In 1974, Robert Krughoff decided to start Consumers’ Checkbook magazine after he left an auto repair shop for the third time and realized when he’d gone a half mile that the problem still wasn’t fixed. Krughoff was going to have to bring his car back a fourth time.
“I thought, ‘There needs to be a Consumer Reports for services,'” he told me in an interview.
Over the years, auto repair shop ratings have been among the most popular topics Checkbook covers, said Krughoff, president of Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and checkbook.org.
“People are very afraid of taking their cars in for repair,” he said, adding their fears are reasonable. The ratings in the latest issue of Checkbook can help people in seven regions of the country learn from the experience of others and find shops that will do a good job for a reasonable price.
Krughoff said there’s no real connection between a quality repair and price. By comparing prices, you can find a quality shop that will do the job for a good price.
Checkbook has found that independent repair shops do a substantially better job than dealers in fixing things right, he said. And they’re less expensive. The survey showed that independent shops charge 13 percent less than dealers.
Krughoff advises consumers to take their cars to a dealer if the car will be fixed under the warranty. If you’re paying for it yourself, check out the costs at independent repair shops.
The most important things that you should do when your car needs repair, he told me, are:
- Write down the problems your car is having and give the list to the shop. Describe the symptoms. “It will help the shop do the job right,” he said.
- Get a written estimate. If you drop the car off, the shop can send you a fax or an e-mail.
- Be sure you’re given a written invoice when you pick up your car. If the car doesn’t work right, you have a record of what was done and what you paid.
Krughoff also suggests taking a test drive with the mechanic before you pay to see if the problems have been fixed.
In its Summer/Fall 2008 issue, Consumers’ Checkbook magazine has rated auto repair shops in the Boston, Chicago, Delaware Valley, Puget Sound, San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. areas.
The issue is available for $10 at Barnes & Noble and Borders. Or become a subscriber at www.checkbook.org/ for $30 for two years.