things need to be done at a shop(like wheel alignment or frame straightening).

    I pick my shops based on the cost, the conversations and how much or how little people bullshit me or try to upsell. Needless to say, I avoid dealerships unless I absolutely have to.

    The other thing is that if a shop is showroom floor clean, don’t take your car there. There is a difference between a place being dirty(like a busy shop should be) or being trashy.
    If they treat you right and talk to you like people without doing a bunch of stuff you didn’t ask, consider keeping them. I make it 100% clear that before they do any work other than what I have brought the vehicle in for, they need to contact me to get my approval. I’ve never had a shop just do it anyway because you can take them to small claims court over it.

  35. Mozz says:

    Used to go to a place near where my wife works. After she took the SUV for inspection, she was driving home 5 miles down the highway, the rear drivers side wheel came off. I was fuming. Luckliy, she kept control and drove into the grass shoulder. Another place i don’t go to is Sears, they told me i had a broken rear coil spring. I said no thanks for the repairs and bought them myself. When i went to install them there was no broken spring at all. Few months later they got hit with that lawsuit charging them for putting uneeded parts on cars.

  36. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    My mechanic is in jail awaiting trial on attempted murder, witness intimidation, and stalking. He probably won’t be out of jail for 20+ years at this point, so I had to find another shop.

  37. vorpalette says:

    Being a 20-something female, I always have problems finding a shop that doesn’t try to screw me. I used to go to the Midas right by my old apartment; they were always very nice/honest with me, and fixed several small things for free. The Belle Tire here has been decent, except for the fact that they forgot to call me when my car was done a couple of times. Otherwise, the dealership I bought my Subaru from has been really good to me. They’ll even lend me a car if I need to be somewhere, prices aren’t bad, and I can schedule stuff online (plus, my sales guy always checks up on any repairs a few days later).

  38. sgtyukon says:

    I switched after the independent mechanic who serviced my Chevy got a Ferrari. My mantra is when your mechanic gets a Ferrari before you do, always switch mechanics.

  39. iesika says:

    I left my last service shop because they didn’t reseal my engine properly (reused a 11 year old, cracked and brittle gasket instead of replacing the part) or replace the thermostat (which I requested, and which they charged me for). Considering I told them when I brought the car in that the reason I was getting belts and such replaced about 8000 miles early was because I was about to spend three days driving through the worst deserts in North America.

    I didn’t find out about the bad repair until my car stopped functioning in the middle of the Mojave. Ultimately it turned out all right – I wasn’t in that giant patch of the desert that has no cell service, and it was only 95 degrees outside.

    (remember kids, always keep plenty of water and sunscreen in your car on a road trip!)

  40. shepd says:

    Simply got too expensive. The guy does great work, but to replace the oil pan and see if the pushrod bearings were okay they wanted $1,400. I decided I’ll just live with the engine ticking until it finally explodes because $1,400 is just shy of the entire value of the thing. The only difficult part of the service according to the FSM is having to remove the y-pipe, something that shouldn’t take a good mechanic over an hour (and if it does, he should just cut it off and replace it–cheaper than the labour needed to save the part.)

    I found a new mechanic who has far more reasonable rates. Got a used catalytic converter installed from him for $260, labour included.

  41. krom says:

    Because they suckered me into a spurious service that caused my fuel pump to die, and then made me pay for the replacement (they were “nice” enough not to charge labor to replace the thing they broke, but made me pay for the thing they broke). After all that, they weren’t sure they’d put the car back together right. “It has all these hoses and connectors”, carped the lead mechanic, who the store had convinced to move from three states away to work for them, and lived in a trailer out back. Yeah.

  42. AuntieMaim says:

    I love my mechanic — Japanese Car Care in Albuquerque NM. They have fixed everything correctly on the first round every time. Recently, I had the snow tires put on by another shop and then the car started pulling to the right; I brought it back to the tire shop, who couldn’t figure out the problem but claimed it wasn’t the tires, so I called the regular mechanic to see if they could look at it that day (we were supposed to be driving it on a road trip the following day). They couldn’t, but spent a lot of time with me on the phone troubleshooting it so that I could take it to a nearby Brake Masters with more information in hand and thus avoid getting boned by them.

