Auto repair is the most difficult choice car-driving consumers make with their money. According to an extensive survey by AutoMD , drivers would much rather spend $1,500 on painful dental work than on a 1.5K car repair.
I agree entirely. My twenty-nine years in the automotive industry corroborates this survey sentiment.
Motorists regard car repair as the ultimate grudge purchase.
Why do we avoid the mechanic more than drills and novocaine?
In an automotive transaction consumers feel powerless and blind.
As motorists we are insecure because we lack the tools to engage confidently in the marketplace. These tools are two basic rules every driver can easily use.
Yes, you may be on all the Volkswagen chat groups, all the Subaru STI forums, and have subscribed to every YouTube channel that ever posted a vehicle repair.
However, if you have not been through years of automotive technical training, and you surrender your vehicle to an auto shop for maintenance and repairs, these rules are for you.
Car owners are people forced to both depend on and submit to the subjective perspective given them by another human. It’s like visiting a physician.
Imagine visiting a doctor for a health check-up. You feel fine, but Western Medicine requires “maintenance” for you on a schedule.
You arrive for your appointment, a physician’s assistant puts you to sleep for two hours. When you wake, a guy smiles, hands you a piece of paper with words written on in that you don’t understand. He may effectively explain the words and then requires $750 dollars from you before you leave.
You have been declared fit as a fiddle and have been provided with the documentation to prove it, and which custom tells you should be guarded collectively in your glove-box.
However, you neither feel nor see a difference in your body. You do feel and see a $750 dollar deficit. You never saw or talked to the doctor. In fact, you don’t even know that he did anything. You were asleep.
This describes most automotive maintenance and repair interactions.
As motorists, we neither see, hear, feel nor experience the results of most repairs.
Services provided by mechanics are both largely invisible and extremely complicated for an untrained car-owner to understand. This pretty much describes 95% of all drivers: non-mechanical and lacking X-Men level powers.
It also does not help that the automotive industry is naturally veiled by poor communication.
Characteristically, mechanics are people who thrive in relationship with inanimate objects for large chunks of the day — engines, transmissions, brakes, etc. This common personality attribute of the automotive technician requires a team of translators who can speak to motorists for them.
This team of communicators is the front office. This is your nurse-practitioner, and what ends up feeling like a fire-wall between you and your vehicle technician.
This is where, as a consumer, you need a tool-kit.
The tool kit is comprised of two basic rules every driver can follow:
- A simple Rubric for choosing the right shop
- A Platform for securing trustworthy interactions.
First Rule: A fool-proof rubric for making the best choice in a car fix-it shop for you.
What is the common methodology? Google reviews, Yelp, Facebook.
While these are all useful perspectives, they are too-often misleading because the motorists conducting the research and filling the database lack the proper tools to assess workmanship. They don’t actually know what they have purchased in the end.
Here is the rubric that will allow you to choose the Right Shop every time.
- “Local Owners” are individuals who invest in life and livelihood that you support together with them. “Local” does not mean you share a twenty-mile radius. For example whether you like to garden, ski, bike, love Jesus, are gay, vote republican, want to own guns, are vegan, you will look for owners who visibly support these things. This is the definition of local that will land you fool-proof choices.
- “Local Owners” are individuals who have ties to your specific community, friends, family and neighbors and who are confident and comfortable with the vulnerability of sharing this information.
- “Local” is information easily visible and published prominently by the Right Shop
- The day-to-day is handled by people you will see at your grocery store and your kid’s soccer game. Look for proudly published staff profiles that offer vulnerability in allowing you to know your mechanic and service writer.
- How long have the owners been a part of our community? A lifespan presence within a region and climate allows thoughtful and scientific automotive repair specialists to build a data-base of location-specific knowledge pertinent to you and your vehicle.
- Look for 10 plus years of workmanship in your physical location.
- Look for prominently published staff employment statistics. High turnover (less than three years for technicians and less than ten years for managers) is a red flag. Keep looking for people who obviously love what they do and who they work for
- Do owners think outside the conventional commerce box? Does their business look like Geico or State Farm, Apple or IBM, Google or Bing?
- Is the culture of the business young and professional? Is learning and growing obvious in the day-to-day?
- Do the daily operations point toward “yes, of course we can!” or “I don’t know, but let’s find out!”
A local car mechanic shop, owned and operated by thoughtful individuals who have a long-time investment in your community is always the most effective choice. Period.
People who see vehicles day and in day out begin to notice patterns of wear and failure. Their attentive, organized approach to daily work results in a systematic data-base of special knowledge not printed or published by manufacturers.
Rule Number Two: Digital Vehicle Inspections, or DVI.
If the Shop you have chosen does not yet use a Digital Vehicle Inspection to communicate and educate their clients, you have chosen a Shop that still lacks what is now the most courteous and effective platform for a respectful and trustworthy interaction with motorists.
In time, all Shops will use this platform before another is adopted. There was a time when Shops did not use scan tools or diagnostics to assess engine performance. Now this equipment is required to perform even adequate repairs.
If the Shop you have chosen does not provide DVI, ask them whether or not they intend to provide it. If there are no other alternatives, the first Rule will protect you the best your area can provide.
What is a DVI?
Digital Vehicle Inspections are a platform provided to motorists by mechanics with every visit. Mechanics perform inspections using iPads with which they record all observations and conditions with dated pictures. Arrows, circles and explanations are added to photos denoting current and possible future issues with the vehicle.
While the vehicle is in the bay, the technician texts the completed inspection directly to the motorist for evaluation.
The Digital Vehicle Inspection is a platform.
DVI is an interface that allows motorists to use their phones and laptops as tools, providing a conduit to both their vehicle and their vehicle physician. The immediacy of text and email interactions provide trust and security for vehicle owners.
As yearly visits stack up, the DVI platform allows motorists to compile a personal data-base of vehicle information.
Customers can login to their own profile at any time to view a visual and annotated history of every repair and recommendation.
A consistent visual record of repairs and maintenance provides a powerful, transparent collection of information to vehicle owners.
Digital Vehicle Inspections allow motorists to see everything the technician sees in a database stored conveniently in the cloud.
The second rule for picking the best auto shop allows your smart phone or laptop to become tools to access the DVI platform. This is no longer static, fading information stacked in your glovebox. The DVI platform is a dynamic body of up-to-date, interactive information that drivers can use. In fact, when you sell the car, this profile can go with it to the next buyer.
Your relationship with the Right Shop has actually added value to both your vehicle and your independence as a consumer.
Look for a Shop that is your local. Look for someone to be your mechanic who shares your values. These people will strive to make car repair understandable and even enjoyable for you. Look for a Shop that has made the investment in DVI so they can share extensively the auto repair process. These Shops by-and-large have integrity because they come to the table with transparency.