After serving the Omaha, Nebraska, area for two decades, Gateway Auto has learned a lot about what it takes to earn a customer’s trust through honest and fairly-priced auto service. But we’re not going to sell you on our work in this article - we’re going to share our industry-insider tips about how to find a reputable auto repair shop online, and some additional tips on what to look for when you’re at the shop in-person.
The goal of this article is to equip you with the knowledge you need to choose the best auto repair shop near you, no matter where you are, so your vehicle stays in top condition and your pocketbook is protected from sleezy shops that don’t have your safety in mind.
1) Look at All Of Their Online Reviews
When an auto repair shop consistently delivers excellent service, their Google Business Reviews will reflect that. Look for shops that have at least 50 customer reviews and have an overall rating of 4.5 stars or above. From customer service experience to overall quality of work, an honest auto shop’s Google Reviews will give you a lot of insights about what to expect when you take your vehicle there. Here’s an example of a 5-star review left for us:
When a lot of customers leave reviews saying that they’ll be coming back or that they’ll recommend the shop to a friend, that’s a particularly good sign because it means that the quality of the shop’s work has consistently earned their customers’ trust. However, don’t just read the 5-star reviews - read the fours and threes to see if there are any patterns in where the shop falls short, and then a few twos and ones to see if there’s any serious reasons to be concerned.
It’s also a good sign when the shop responds to their Google Reviews - it means their business owner or shop manager is paying attention to what their customers are saying, and have likely used it to improve in any areas where they’ve missed the mark in the past.
2) Check Approved Auto Repair Shop Listings
While Google Maps can definitely point you in the right direction of an honest vehicle repair shop, it isn’t the only place to check. Major auto insurance websites often have listings of approved auto repair shops near your area.
If you don’t have insurance or can’t find one you trust through the websites above, you can also look to the ASE website to find a “Blue Seal Recognized Shop” near you. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is an independent, non-profit organization that delivers voluntary testing and certification of mechanics.
For collision repair, The I-CAR Gold Class designation lets you know a collision repair shop has trained technicians who know how to repair your vehicle properly. Approximately 20% of collision repair shops currently complete the rigorous training requirements needed to meet the Gold Class standard.
Another site to check is the ASA (Automotive Service Association) website, which is another independent non-profit organization that holds its member shops to a code of ethics, including honest and fair pricing for customers.
Generally, the auto industry tends to be a little old-fashioned in the realm of maintaining an active online presence, and so you shouldn’t base your judgment of a shop on whether or not they have a fancy website or perfectly branded Facebook feed. However, if the business completely neglects their digital presence - such as not having photos of their shop or their mechanical service capabilities listed online - that can be a red flag.
During the pandemic, the importance of an online presence became clear to every business. If they don’t have a website or Facebook Business page at all, or even if the information they do have is out of date, it means the business isn’t gaining customers regularly from online sources which can indicate a number of issues about their business.
Here are a few of the bases that should be covered on their website or social media page:
Recent images of the interior or professional-level photos of the business. Make sure that their facilities look clean and maintained, and that their front office is staffed with a customer service manager/service advisor.
List of their available/core services.
Clear and personalized “About Us” statement.
Their hours, contact information, and location are easily viewable and up-to-date.
Bonus points if they have their staff certifications, community awards won by the shop, and years open in the area listed in one or all of these places as well.
4) Clear Communication from Staff
You should never feel confused, lost, or blindsided in your vehicle service or repair process. An honest auto shop has employees that are trained in proper processes to communicate with customers, from start to finish.
Before you even take in your car, the shop employee communicating with you should be able to:
Schedule your appointment over the phone, confirming date, time, and location.
Ask about the issues and then describe them back to you at the end of the appointment call.
Relay any fees they have for your initial inspection before you confirm the appointment.
Let you know if they’ll need you for a “ride-along” to help them replicate the exact issue.
When your car’s issues have been diagnosed and they ask for your approval to begin work, the shop employee should be able to:
Answer any questions you might have about the repair estimate, or be willing to get someone else to answer a question they don’t have the answer to.
Give you an accurate and reasonable timeline for when your car will be ready to pick up.
Tell you what options you have to pay your bill, whether that’s card, cash, or another payment system.
Explain their reasoning for recommending any additional services or repairs, as it pertains to your car’s overall maintenance and your safety.
5) Transparent and Detailed Repair Estimates
Most customers have no idea what’s really wrong with their car when they take it in for service. You see a warning light go on, hear a weird sound, or your car randomly doesn’t start sometimes anymore - that’s usually the extent of what you know about the issue.
So while your mechanic is supposed to know a lot more than what a layman can understand, their ability to break down the complex language and the pieces of the bigger picture in the repair estimate is an indicator of how honest their assessment is.
For example, Gateway Auto has started to use digital vehicle inspections and estimates so you can see through the eyes of our mechanics with pictures and videos to show you exactly what’s going on, along with an easy way to keep track and approve your estimate right on your phone.
When they call to have you approve the cost of your repairs or services, the shop should be able to give you a final estimate amount that breaks down:
Cost of Labor
Cost of Parts
An honest auto shop will be easy to find online, will openly communicate with you throughout the entire process, and will have the social proof to back themselves up in the form of ratings, reviews, awards, and certifications. Trustworthy auto repair shops do exist out there, so you should never settle for less than an honest and enjoyable experience.
Gateway Auto is a family-owned business located in Omaha, Nebraska, taking care of our customers for all their car buying, collision repair, and mechanical service needs.