    What I really need is a good tire shop — the Big O I used to use once bolted a wheel back on incorrectly in such a way that it was loosening as we drove and in danger of flying off while the car was in motion, so, you know, I wasn’t too psyched about going back there. Now we use a Discount Tire, but they claimed the above situation had nothing to do with the tires when in fact radial pull turned out to be part of the problem.

  43. mcgyver210 says:

    I had to deal with a LR Dealer that first tried to say I needed Plugs & wires because of the Service Light (Even though they were almost NEW at the time) which was going to be very expensive. I knew what was wrong which was that the Front driver Side O2 sensor was bad.

    Finally they did what I suggested but in less than a week or two it was coding again so I purchased new O2s my self from a reputable vendor. They arrived & I removed Old New ones only to find out the dealer didn’t IMO properly clean the connections & seal them so that old corrosion was removed & new wouldn’t happen again for a while. This did take me & my son a little time to clean connections with electric contact cleaner but this has now been close to a year ago we replaced them properly IMO & they are still fine. I have had the dealer to replace the same O2s multiple times in the past but never getting very much time before needing them again.

    Also we were told we needed brakes on one visit so we said replace them but next time they said we needed brakes we said we how long do we have they said not long. We ended going on a long trip & it was 3 more mths before we purchased new rotors, Brakes etc. We decided to have a friend & me replace them with new we purchased only to find out there was still at least 50% pad life left.

    So since I can’t trust them Im not sure I will purchase another LR again due to only one dealer being in my area for warranty & service.

  44. James says:

    I’m repair agnostic. If I have a shop that I trust, or have good word of mouth I’ll try ‘em first.

    I’ve taken it to the dealer, to a chain, local shops, and done it myself too. It depended on what the repair itself.

    When my car was due for brakes, I made sure to avoid the dealer. The OEM parts were a large part of the problem. (Warping rotors under normal driving.)

    Some things were too costly to take to the dealer, and some too complicated to take elsewhere. It is a balance of cost and (supposed) competence I guess. The dealer doesn’t get tire business, brakes, or oil changes. The cost for those is normally double what other places have charged.

  45. mbz32190 says:

    I used to go to a local Tires Plus all the time…then they must have switched management at one point because they started to get real pushy and greedy. Went in for a state inspection and oil change and they wanted to charge me over $1,000 of “recommended items” and almost $300 to replace a simple leaking power steering hose (they didn’t even have to drain it). Got the bare minimum done (since I did need a few of those things anyway) and never went back.

    The only chain store I really haven’t had problems with is Pep Boys. Despite all the horror stories, I have had good luck at my local one. No lists of unnecessary repairs and if they are late fixing something, they always knock money off the bill, and accept my x% off Service coupons on top of that.

    Now, I found a local mechanic down the road (I can walk there if I have to, which is a plus) who is reasonably priced and honest staff. Even the local police department has their cars serviced there, so that was a good sign for me. Only problem is, they are a very small and very busy garage.

  46. stooj says:

    Here’s my story of why I switched. A few years ago the alternator on my Chevy went out while I was driving it in town. I had it towed, not far, to the same place that I had used for years. We dropped the car off around 10:30 at night. Luckily, there was a service rep working late who took my info. He called the next morning to confirm that it was the alternator.

    To fix it, he said, would cost about $550. Not knowing any better, I agreed. An hour later I went online to check up on the price. Turns out that it shouldn’t have cost any more than $250 at the most. So I called him back and told him that I didn’t want them to touch my car. “Too late” he said, the mechanic is on a test drive now.

