Category Archives: Alex Perdikis

6 Tips for Finding a Car Repair Shop You Can Trust

By Alex Perdikis

Car mechanics and repair shops don’t have the best reputations. That’s a shame because the actions of a few shouldn’t tarnish the hard work of thousands of reputable mechanics and car repair shops in the U.S.

But, finding a reputable auto repair shop isn’t always easy. The good news is that there are ways to find a good shop and mechanic you can trust. Follow these six tips to find a car repair shop you’ll feel good about.

1. Ask Your Family, Friends and Co-workers

Nothing beats the word of someone you know. You may end up with a list of places not to go, but you’re ahead of the game if that happens. You’ll probably also get one or two recommendations as well. 

2. Do Your Research

You can’t count on a business to accurately represent itself. Many have accreditations plastered on their buildings and websites. But, you need to hear from people who’ve actually used a repair shop’s services. Researching businesses is easier now than it’s ever been.

One of the easiest ways to find reviews is by typing “Car repair shop (your location) reviews” into Google search. Scroll through the results.

 

“Use common sense as you read. Take particular note of reviews that describe how the repair shop resolved any problems that came up.”—Alex Perdikis

 

Disregard a single overly critical complaint, but look for an overall pattern of either stellar service or bad behavior. 

Pay more attention to reviews that offer details about the actual service or repair given and what happened after. No business can please everyone. But, how they handle complaints says a lot about their work. 

Don’t forget to search for a repair shop that specializes in your car’s make. Mechanics in these shops are typically specially trained and possess the equipment to better service your brand. 

3. Check Them Out

Before taking your car in for repair, make sure the shop is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Ask about warranties or guarantees the company offers for work done and what the procedure is if a repair doesn’t fix the problem.

4. Don’t Forget Convenience

You may have heard great things about the shop in the next town, but it’s 25 miles away. It’s not near your home or work location. Depending on where you live, the faraway shop may be your only option. But, if you can find one closer, it’s a lot more convenient for you. 

5. Give The Repair Shop a Trial Run

Before you need a major repair, try the shop out with a small repair or routine maintenance job. You’ll get a feel for how efficiently the shop runs, the quality of service you receive from the staff and mechanics, and whether the shop seems like a good fit. 

6. Help Them Out 

Once you find a reliable car repair shop, help them out with positive reviews of their work. Recommend them to your friends and neighbors. Finding a car repair shop you can trust is worth all the research and time spent when it comes to peace of mind. 

 

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

When Should You Buy Your Next Car? You Might Be Surprised! 

By Alex Perdikis

You’re ready for a new car, but you plan to wait until dealers and manufacturers offer those fantastic end-of-the-year bargains. That’s when you get the most bang for your buck, right? Not necessarily! You’ll find great deals at the end of the year. But, that’s not the only time to find a bargain. 

End of the Year Hoopla

The end of the year is indeed a great time to buy a new car. Dealers have to meet yearly sales goals, so they offer deals to reduce inventory.

“A low end-of-the-year inventory means more room for the latest and greatest coming in next year’s models. This combination is the perfect bargain storm for would-be buyers.”— Alex Perdikis

Does that mean you have to wait to buy your new car? Simply put, no. The end-of-the-year is not the only time you can find the car you want at a great price. In fact, the one drawback to these great year-end deals is that you’re pretty much limited to what’s on the lot for the best deals. If you want a deal and a lot of choices, shopping at a different time of year is for you.

Wait Until May?

The first few months of a new year are the least discounted, but come May and beyond, discounts and bargains begin in earnest. By August, manufacturers and dealers are looking forward to next year. You could find your dream car at a dream of a price in early spring and summer.

Is a Holiday Coming Up?

Did you know that Christmas and New Year’s day aren’t the only holidays you can get a great deal? Dealers offer a lot of sales and deals on holidays throughout the year. Three-day weekend holidays give you the best opportunities. Memorial Day is typically a big deal in car buying with a lot of outgoing model selections from which to choose. 

