Finding an honest mechanic is a great way to ensure your repairs are done correctly, timely, and at the right price. Unless you have a lie detector in your trunk, how are you supposed to know if your mechanic is honest?
To find an honest mechanic, you need to screen them a little bit. Look for red flags during your regular interactions with them. Ideally, your mechanic will explain things to you, answer your questions, and try to save you money on repairs or replacements. If your mechanic is dishonest, then leave their shop and find an honest one.
In this guide, I put together 15 ways to know if your mechanic is honest. I also have some information about finding an honest one in the first place. Let’s get started.
Disclaimer: Most Mechanics are Honest
I want to start this out with a quick disclaimer. First off, I strongly believe that most mechanics are honest. I grew up working on cars, so I know how the process goes. So far, every mechanic shop I’ve worked with has been filled with genuine and honest guys.
I’m yet to find a shop or hear a firsthand account of a shop that scams people and lies. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, just that in my experience it hasn’t happened.
To open an auto repair business takes a lot of effort and money. It doesn’t make sense that someone will open it strictly to scam people — there are better ways to do that.
I also want to mention that all of the following thoughts are my personal thoughts. I know that some people will disagree with different points I make, and that’s perfectly okay. When it comes to honesty in an auto shop, people tend to get fired up and I have no problem with that. I’m just looking to help people who might be a little lost when it comes to this topic.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff.
Why You Need an Honest Mechanic
If you think of a mechanic as a “car doctor”, everything starts to make more sense. You need an honest mechanic for the same reasons that you need an honest doctor.
They’ll be doing the work behind closed doors. Plus, this industry can get pretty pricy pretty fast. You want an honest person working on your car that will correctly diagnose your issue, tell you what’s actually going on, and charge you accordingly.
A dishonest mechanic will upcharge you, do repairs you never agreed to, and scare you into fixes that you didn’t want. At the end of the day, this could be thousands of dollars essentially stolen from your pocket.
Times to Go to a Mechanic
I went into more detail in my guide all about when to go to a mechanic, but here’s a general idea: you want to go to a mechanic any time the repair is outside of your comfort zone.
For some people, this means going to a mechanic for everything including oil changes and tire rotations. If you’re not mechanically savvy, don’t have lots of free time, or want to leave it to the pros, then there’s nothing wrong with taking your car to a mechanic for every repair.
Other people will comfortably rebuild an engine on their own and “mechanic” is a four-letter word.
So, when should you go to the mechanic? Whenever you want to or whenever the repair is too big for your hands.
How to Find an Honest Mechanic
Doing a little homework ahead of time will help you find an honest mechanic before something goes wrong. Here are the tips I typically suggest.
Online reviews are a powerful tool when it comes to finding an honest mechanic. Sure, competitors can pay people to leave fake reviews, but they’re typically easy to spot.
The secret is to look at what the reviews say. If all the 1-star reviews have the same complaint, then there might be some truth behind it. For example, if everyone complains about the mechanic lying and charging for services they didn’t perform, you should run away from that shop.
If a shop has a lot of reviews and a rating over 4 stars, then it’s probably a good bet.
Certain shops have no online presence, but they do a great job. In this case, you’ll have to stick with my other suggestions on this list.
When I move to a new area, one of the first things I’ll do is ask around for a good auto shop. People like your family, friends, and coworkers can share their insights if they tried different mechanics.
You’re just looking to see who other people are using. Your coworkers might have horror stories about different mechanics which is just as useful — now you know where to avoid.
Check Out the Shop
If you have a shortlist of a few shops to consider, give them an in-person visit. You can tell a lot by a shop if you just take a look around.
A high-quality and honest shop will be pretty busy. Employees should welcome you to the shop and seem genuine.
See if the shop has a waiting area. This is a really good sign, though it’s not always possible for smaller shops.
Talk to the Person in Charge
An honest shop will always have a foreman or manager on-site when they’re open. They need to have a decision-maker to keep things running smoothly and ensure nothing shady is going on behind their back.
Take an opportunity to talk to the person in charge. You might have to wait a little bit for them to become available.
You just want to introduce yourself and ask them if they’re available to work on your car. The person in charge will shape the people on the floor. If they’re in a hurry to end the conversation and don’t have any answers for you, then they might not be representing an honest shop.
Find One Before You Need One
Desperation can do some crazy things to the psyche. You might lose your ability to rationally think through a problem since your car is in shambles and you need an immediate fix.