    I said that he needed to remove the new parts, and that I was going to pay him for his time and take my car somewhere else. I did. After paying him for a few hours labor, I was still able to get it fixed somewhere else for a grand total that was less than what he wanted me to pay in the first place. I always regret that I didn’t go back to show him the receipt from the place that treated me like an actual human being.

  47. vdragonmpc says:

    I still have the paperwork to back up the scam Crossroads Dodge in Colonial Heights Virginia tried to pull on me. Seems my truck was wobbling in the rear and I had a vibration at certain speeds. I had replaced the seal and fluid on the differential but wasnt sure what the issue was. (I missed it badly) I took it in for a monday appointment, Friday I get a call that it will be 4600 in parts and labor to replace both rear axles and the differential. It was all burned up according to the service girl.

    I could not believe with that many miles and never really towing or hauling anything that it could be burned out. I told them to wait I would be right there to look at it. I went in and got a story that the fluid was old and stank up the whole shop. (That set off alarm bells as it was 2 days old from my change) I asked what was the problem and the ‘mechanic’ told me it was the gears and showed me the damage. He actually pointed out the engineering marks on perfectly good gears (they are black) There was no abnormal wear. He pushed his finger on the magnets in the pumpkin and showed me all the metal that was in the axles. I was done. I told him to put it back and I would go elsewhere.

    I took it to my regular shop (who I thought couldnt do it) and it was the universal joint. They did the repair and replaced both charging me 144$ and asked to frame the estimate from Crossroads. I went back and asked for the 100$ diagnostic back as they didnt even check the drivetrain and the mechanic insisted with my perfectly riding truck that he was right and the mechanic that fixed it was wrong.

    Funny thing: There was an old couple in the waiting room ALSO getting a rear end replaced in their car. How odd you know?

  48. ericfate says:

    My local mechanic did good work for a number of months, then one day he pointed out that the stiffness in my clutch indicated that I was going to need a ($1,500.00) rebuild soon, and that they are becoming somewhat rare for my make and model. I went online, and found that the rebuild kits were not rare at all — so I took the car to another mechanic for a second opinion. The new mechanic determined that all I needed was a new locking nut ($2.50) and a master cylinder adjustment and the clutch went back to behaving normally. That locking nut could only have been removed by the original mechanic when he was doing some differential work for me a month prior.

    I should send him a copy of the receipt with a note that says “Nice try!” on it.

  49. sadie kate says:

    I count myself incredibly fortunate that I have had nothing but amazing experiences with mechanics. When I went to college, I needed an oil change and found a coupon for an independent place right down the street from my apartment in one of those student coupon books.The coupon was great – I think the oil change was $12. I started chatting with the guy who ran the place, and turned out he grew up in the same town I went to high school, and had been in a band with my high school music teacher. For the next 4 years, every time I went in for an oil change, he charged me that same coupon price. When my starter went out, my parents insisted I go to the dealership in town, until my guy quoted me half the price to replace it. On lengthy repairs like that one, he or one of the mechanics would drive me the 1.5 miles to my apartment so I didn’t have to walk. One of the mechanics noticed that 3 of my crappy interior plastic door handles had broken off, so he tracked them down through a friend of his and replaced them for free. They were so incredibly thoughtful. Though, maybe they just liked me because I’m a stress baker, and would drop off dozens of brownies and cookies and cakes for them during midterm week.

    My current guy is one my husband found on the Car Talk forums. He’s really adamant that you know what’s going on with your car. Anytime he’s needed to make a repair, he’s brought me to the garage, showed me what’s wrong, showed me the diagnostic manual of how it should look, and made sure I understood before we moved forward. He doesn’t do everything, but if there’s something wrong that he doesn’t take care of, he refers us to other trustworthy guys. A few times, we’ve brought the car in, and he hasn’t been able to find a problem (ie: one time my air conditioning was intermittently blowing hot air, but my freon was fine, and the problem wouldn’t replicate itself for him). Those times, he refuses to accept payment, even for his time checking the car out; he will begrudgingly accept lunch from McDonald’s or baked goods if I really insist.