Labor Day weekend is also a big weekend. You may not get the same end-of-the-year terms, but you’ll have more options and still get a good deal. 

Monday, Tuesday, the Weekend, Or?

Did you know some days of the week are better for buyers than others? Weekends are typically busy at dealerships, but you’ll get a lot more attention and a smoother buying process if you shop early in the week. Monday’s usually pretty busy, but Tuesday and Wednesday tend to be less busy and a better environment for buyers.

Great Deals: Discontinued or Before-a-Redesign Models 

This one takes a little research, but if the automaker plans to discontinue a model you like, you could find a great deal as long as you plan to keep the car for a while. Discontinued models depreciate faster, but they might fit your budget better if you need a bargain price.

Purchasing an outgoing model design can also save you money. It won’t have the latest and greatest options and styling, perhaps, but if you want to save money, outgoing models give you a lot of the same options for less.

Build a Relationship

One of the most effective ways to get the car you want at a price that fits your budget is to build a relationship with a dealer in your region. The dealership wants to make you happy and maintain a relationship with you. When you have a trusting relationship with your local dealership, it won’t matter what time of year you want to buy a car. The dealership will work hard to get you the right car at the best price. 

 

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Spring Means More Potholes. Here’s How to Protect Yourself.

By Alex Perdikis

Spring is in the air. Plants begin to grow. Your lawn greens up. What’s not to love? Well, another sure sign of spring hated by drivers everywhere is the pothole. Your drive to work just got a lot more complicated. 

What can you do to protect yourself and your car from those spring driving delights?  Here’s how:

The Cause

You can blame winter weather and its temperatures for potholes. During the winter and into early spring, the ground freezes and thaws, which weakens the road. Water seeps into the under-pavement soil undermining the road’s foundation. Potholes form as the weakened road gives way under traffic.

“Severe winter weather or a constant freeze/thaw winter pattern promotes pothole formation. The freeze/thaw cycle varies from winter to winter.”—Alex Perdikis


That’s why some years you see more potholes than others.

Avoid Potholes If You Can

Road crews can’t possibly keep up with pothole repair in the busy season. If you live in an area where potholes exist, follow these tips to avoid hitting them:

  • Maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you. You’ll have a better view of potholes ahead and a clear indication if the car in front swerves or hits one.
  • Go around the pothole if you can safely do so.
  • If you can’t go around, slow down, grip the steering wheel firmly and drive over it. 
  • Never drive through a water-covered road. You have no idea how deep the water is or how many potholes hide underneath. 
  • Puddles can be a sign of potholes. Either swerve or take it easy over puddles in the road. 
  • Make sure your car is well maintained. Check your tires for the proper inflation and make sure your suspension is in good condition. Spring driving means a lot of ups and downs. You will hit potholes, and your car needs all the help it can get to withstand the assault.

The Damage Report

You probably won’t be able to avoid hitting a pothole or two. And, if you do, it may not be a soft, easy impact. If you’ve hit one, watch for these warning signs of car damage:

  1. The car pulls in one direction.
  2. Your car sways when you turn.
  3. The car bottoms out on paved streets.
  4. Your vehicle bounces excessively.
  5. You notice fluid leaks.
  6. You hear odd sounds from the exhaust.
  7. Your car simply drives differently after a pothole hit.

Hitting a pothole can damage your suspension, steering, alignment and tires. If you hit a pothole, have your car checked out as soon as possible. 

Does Insurance Cover Pothole Damage?

The answer to the question about insurance covering damage is a strong “maybe.” The only way to know for sure if your policy covers damage from a collision with a pothole is to read the policy or ask your agent. 

Potholes may not be the most welcome sign of spring, but they’re certainly one of the most common. With a little skill and a lot of luck, you might get through spring without pothole damage. Enjoy the spring flowers!

