AAA Automotive Experts Top 10 List – How to Select a Repair Facility

Fifty four percent of American drivers report they have decided to keep an existing vehicle rather than invest in a newer one, according to a recent AAA survey. In addition, many drivers are foregoing routine vehicle maintenance to save money now, knowing they risk higher repair costs in the future. These findings make it more important than ever for drivers to develop a trusted relationship with a professional auto repair facility.

AAA Automotive experts believe the best way to save money over the life of a vehicle is to choose a high-quality, full-service repair shop and allow them do all of the necessary maintenance and repair work.

“Drivers can take comfort in the knowledge that their vehicle will be serviced by trained professionals who can identify any potential problems,” said John Nielsen, AAA Director of Automotive Repair. “This helps prevent breakdowns, and often saves money by allowing drivers to make a small repair now rather than a much bigger one later.”

“As a repair shop’s technicians get to know a vehicle and its owner, they can also give valuable advice on any upcoming work that will be needed,” continued Nielsen.

The best time to look for a repair facility is before one is needed. Drivers can ask family and friends for recommendations, or visit AAA.com/repair to find nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) shops. AAA Automotive experts recommend that drivers consider these ten areas when selecting a repair shop:

1. Facility Type
When evaluating full-service auto repair shops, drivers have three basic choices:

  • Dealerships – Dealer service departments are very familiar with common problems on the makes of cars they sell. Dealers also have factory-trained technicians, and are keenly aware of technical service bulletins or other special service advisories.
  • Independents Quality independent repair shops may be slightly less expensive than dealers, and tend to have higher overall customer satisfaction. In addition, customers at independent repair shop are more likely to deal directly with the owner or technician, making it easier to develop relationships with the people who service their cars.
  • Specialists Some independent repair shops specialize in certain vehicle makes or specific vehicle systems. By focusing on a limited part of the market, these shops can provide very efficient and effective service.

2. Appearance
A clean, well-organized repair facility reflects attention to detail and an effort to maintain a professional image.

3. Amenities
The facility should have a comfortable waiting area and clean restrooms. Many shops now have pick-up and drop-off service for the convenience of customers.

4. Technicians
The facility should employ qualified technicians who receive ongoing training in the latest technology. Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) are often posted, and dealerships may display vehicle manufacturer service training credentials. Collision repair shops often have certificates from training offered by the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR).

5. Equipment
A good repair shop will have up-to-date service equipment and repair data. The amount of information necessary to repair modern cars can no longer be effectively contained in paper manuals. Quality shops today have Internet access to repair information or an on-site service information library of CD/DVD ROMs.

6. Reputation
Time in business can be a good indicator of repair shop quality. Checks with the Better Business Bureau and state department of consumer affairs or Attorney General’s office will provide information on the shop’s handling of any consumer complaints.

7. Discounts
Selecting a quality repair facility that offers discounts on needed services is an excellent way to stretch repair dollars in this uncertain economy. Drivers who pay for repairs with a credit card may want to consider using the AAA Member Rewards Visa® card, whose reward points can be redeemed for $55 vouchers good towards auto repairs at any AAR facility. For more information, visit AAA.com/creditcard.

8. Warranty
Quality shops offer at least a 12-month/12,000-mile parts and labor warranty on their work. Drivers who travel regularly should make sure the warranty is honored nationally.

9. Look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) sign
AAA created the AAR program more than 35 years ago to help motorists find high-quality automotive service. Today, there are nearly 8,000 AAR facilities across North America. The AAR program includes dealers, independent and specialty repair shops.  Every AAA-approved facility undergoes a thorough investigation, and less than half of all applicants are approved. AAA looks into all the areas discussed above, and much more. After approval, AAR shops are visited quarterly, re-inspected annually and monitored for customer satisfaction to ensure ongoing compliance with AAA standards. To locate nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities, visit AAA.com/repair.

In addition to the added peace of mind that comes with AAA approval, AAA members receive the following benefits at AAR shops:

  • Free Maintenance Inspection – On request, when having paid repair work done by an AAR facility, your vehicle will be inspected at no charge for those items that most frequently contribute to roadside breakdowns.
  • Written Estimate – You will be provided a written estimate of the cost of all work to be performed on your vehicle. The final cost may not exceed the estimate by more than 10 percent unless authorized by you in advance.
  • Warranty – Unless otherwise specified in writing prior to the start of work, all repairs (both parts and labor) are guaranteed for a minimum of 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, under normal operating conditions.
  • Dispute Resolution – AAA will investigate any dispute between a AAA member and an AAR facility. AAA’s resolution decision is binding on the facility, but you are not bound by AAA’s decision and may seek recourse through other avenues.

Many AAR facilities also participate in the AAA Show Your Card & Save program and offer discounts to AAA members. VisitAAA.com/discounts for more information.

10. Test-Drive the Repair Shop
Once a potential repair facility has been identified, visit the shop for a minor service like an oil change or tire rotation. While you wait, talk with the repair facility employees and do a final evaluation of the shop using the criteria discussed above.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since it’s founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA clubs on the Internet at AAA.com.