The cost of owning a car begins after the purchase. Whether you’re dealing with an oil change or have major repairs to take care of, it’s important to use a mechanic or auto shop worthy of your trust. In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received 1.6 million inquiries and more than 7,650 complaints on auto repair shops. The BBB reminds consumers to do their homework before choosing a mechanic for vehicle repairs and maintenance.

When your vehicle needs repairs, you don’t need a crash course in auto mechanics, but you should take time to do some research to find a reliable shop and mechanic.

The BBB offers the following tips to help you find the right shop and ensure a smooth experience:

Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you have an accident or your car stops running to look for a mechanic. You will be under a lot more stress when facing an emergency, so do your research when you can take your time and make educated decisions.

Do your research. Check bbb.org for a mechanic’s business profile to read customer reviews and any complaints. Look for certifications like an Automotive Service Excellence seal, which indicates whether technicians have met basic standards of knowledge and competence in specific technical areas.

Have a professional diagnose the problem. Describe the problems you are experiencing with as much detail as possible, but do have the shop perform a diagnostic (there may be a cost) to determine what should be done. Don’t rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem.

Maintain your car properly. Read your vehicle’s manual for suggested routine maintenance to keep it humming along and reduce the need for repairs. Pay close attention to any changes in how your car performs, any dashboard signals and unusual smoke or odors.

Get everything in writing. Be sure to get a detailed estimate including repairs, labor, parts and expected time to complete the repairs before signing to have the work done. If the shop guarantees its work, make sure to get it in writing including what it will cover, how long parts are covered, if the guarantee is adjusted for time and mileage and whether the guarantee will transfer to a new owner if you sell the car and any exclusions.

Understand your warranty. If you are getting work done while the car is still under warranty, check to see if there are guidelines you must follow and if you must take the car to a specific location. If in doubt, ask questions at the dealership where you bought your car.

Pay attention when you pick up your car. When you pick up your car, get a complete and detailed written summary describing everything the mechanic did. Ask the service manager to go over it with you and explain all the work completed, including major parts that might have been replaced. Be sure that your bill itemizes the repairs so if a problem occurs later, you can show what was done.

Follow up with problems. If you continue to have problems with your car after the work is complete, take it back to the shop that performed the original repair. If issues continue, it will be easier to identify who is responsible for the repair.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report a fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practice, call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB Scam Tracker.

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