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

These New Car-Buying Trends May Surprise You

By Alex Perdikis

If the thought of thinking about statistics and demographics bores you, you aren’t alone. But, sometimes the fascinating stories behind demographics are worth a read. That’s how it is with car buying trends. Who buys which types of vehicles and why is often a look into America’s culture.

For Now, It’s the Boomers

In the United States, baby boomers account for 62 percent of new car purchases. Baby boomers take up a large part of the population and typically have more income and resources available to purchase a new car.

But, car trend experts say that millennials, those born between 1980 and 1994, will soon catch up to baby boomers, percentage-wise. That’s a surprise because millennials have a reputation for not wanting to commit to large ticket purchases. Clearly, as millennials get older, their priorities change.

People of a Certain Age

Another surprising trend is that according to research published by the Federal Reserve, the average age of a new car or truck buyer is now 53 years old. The 55 and older crowd increased their new vehicle purchasing by 15 percentage points over the last 20 years.

Several reasons for the increase in new vehicle purchases for the 55+ age group come into play. Americans live longer and healthier lives. The 55 and older age group work longer than previous generations. And, many have greater income stability than before.

Who Buys What?

More surprises appear when it comes to which age group buys what type of vehicle. A lot of so-called experts report that sedans are not popular with buyers. However, sedans are the top choice for those in the 25 to 54 age group.

What about SUVs?

 

“It turns out that SUVs are less popular than sedans in the 25 to 54 age range. Those who purchase new SUVs trend a bit older and they’re the top choice for those who are 65 and older.” — Alex Perdikis

 

Those in the 25 to 54 demographic love their pickup trucks, though. They make up 50 percent of purchases with the 55 to 64 demographic and 65 and older group splitting the rest.

You’re probably thinking, “What about the younger crowd?” Well, they don’t buy many new vehicles. The 24 and younger group is responsible for only 1 percent of sedans sold and less than 1 percent of new truck and SUV purchases.

Who Buys Electrics and Hybrids?

Energy-efficient vehicles are most popular in the 25 to 54 age group. This group buys half of all electrics and hybrids sold. The two other age groups split the rest down the middle.

What About Money?

Household income has a clear role in the types of vehicles people purchase. But, even here, there are some surprises.

The four income groups include buyers with a yearly income under $50,000, $50,000 to $74,999, $75,000 to $99,000 and $100,000 and over. You would expect the $100,000 group to purchase new vehicles more often. And, they do.

But, the second most active buying group is not the in-between earning groups, but the $50,000 and under earning group. Now that’s surprising.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Changing the World, One Auto Innovation at a Time

By Alex Perdikis

Imagine having to ride a horse everywhere you want to go. You don’t do it because you want to, but because you have to. And, so does everyone else. You wouldn’t travel many miles in a day, and your world would be much smaller than it is now.

All of that changed with the invention of the motor car. Cars had a profound effect on the day-to-day lives of people and how countries around the world operated.

How It All Began

The first motorized vehicles were too expensive for anyone but the most wealthy to purchase. Henry Ford’s Model-T sparked a revolution for the working class, though. Ford decided that in order to get the Model-T into the hands of everyday working people, he had to find a way to manufacture cars much faster and less expensively.

That’s when Ford came up with the assembly line production method. Workers were trained in only one or two steps of the production, making it a much faster process. To further speed auto manufacturing, Ford decided to have workers stay in place and move the assembly line. Less expensive and quicker to build, Ford offered his Model-Ts at a price most people could afford.

Ford’s large-scale production model became, and still is, the standard in cost-effective mass manufacturing.

Changing Lives

Before cars became commonplace, most people lived their entire lives a few miles from where they were born. Moving longer distances became much easier with a car.

 

“Leisure time also changed. Automobile travelers could go longer distances and see different parts of the country than in the days of train travel and horses and buggies.”
— Alex Perdikis

 

Of course, roads were rough in the early days. But as more and more people bought cars, the demand for better roads increased. Soon, people were moving to different locations for work, to start a new life or for fun.

