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How to find a mechanic you can trust

Research from online marketplace BookMyCar found that 6 out of 10 drivers are worried about ‘getting ripped off’ when they get their car serviced, an alarming statistic. 

There has been recent research in Australia by CanStar Blue with similar findings.

Why do people find it hard to find a mechanic they can trust?

There are more than 4000 car servicing and repair workshops in New Zealand.  Distrust of mechanics can arise for many reasons, for example:

  • Cars are becoming increasingly technologically advanced: with various onboard computers, sensors and software programmes, it’s difficult for most of us to keep track of exactly how all of these systems keep us safe and entertained
  • Opaque quoting process:  Nearly all workshops provide price estimates rather than fixed price quotes, including the big brand franchises and premium car dealerships
  • Communication:  Cars require thousands of moving parts together seamlessly, but it can be difficult for drivers to understand why a part needs replacing when it may not seem associated with the issue
  • No common standards: The car market and repair industry are highly fragmented, with more than 4000 workshops servicing 27,000 different car models.  Each workshop or organisation has a different view on what a service or repair entails, making it hard to compare their offerings.

Methods to find a mechanic you can trust

It’s natural to be anxious about the safety and condition of your car – it’s the most expensive asset many of us own.  Understanding that most mechanics want to do a great job and take pride in their work can help you get off on the right foot with any potential mechanic.

Younger drivers often find it more difficult to find a great mechanic because they are less experienced.  Using a network that provides fixed price quotes, like BookMyCar, is an option for drivers who are less confident about exactly what requirements their cars have, ensuring that the essentials are covered without the hidden extras that some mechanics add on.

Ask friends and family for their recommendations. Look at online reviews, but be wary if a workshop has very few reviews and all are glowing as it’s easy to get a few people you know to write you good reviews.

Regardless of the mechanic or workshop you choose, be sure to read the small print before you book.  Many mechanics charge extra for ‘specialist oil’ that is required by the majority of modern cars.  This alone can add up $50 or more to the cost of the service.  If you’re unsure of what is included – don’t be afraid to ask the workshop what extra costs, like specialist oil, might be on top of the quoted service price.  Techniques that can be used may also include only using a mechanic who specialises in European cars if you own one, and choosing a mechanic that offers a warranty on their work. 

Caveat Emptor, “Let the Buyer Beware”, remains as true now as ever.

Breakdown by age group

55-75 years old: 42% worried that their mechanic will rip them off

40-54 years old: 62% worried that their mechanic will rip them off

18-39 years old: 73% worried that their mechanic will rip them off.

Sample size: 528

Total industry spend on car repairs: around $2 billion

Research conducted by Toluna during November 2019.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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