Make sure that you're asking the right questions.

Finding the right mechanic for your car can be tricky. Different garages can price their services differently and this can translate to differences in service quality. While shady mechanics only represent a small portion of the industry, one bad experience with car maintenance can be expensive. Here are five questions you can ask your mechanic to make sure that you're getting quality service!

How much will diagnostics cost?

Diagnostics costs can vary dramatically between different garages. This is significant because getting diagnostics performed to find out the scope of repairs is an important first step when visiting a mechanic. Some might charge a flat rate while others will charge based on the time that it takes to properly identify any issues in your car. It's also not unheard of for reputable mechanics to simply offer free diagnostics. 

Asking this question is a way to avoid any surprise charges further down the line. This also gives you a sense of the service that you can expect from your mechanic. If they're flighty or evasive over a question like this, it can be a sign that you've got hidden fees and poor communication waiting for you. 

Do you provide written estimates? 

Always ask for a written estimate. These should include parts, labor, taxes, and any additional fees or discounts that you should expect to see. Having a clear written estimate is important for both you and the mechanic. By itemizing any expenses, reputable mechanics can be upfront about any anticipated expenses and have a promise of the service you should expect. Additionally, this helps you dodge any hidden fees or shady surcharges. 

If your mechanic is opposed to giving you a written estimate of your car's service, ask why. It's possible that they may be planning on charging you for extra services or tacking on hidden expenses. 

Are the mechanics ASE certified? 

The National Institute for Automobile Service Excellence is considered to be an industry-standard certification. Getting ASE certification requires mechanics to undergo certain training and show proficiency in hands-on work. ASE certification also requires mechanics to retest every few years to keep on top of evolving technology. Around 300,000 mechanics nationwide have proper ASE certification. 

In addition, ask if they have any additional certifications. While ASE is considered to be the big one, having a mechanic who specializes in your car model or brand can translate to higher quality service. 

What are all my repair options?

A single car issue can have multiple solutions. While shady mechanics might try to immediately rope you into picking the most expensive one, quality mechanics want you to pick the option that's best for you. Make sure to explore the different potential ways to fix your car, and feel free to ask the mechanic to explain each one. While you may not be an auto expert, a good mechanic can walk you through both the issue and the repair process. This can help you save money by picking the most practical option, and give you a sense of what work your car might need in the future. 

Can you provide me with a maintenance plan? 

Good mechanics won't just get your car in working condition, they'll help it stay that way. Ask your mechanic what sort of maintenance plans they recommend, and compare it to the one inside your owner's manual. There can be differences between the manual and the suggested plan to account for factors like climate, but this also helps you spot potentially unnecessary service suggestions. 

Can you think of anything else that's useful to ask your mechanic before you take your car in? Let us know in the comments!