Car Manufacturing Altered the Economy

Not only were people buying cars, fuel and automotive accessories but producing cars changed the economy in a big way. The auto manufacturing industry employed workers and fueled other industries, including gas and oil.

It Wasn’t All Roses

Of course, the public’s quick adoption of motorized vehicles wasn’t without its problems. In the beginning, there were few regulations and no road signs. Roads still accommodated both motorized vehicles and horses. Numerous accidents occurred in the early days when horses either bolted in fear when they encountered a car or horse and car collided.

Motorized vehicles also caused numerous pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Laws and signs gradually caught up with the adoption of cars, but as the auto industry grew other sectors of the economy took a hit. Buggy manufacturer and horse trader businesses either adapted some way or shut down.

Time Moves On

Cars changed the course of countries around the world, but none more than the United States. As times changed, car manufacturing changed as well. Technological advances and environmental concerns mean that cars today are more energy-efficient and safer than ever.

What does the future hold? Will self-driving cars become the norm? How about electric cars? Only time will tell.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

These Revolutionary Vehicle Services Pave the Way to More Options, Fewer Hassles

By Alex Perdikis

Since the first horse-drawn hackney for-hire service began in London and Paris in the 17th century, people have paid to get from one place to another. Whether it was a horse-drawn carriage or a motorized taxi, people in cities have always needed to get from place to place.

As times change, so do vehicle services. People who live and work in cities have a variety of options that includes public transportation and taxi services.

“Entrepreneurs, such as those who began Uber and Lyft services, stepped up to the plate to fill transportation gaps traditional services did not cover.” — Alex Perdikis


A new service called Inride fills a transportation service gap as well. Currently available in the D.C. and Baltimore areas, Inride gives a large segment of drivers the option of driving different cars on a short-term basis.

What’s Behind the Inride Idea

With the average monthly loan payment for a car hitting $523, many people opt for a lease instead. Leasing also allows drivers to turn in a car and drive something new periodically. However, leasing a vehicle is usually a 12-month or longer contract and includes paying for insurance, maintenance and the price reflects a driver’s credit rating. Leasing usually requires a downpayment as well.

But, what if there was a short-term rental service that let you pay a flat rate that covers insurance, maintenance and repair costs? And, what if you were able to swap out your car for a different one free of charge? Doesn’t that sound like a cool idea?

If you don’t want to commit to purchasing a car and paying a big monthly payment or get stuck in a long-term lease, Inride may be just what you’re looking for.

How Inride Works

Users begin by signing up on the Inride app. Drivers then select from available vehicles. After approval, Inride delivers the vehicle to the user who can use it for as long as they choose.

Speaking of options, you’ll love your vehicle choices. Inride offers two tiers of services. If you want the Premier Tier, you’ll choose from vehicles such as the Mercedes C-Class, Ford F-150 and Ford Explorer. If you prefer the Ultra Tier, you’ll find high-end options such as a Corvette or Porsche.  

Not only does Inride give you short-term options without the long-term hassles, but you also get the fun of driving the latest generation body styles for each model.

Moving Beyond the D.C. and Baltimore Markets

While Lyft and Uber fill the needs of consumers who need to get somewhere fast, Inride gives people who want to drive themselves in a car they love a way to do it. Inride is also appealing to the increasing numbers of millennials who shy away from making large purchases like homes and cars.

If the Inride service excels in the local markets, expanding the service to other regions across the country is likely. The need to get from place A to place B never changes. But, there’s always something new in the way you get there.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Hassle-Free Family Road Trips: 5 Must-Have Accessories

By Alex Perdikis

The best family road trips are fun and give you and your children a chance to create lasting memories. Road trips can also be stressful, particularly if you haven’t planned ahead.

Here are 5 great road trip accessories to take on your next family adventure. If you’re lucky, you won’t hear “Are we there yet?” Well, at least you won’t hear it as often.

