DETROIT (WWJ) - 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.
The best time to look for a repair facility is before one is needed. 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.
A clean, well-organized repair facility reflects attention to detail and an effort to maintain a professional image.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Selecting a quality repair facility that offers discounts on needed services is an excellent way to stretch repair dollars in this uncertain economy.
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. 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.
10. Look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) sign
There are nearly 8,000 AAR facilities across North America. 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.
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