How Did You Find a Mechanic You Trust?

A trusted mechanic isn't just about not getting ripped off, it's getting your car repaired correctly.
"He's probably the only honest mechanic in New York!" Seinfeld screencap

A shortage of professional auto mechanics might kill gasoline cars before any EV-mandating legislation. I mean, not really, but finding a skilled professional to service your car is challenging and I don’t see it ever getting easier. So how did you find a mechanic you trust?

You will notice the tense of my question is past—I would love to get some earnest insight on mechanic-finding strategies that have proven successful for you. Hypothetically, you should just be able to Google “good mechanic near me” and find one with a bunch of stars. But the SEO industry has rendered that style of wholesale searching kind of useless—you’ll just get served a salvo of ads disguised as insight. And the only people publishing to Yelp nowadays are probably bots or randos who were angry with a business owner for any number of possible reasons.

I move around with some regularity and have a diverse fleet of cars with a big range of needs—so I often find myself sniffing around new regions for a trustworthy mechanic or weird-car specialist. And remember, there’s a lot more to that than just “somebody who won’t make stuff up and charge you for it.” In my experience, a truly unscrupulous mechanic who will straight-up lie to your face is pretty rare (maybe I’ve just been lucky).

However, a mechanic who’s casually incompetent and will pull crap like cross-threading an oil drain plug, failing to torque lug nuts, or breaking plastic trim … I’ve run into those guys everywhere. And I’d really like to avoid them in the future.

To get us started and throw this conversation to the comment section on an upbeat note, here are some strategies that have helped me find great mechanics all around the world:

  • Make and Region-specific Facebook groups. Facebook has effectively replaced old-school internet forums as the confluence point for old heads and newbies to interact about specific types of cars. Search for your type of car and the region you’re in, and I bet you’ll find a group of enthusiasts to ask for mechanic recommendations. Use the group’s search function first and you might not even need to ask—somebody else probably had the same question recently!
  • Local car clubs and car meets. If you’re the type to socialize in real life, joining a local car club or at least going to a car meet is a great way to make acquaintances and learn who’s who in the area. Look for people with the same brand of car as you and ask where they get it worked on. Even if they’re DIYers, if they’ve been around, there’s a good chance they have a tip or know a guy.
  • Drive-by vibe checks. Let’s say none of the above worked, but you’ve dug through Google’s sponsored links and found some leads. Why not just take a drive and see what the shops look like? But keep in mind: Impeccable facade does not mean “good mechanic,” nor does a chaotic shop mean “bad.” Frankly, some of my favorite wrenches have worked out of absolute hovels. You’ve got to try and get a gut feeling.
  • Stop in and introduce yourself. I often find it’s easier to talk to any business proprietor in person than on the phone—you’re more likely to get their full attention. Walk in with a line like “I’ve got a 2024 that’s doing kind of a [describe problem], is that something you’ve seen before and might be able to sort out?” Read into their reply—are they listening, or just trying to rush you into making an appointment? Regardless, you’ll get a much more accurate vibe check than you did from the curb.

I’m about to pull up roots for another temporary relocation to the suburbs of Denver, Colorado myself … I’ll have almost no tools, and the Bimmer I’ll be driving will need at least one service while I’m out there. So here’s hoping my methods (and some of yours) help me find a quality wrench person.