According To You: What Questions Help You Find the Right Repair Shop?

Sunnie Schwartz

We recently asked for your feedback on finding the right repair shop for your vehicle. Once again the Hagerty Community provided some fantastic feedback, after my initial conversation starter that centered around asking if you could supply your own parts. That’s a loaded assertion, and one with several pitfalls. Let’s first hear a rebuttal to my suggestion, and see where the feedback takes us!

Supply Your Own Parts? Yes, but…

eBay screen shot car parts
eBay Motors

hyperv6: Here is the problem if you supply the parts: Most people screw it up. And the best way for a bad relationship with a business is to bring your own parts and not get them right.

They often get a wrong part or a poor quality part and most shops don’t have time to play games with a car apart on the rack because the new parts are wrong and it is not their fault. It is a money loser for them. Second, they will charge you more as some will give labor breaks and make it up on list price of the parts.

You do not save a thing in the end as they will charge you more labor. Only in the case of a rare or N/A part that you may have saved NOS in the box does it make sense for a shop to use your parts.

Andrew: I think that this might actually be how you (expensively!) learn that your shop is a good one. If you bring them parts which are incorrect, do they kindly and timely let you know of your mistake and offer a straight forward and reasonable resolution? Or are they jerks about it?

hyperv6: The deal is if you screw up, you can cost them money tying up their equipment. Even if you order a part on the web, and it is wrong as it often happens on ebay. They have every right to dock you something, this is often why most shops rely on their own parts.

Also consider the on quality of fitment, durability and the warranty. They prefer to make the call so if it goes south, they take responsibility for it. This leads to better relations vs. telling the customer his parts were crap and it is his fault. Generally you are not going to save much money. Even with your parts they will add labor cost since they are not making money on parts.

Word of Mouth

2023 Holley MoParty event vintage suvs
Cameron Aubernon

DUB6: If you are linked in with the car community (and maybe especially with those folks who have cars similar to yours), you have the best reference material available. Yes, someone needed to be first to try a shop out, but unless your taste in autos run towards brand new stuff, it’s likely that there are plenty of others out there who have “been there – done that” and will share their experiences with you. I have found that my circle of friends and acquaintances know just about every local business and have some input on whether or not to use them. One just needs to ask around!

hyperv6: The best way to find a good shop is word of mouth in the auto community. I had to find a good local body shop this winter for the wife’s car. I did not want to work with a national chain. Many local shops were bought up by national chains and they are “rush it in and out” type of shops that make insurance companies happy. (Sorry, Hagerty!)

With some research I found a shop that is independent and has been around for 60 years. They had the latest equipment and the work space was like a clean room. They also were a reasonable price.

audiobycarmine: Word-of-mouth and public reviews are usually the best. Why? Because it’s only the Customers whose opinions matter. Even though I’d believed I had trustworthy shops, I twice had to part ways, and one deserved legal proceeding. “Once bitten, twice shy; twice bitten, just afraid.”

Today, I still don’t have a shop that I feel I can trust entirely. It’s like having a nail salon treat a shoulder problem.

Qualifying Questions

question mark
Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya

Andrew: Is the person who owns the shop playing a large role in the day to day operations of the shop? Are they a mechanic or at least the person you directly interact with on the phone and in person?

This seems to narrow down any service job to a small group where I’ve had good success hiring out work, for my cars and otherwise in life.

Can I Still DIY?

Kyle Smith

Kyle Smith: My favorite shops are ones who will let me pay them for diagnostics, and do the repair myself. The photo of the tie rods and drag link above are from when I took my Corvair to the alignment shop before a 2000-mile road trip. The tech called me before lunch saying it wasn’t worth aligning because there was a lot of play, which I could totally believe.

He had no problem with me picking the car up that afternoon, doing the work, and scheduling an appointment for the alignment in a week or two. Honest and respectful. All around a great business.


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    When I first moved to the New Jersey town I have lived in for the past 22 years, I needed a good local shop to handle maintenance on my dailies. I asked AAA for a recommendation and they sent me to an independent shop I have been going to ever since.

    Hyperv6 has an interesting perspective.

    What he isn’t saying is bringing your own parts eliminates their largest gross profit portion of the repair.

    When my GovLoc grenaded itself and took out the bearings and gears, I asked to pay the difference for a Detroit True Trac. GM refused. It was a GovLoc or nothing.

    Since they had already denied a warranty claim on front diff, I went to an independent, explained what I wanted and why, they helped me source the parts and were reasonable.

    There is another downside to providing your own parts. If a problem occurs there can be finger pointing as to the issue. Is it a workmanship or parts problem? If it is a parts problem the shop has every right to charge you again to replace it. The higher the labor cost the more risk you have. I usually ask for a parts and labor price and a labor only price and make a decision based on both scenarios.

    I own an auto repair shop. 40 years on the 4th of July. We don’t like it when you bring your own parts. It’s not about the lost profits, although that does figure into it. It’s about the warranty. Even if the customer brings me the exact NAPA parts that I would have ordered from the same store and installed, NAPA warranties it on the counter at the store and I warranty it installed in the vehicle. The discussion about the difference is time consuming and frequently frustrating for both of us. Especially when it was explained up front and they bring the part and it fails and they have to pay the labor again.

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