Backyard mechanics, those mobile auto mechanics who come to where your car is located, offer a convenient service. On the surface, everything seems great. You don’t have to pay for a tow truck; they come right to you and take care of the problem. Seems easy enough, right? Unfortunately, the devil is often in the details. There are certainly plenty of legitimate mobile mechanics, but it never hurts to do some homework first. Here are some things to keep in mind before you consider calling a backyard mechanic:
Do They Request Payment Upfront?
Even if a mechanic comes to your location and looks at your car and says that they need the money upfront to get parts, this should still be a red flag. The Better Business Bureau has many reports of mechanics asking for payment upfront and never returning. Make it a firm policy to never pay upfront. If they are legit, they’ll understand. Avoid this by asking if you have to pay for parts upfront before they arrive. You might also want to try to get a quote or general estimate of how much you are going to pay.
Do They Have the Right Tools?
Most people call a backyard mechanic when they start a project and realize they’re in over their head. When you do contact a mobile mechanic, do your best to explain the problem. Take a look at what they bring. If they clearly don’t have the right tools, they may still continue the job with whatever they have on hand just to get paid. A temporary quick fix probably isn’t what you are looking for. Most legit mechanics come prepared to fix just about anything.
How Do They Advertise and Accept Payment?
Most legitimate mechanics will take credit cards, even mobile ones. If they only deal in cash, make sure you get a receipt. Most backyard mechanics advertise on sites like Craigslist because it’s free. If they don’t have an actual website, this is another potential red flag. If you still are not comfortable, do a quick check with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, a certification group for the auto repair and service industry.
How Do They Charge You?
Mobile mechanics usually charge by the hour or per service they perform. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. If a mechanic fixes a bunch of small things in less than an hour and only charges you for an hour’s worth of time, you’ve got yourself a bargain. If, however, a mechanic has to make several trips to AutoZone and takes 5 hours to fix what would normally be a 2 hour job, it’s not really a bargain anymore. The same is true if you are paying per part or service and they end up finding a bunch of other things to repair and replace. Consider the amount of work you need done and weigh your options accordingly.
Most legit mobile mechanics have been in business for a while and plan to still be in business next week. This means that they should have reviews somewhere online. Search sites like Google Places, Bing Local, or Yahoo Local to find customer reviews. Take time to do as much research as you can before calling a backyard mechanic. If you feel uncomfortable about the way they are doing business, it’s best to move on and find somebody else you trust.
Mary Brown is a freelance blogger who writes about automotive issues. If you are in need of a mechanic, you can find one in you area using the nation-wide directory at www.autorepair.net.