1. Activity Cases

Activity cases are perfect for the younger set. Cases can be individually customized to hold each child’s interested, whether it’s puzzles, stickers or coloring. Use brightly colored carrying cases filled with coloring books, crayons or colored pencils, puzzle books and other age-appropriate items to customize your own cases. If creating your own activity box for your children is too time-consuming, ready-made activity cases are available for purchase.

An additional tip: Purchase new activity books and games exclusively for the family road trip. New goodies hold the children’s attention longer, which is a huge plus for you.

2. Travel Games

Remember the games you played in the car when you were a child? I Spy and License Plate games were big when you or your parents were young.

 

“You can find updated versions of many popular games from the “old” days that help keep the children busy and your stress level low.” — Alex Perdikis

 

Bingo, scavenger hunt and travel game packages are just a few of the options available.

3. Car Organizers

Organize your car and all the games, books, wipes, toys and other road trip essentials with pocket organizers that hang over the front seats. Organizers give your children easy access to their activity cases and ensure other essentials are within reach.

4. Install Seat Covers

Seat covers may sound like an odd road trip must-have but think about it. Your children are in the back seat with food, drinks and assorted other items. What could go wrong? A seat cover protects your seats from spills, crumbs and other messes, they’re washable, affordable, and many come with pockets for storage. After the trip, remove the seat covers for an easy clean up. You can put them back on for every day seat protection or save them for the next family trip.

5. Necessities

You don’t want to get on the road and suddenly realize you forgot the baby wipes. Make a list ahead of time of must-have necessities, so you don’t forget when it’s time to pack up the car.

Road trip necessities include:

  • Plastic bags for trash
  • Wet wipes for baby
  • Cleaning wipes for cleanup
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper
  • Bottles of water
  • If you’re traveling with a baby, extra diapers, formula and other infant essentials
  • Medications
  • If you’re taking the family pet, remember food and bowls
  • Emergency contact list
  • Medical information, including current medications taken by each member of the family, allergies and emergency contact information
  • First-aid kit
  • Proof of car insurance and insurer contact information
  • Extra pillows and blankets
  • Towels
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Roadside car emergency kit
  • Spare set of car keys  

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

The Weird and Wacky Truth About Road Signs

By Alex Perdikis

If you think road signs are boring, take a step back and imagine driving your daily commute without them. That’s exactly what it was like when automobiles first came on the scene. Traffic wasn’t as heavy then, but cars shared the road with horse-drawn carriages, and often the result was less-than happy.

Road Signs Have an Ancient History

The first road signs didn’t come about, as you might suspect when motor cars hit the road. Long before that, the rulers in the ancient Roman Empire devised a system of signs to give travelers and traders information.

As the Roman Empire grew, it paved roads to facilitate trade. People walked or used animals and carts to move market products from one place to another. To give travelers who used some of the 62,000 miles of roads information about where they were and how far they had to go, Roman rulers devised a system of numbered milestones to help them on their way.

The milestones were an amazing construction made up of 4,400 pounds of stones. To this day, no one knows how these giant stone markers were delivered to locations along the roadside.

Early Road Signs in the U.S.

Accidents weren’t the only mishaps for early drivers. They also got lost. There were no mile markers or directional arrows to point them where they needed to go.

 

“The first road sign manufacturers were members of driving clubs. Club members volunteered their time and materials to make directional signs and place them in strategic areas along the road.” — Alex Perdikis

 

The first electric traffic signal appeared in Cleveland in 1914, one year before the first stop sign was erected in Detroit. Approximately five years later, the familiar 3-color traffic signal used today appeared.

The Shape’s the Thing

Road signs in the early 1920s were still confusing and difficult to read. Representatives from Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin got together to develop a uniform system of shapes that could easily be seen at night. They came up with the round means railroad crossing, octagon means stop and square means caution standardized set of shapes.

All signs were black and white at first. It wasn’t until 1954 that stops signs became the white-on-red octagon of modern times. Yellow for caution and orange for road work signs came later.