The pressure of the situation might lead you to not ask the right questions or do the correct screening before signing over your car. The result could be giving your car to a dishonest mechanic.
If you’re moving to a new area or buying a used car, I highly suggest searching for a mechanic today. There’s no downside to looking around ahead of time, even before your car needs any maintenance or repairs.
Plus, looking ahead of time means that you have the time to shop around and see which shop resonates with your needs.
15 Ways to Know if Your Mechanic is Honest
After picking out a mechanic, you can still figure out if they’re honest; it’s not too late. Here are 15 different ways that I personally use to find out if my mechanic is honest with me.
1. They Don’t Sugarcoat Things
If there’s a lot of hemming and hawing when you’re talking about problems with your car, you should be skeptical. A mechanic doesn’t need to sugarcoat what’s going on with your car.
If they downplay the severity of issues or problems they found, it could be a bad sign. Alternatively, if they hype up how bad the problems are, you could also be dealing with a dishonest mechanic.
An honest mechanic will give you a straightforward diagnosis of your car.
2. They Let You See Your Car During Repairs
This is why I mentioned looking for a waiting area earlier — an honest shop will let you see your car while they’re performing repairs.
Sure, they might get annoyed that you’re taking up their shop space, but they will still let you the vehicle. Try your best not to crowd them, waste time, or talk about how they do the job. After all, this is what they do for a living.
Still, a shady shop will refuse to let you see your car. This is because they’re probably lying about the repairs and can’t risk you catching them in a lie. Secrecy is never a good sign in this industry.
3. Their Online Reputation Is Good
As I mentioned earlier, a good online reputation is a huge green light. If a number of other people used their services and they were happy with them, then there’s a good chance you’ll get honest service from them as well.
Make sure you’re not just looking at the star rating, you’re also reading what the reviewers have to say.
Some people will give a 1-star review because they didn’t know what to expect going into a mechanic shop. Screen out those reviews.
4. They Try to Save You Money
A good shop will actively look for ways to save you money. Not in a corner-cutting way, but by finding alternatives.
Maybe they’ll suggest using an aftermarket part instead of an OEM part for minor repairs. Other times, they might offer discounted rates if you bundle repairs or offer you a loyalty discount.
Their prices will still be higher than if you do the job yourself, but that’s the whole point of a mechanic — they make money by doing repairs and charging extra.
5. A Close Friend Recommends Them
Unless your friend is also a scam artist, a raving review should mean a lot to you. Ask around and see what your buddies have to say about the different shops they visited.
First-hand experience is a very powerful tool. Use this to make your final decision.
6. They Take Time to Explain What They Did
Even a super busy mechanic can take time to explain what repairs they performed on your car. It’s the bare minimum someone can do after you pay them hundreds of dollars.
It’s like a surgeon keeping your surgery a secret from you after they perform it.
Someone in the shop should give you a full rundown of what they did, why they did it, and what to expect moving forward.
7. You Have a Rapport/ History Together
Nothing is better than a history with your mechanic. You get a great feeling about a shop after spending enough time working with them.
Some people hear a headline about a dishonest auto shop and then suddenly suspect their own mechanic is dishonest. If you have years’ worth of rapport with them and no red flags during that time, you probably have nothing to worry about.
An honest mechanic doesn’t suddenly become dishonest. You’re probably safe to keep trusting them. Of course, this is completely different if you have reason to believe they’re lying to you or any evidence.
8. They Don’t Bully You into a Decision
If a mechanic makes you feel like there’s no other option, then you should consider getting a second diagnosis of your vehicle elsewhere. A good mechanic will explain the methodology behind their approach and why you should get certain repairs done. Even better if they show you so you can see for yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with a shop highly insisting that you get the repair, especially when it comes to safety. However, sometimes it can come off as stand-offish or feel like bullying especially if a mechanic isn’t communicating and relaying the “why,” and simply insisting it gets done. It doesn’t hurt to go a few rounds of “are you sure?” from the workers in the shop.
If they start saying that you need the repairs and your family isn’t safe without the repairs, I would strongly suggest getting those repairs done because operating an unsafe vehicle can become hazardous for yourself and others on the road. If you feel like you can trust this mechanic, and they instill confidence, do it. Otherwise, it’s ok to walk away and ask for a second opinion.
9. They Don’t Treat the Damage Like the End of the World
One of the worst traits that a mechanic can show is acting like every repair equates to the end of the world. It’s definitely bad to go too long without changing your oil, but the Earth won’t explode if you push off that maintenance (though you should seriously change it as often as the manufacturer suggests).
