Consumers worried that their local new car dealership closed can rely on a network of 130,000 independent repair shops capable of performing service and repair on any vehicle regardless of its age, make, model or condition, according to the Car Care Council in response to an unprecedented number of inquiries from concerned motorists.
“With all of the news about new car dealerships closing, consumers are confused and concerned about where to take their vehicle for service and repair,” said Rich White, Car Care Council executive director. “Much of the anxiety comes from a myth that newer vehicles must go back to the dealership to protect the warranty. This is just not true.”
Consumers are protected by a law the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act that prohibits a vehicle manufacturer from voiding the vehicle warranty because service was done by a non-dealer. An article in Consumer Reports reported, “Legally, you can have maintenance performed by any mechanic without affecting your warranty. Just keep thorough records in case of a warranty claim. The only services that need to be performed at a dealership are warranty repairs, recalls or post-warranty work that you want the manufacturer to pay for.”
Today, more than 70 percent of all non-warranty vehicle service and repair is performed at local neighborhood independent repair shops, according to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). An estimated 130,000 independent repair shops are located in communities nationwide. Consumers can find independent repair shops in their area at www.carcare.org.
The Council offers the following tips on finding a reputable repair shop:
Look for a neat, well organized facility. Are you greeted and treated in a friendly and respectful manner when you call or visit? Many auto repair businesses excel in the area of customer service and satisfaction. A simple phone call to the shop to inquire about their services can give you a glimpse of how they treat customers.
Is the facility and customer waiting area neat, clean and well-organized one sign of a well-run business? Do you see vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own?
Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards.
Look for the ASE blue seal sign hanging outside evidence that the shop employs professional ASE-certified technicians. Trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work posted in the waiting area also demonstrate a commitment to education and training of personnel.
All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.
Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize. Ask if the business provides written estimates and warranties. The business should complete a written estimate and request your signature prior to starting any repairs on your car and offer a warranty on parts and labor.
Does the business have a list of satisfied customers or references that it is willing to give you? Satisfied customers and recommendations from family, friends and neighbors are helpful in finding a good shop. Many auto repair facilities also have company websites that are worth checking out as they often include testimonials and additional information about the business.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.