Time Marches On

From those humble beginnings came the road signs everyone uses now. Technological advances, such as electronic signs, smartphone alert systems and accessories for the disabled make roads safer for both drivers and pedestrians. Uniform signs, shapes, wording, colors and letters are required across the country to make it easier for drivers no matter where they are.

So, Road Signs of Today ARE Boring, Aren’t They?

All that uniformity doesn’t mean road signs these days are boring. In fact, there’s still some fun to be had on America’s roadways. The next time you hit the pavement, watch for one of these gems:

  • Suicidal Deer: Next 1 mile
  • Beware of Smartphone Zombies
  • Accidents Are Prohibited on this Road
  • Road Work: Next 8 Years
  • Sign Not in Use
  • $50 Fine for Failure to Read This Sign
  • Slow: This is NOT a %$&#@ Freeway
  • Absolutely Nothing: Next 22 Miles
  • Prison Area: Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers

 

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Pickup Trucks and America: A Love Affair

By Alex Perdikis

Americans love their pickup trucks and have for over a century. Pickups symbolize hard working people who do it themselves, whether it’s on the job, the farm or DIY projects at home. Hauling supplies, tools and anything else that fits in the bed, the pickup is part of the country’s history. Here’s how it all began.

Adding a Cargo Box Wasn’t Enough

Henry Ford knew Americans needed a way to haul stuff around. In fact, creative owners modified their original Model Ts to add a cargo box. But, in 1917, Ford developed a Model TT with a chassis built to haul heavy loads.

The Model TT was manufactured with a sturdier frame to handle its one-ton rating. Still, if you wanted a bed on your Model TT, you had to build it yourself. That didn’t stop Americans, who by 1928, bought over 1.3 million of them.

Chevrolet Catches Up

Chevrolet’s first pickup arrived in 1918. Called the Model 490 because that’s how much money consumers needed to buy one, the Model 490 was a truck chassis. The earliest generation required the buyer to add a bed, cab and body. Chevrolet offered both half-ton and one-ton chassis options.

The Real Pickup Revolution Begins

The year was 1925. The pickup was Ford’s Model T Runabout. The Runabout was the first time Americans could buy a pickup built by the factory and ready to roll without modification.

 

“The Runabout was affordable at only $281, had heavy duty rear springs and a four-cylinder 40 horsepower engine.” — Alex Perdikis

 

Americans loved the Ford Model T Runabout with its pickup body to the tune of 33,800 pickups sold in its first year.

The Ford F-Series is Born

The  F-Series story began in 1948 when Ford introduced its brand-new line of pickups. The first in the series was designed to encompass both light- and heavy-duty needs to meet the requirements of everyone from farmers to construction companies. Early innovations included upgrades in the cab, rear window, hood, dashboard and fenders.

The F-Series is still going strong as Ford continues to introduce new features and upgrades each year.

Chevrolet Silverado Challenges the F-Series

Although Chevrolet had its share of pickup truck models over the years, it’s the Silverado that’s achieved legendary status. First released in 1999, the Silverado name originally described the trim work of its predecessor, the Chevrolet C/K pickup. The luxurious trim carried over into the new model and Silverado became its name.

Over the years, Chevrolet has introduced new features, and the latest generations of the Silverado have a fresh new look, and impressive luxury features you don’t think of when you hear the word “pickup.”

As American as a Pickup Truck

It could be the narrow roads and high fuel prices, but pickup trucks in Europe aren’t a common sight. In the U.S., pickup trucks are everywhere, representing hard-working people and a do-it-yourself attitude.

The pickup truck’s versatility makes it popular with everyone from workers on the site to suburban moms and dads. And with over 1 million sold the first half of this year alone, America’s love affair with the pickup hasn’t slowed down in the least.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Avoid the Nightmares: How to Find the Best Car Repair Shop

By Alex Perdikis

You’re driving along and all of a sudden you hear it — a clunking noise coming from under the hood. What was it? Maybe it was just a one-time thing. Nope. There it goes again. It isn’t stopping. It’s getting worse. Something’s wrong with your car. Visions of conman mechanics and seedy repair shops suddenly flash through your brain.