If a mechanic starts planning a funeral simply because you say no to the repairs, that’s a clear sign of a dishonest mechanic.
They can suggest against driving your car until the fix is made, but they can’t prevent you from driving your car. In other words, they legally need to give you your keys if you refuse service from their shop.
10. They Don’t Do Anything Without Permission
That point leads to another honesty check: your mechanic should never do anything until they have your direct permission.
If you drop your car off for a diagnosis and they pull out the transmission and charge you for it, you should refuse to pay and demand your car back. If they don’t have direct permission from you to do anything, they should not do anything.
Remember, you pay them for services that you request. Do you ever go to the dentist and say “surprise me”? Well, there’s nothing more surprising than a random auto charge for something you didn’t sign off on.
This idea goes beyond the blatantly manipulative example I just gave. There should never be a surprise when you get the bill from the shop. There’s no “well, while we were there, we also did this that and the other thing”.
What an honest shop will do is give you a call and ask if you want additional fixes done while they have your car on the jack stand.
If the bill shows fixes that you didn’t approve, then fight the charges. Depending on your situation, you can go to small claims court and get your money back, but you should always fight it.
If the shop just wants to scam you, they’re hoping you don’t notice the additional charge. They might fold if you start getting upset about the charge.
11. They Answer Your Questions
The biggest red flag is a mechanic that doesn’t answer your questions. Nothing is “too complicated” or “doesn’t matter” if you ask about it.
If a shop continually answers your questions (to varying levels of annoyance), then they’re probably honest. After all, if they really did the repairs that they’re charging you for, then they’ll know exactly what they did.
There will be times when the mechanic who did your repairs isn’t in the shop. That’s perfectly okay, just ask to speak to them whenever they’re available.
They should also answer your questions before starting any repairs. You might want to know what they expect to do, how much it might cost, or what the process looks like for the repairs.
It’s understandable that the shop might be busy, but your questions should be a priority to them. Especially if it means losing a potential customer.
12. They Show You the Part They Replaced
If the shop genuinely did the replacement they were supposed to, there should be no problem showing you the old part that they took out.
A lot of times, it’s interesting to see the old part anyway. It’s cool to see what a little wear and tear can do to a part of your car, especially if it’s a mechanical piece that you don’t typically see.
You might have to tell the shop ahead of time that you want to see the old part after they replace it. Otherwise, it might wind up in a trash can somewhere.
If they seem really shady after you ask them to see it, then that’s a big red flag.
13. Their Prices Are Higher Than Average (But Not Too High)
In general, a dishonest shop will drastically undercharge its customers in an effort to lure people in. On the other hand, sometimes they charge way too much and that’s the game they play.
The best-case scenario is a shop that charges a little more than average without spewing insanely high quotes. This leaves you with the best chance of connecting with an honest mechanic.
It’s also worth mentioning that you should prepare to pay a little bit extra to ensure your mechanic is good and honest.
14. Repairs Aren’t Constantly Delayed or More Expensive
It is normal for repairs to get delayed or become more expensive as troubleshooting continues. However, it isn’t normal for this to be the case every time you deal with a mechanic.
If your mechanic always has a new excuse for why your car isn’t ready or why the bill is so much higher, then it’s time for a new one.
If there is a delay or increase in pricing, they should be the ones reaching out to you. It should never be a surprise.
15. They Don’t Care About Brands
One way to keep repair costs low is to go with parts that don’t have a name-brand sticker on them. Sure, some brands are known for being really high-quality, but they aren’t the only options on the market.
Some shops will give you two quotes for a replacement: One for OEM or high-quality aftermarket parts, and another for off-brand parts.
A shop that doesn’t mind using different brands is always going to be more honest.
How to Thank an Honest Mechanic
Once you realize your mechanic is honest, you should spread the word. Let your friends and family know that you found a great shop. In addition, make sure you leave a nice 5-star review for them online with a blurb explaining your experience with them.
These steps will help an honest mechanic get more customers and stay in business. After all, we need more honest mechanics out there helping car owners.
I strongly believe that most mechanics are honest. After reviewing these 15 ways to know if your mechanic is honest, how do you stand? Leave a comment and let me know if your mechanic is honest or not. Don’t forget to explore the rest of my site for more car guides, tips, and tricks. Check out my list of recommended car tools and accessories for the best experience.