What can you do to avoid the nightmare and find a reputable mechanic in a sea of unknowns?  Follow these steps to find the right shop for the job.

Who Do You Know?

The old standby still serves — ask your family and friends for recommendations. Find out who they dealt with and ask about their experience.

Word-of-mouth can be a bit deceiving, however. Recommendations can help you narrow choices down, but it pays to do a bit more research. And there’s always the possibility that family and friends will have nothing but recommendations about who not to go to.

Move the Hunt Online

It’s so much easier to find reputable professionals now than it was in the days before internet searches and reviews. You have a host of resources available to you now.

With so many resources available, it’s hard to know where to start. Follow these steps to get a workable list of nearby repair shops to investigate:

  • Google first: Start with a general search that includes your town, county, region or ZIP code and the words “auto repair” or “car repair.” Now you have a list of possibilities within your area.
  • Read reviews: If Google reviews are available, you’ll see them right away. Read them. Don’t limit yourself to Google reviews, however. Yelp is considered the standard when it comes to reviews. Again, use specific regional search words to find reviews for repair shops closest to you.
  • Explore Angie’s List: This is another great resource for finding reputable repair shops. Angie’s List screens reviews to ensure authenticity, so you’re not likely to find fake reviews.
  • Google a different way: Enter the name of the shop you’re considering with the word “review” after it in Google and see what comes up. You’ll see additional reviews that aren’t on the main sites. It’s a good idea to check them out.
  • Get help from insurance company: If you’re looking for repair and body shops after an accident check with your insurance company. Insurers typically rely on an approved network of direct repair membership programs.

About Those Reviews…

Mistakes happen. Misunderstandings occur. Repair shops are run by people after all. In other words, expect to read a negative review or two. But don’t discount a shop because of one negative review.

What’s more important than a negative review is how the shop owner handled it. Did the owner respond and try to mitigate the problem? You can learn a lot, not by a mistake that was made, but by what the shop owner or manager did to try to fix things.

Check ‘Em Out

By this time, you should have a shortlist of car repair shops to consider. Before you go traipsing off to the nearest location, make sure it meets a couple of additional conditions.

Is the shop certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and/or the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-Car)? It should have one or more industry certifications to be considered.

Also check the Better Business Bureau online listing. You can see what types of complaints were reported and if they’ve been resolved.

Testing, Testing

If you don’t have a major repair to worry about, take the time to give the shop a tryout with a minor repair or routine maintenance. You’ll get a feel for a shop’s efficiency, competency and customer service.

“Also take into account operating hours and location. If a shop is only open when you’re at work, even if it’s nearby, it may not work for you.” — Alex Perdikis

 

The “Before You Leave Your Car” Checklist

You think you’ve found the perfect shop. Use the following checklist before you leave your car for repairs:

  1. Warranty. What kind of guarantee does the shop offer on its work? How long does the warranty last? What is your recourse if something goes wrong? Get it in writing.
  2. Parts. Does the shop only use original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts or aftermarket parts? OEM parts are more expensive, but this should be your call. Expect to pay more if you require OEM replacement parts.
  3. Estimate. Get a detailed estimate before any work is done. Look the estimate over carefully and ask about anything that’s unclear. If the estimate itself or parts of it are not detailed enough for you, ask that any clarifications be done in writing.
  4. Extra Work. Don’t leave your car unless you have a written guarantee that you will be notified and must approve of additional work not on the estimate before the shop can continue.

Stay in contact with the shop during the repair phase. Treat staff with respect and remember, most shop owners and managers are looking to build an ongoing relationship with you and your car. If you’ve done your research and stay on top of it, you can find a shop you can use with confidence.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.