For most women, taking your car to an auto repair shop likely ranks with going to the dentist, especially single women. As with going to the dentist, it isn’t a question of if, but rather when you will need a mechanic. Teeth and cars need maintenance. In reality, there is no need to fear the independent auto repair technician any more than there is to fear an independent financial planner or contractor.

Planning is of the essence. Don’t wait until your car breaks down to find a technician. Start now and ask friends for a referral. Make sure the technician is a licensed professional. To be licensed in Canada requires more than 6,000 hours of training, a written exam and schooling. Make sure to verify the technicians’ credentials.

When you go to the shop, make sure the owner knows you are there to interview them to begin a long term relationship. While it sounds sexist, if possible, bring a male to the interview. Look in the restroom and around the shop. If there are graphic pictures on the wall or on a lot of the technicians’ toolboxes, you will likely want to find another service provider. If possible, find a shop that is owned and operated by a woman. More and more women are becoming technicians and own automotive businesses. Support them if they do a good job for you.

Always get a written estimate. Never sign a blank estimate or repair order. Make sure that you are available to the shop for updates. It is common that the search for one problem will turn up others. Have the revised estimate faxed or e-mailed to you. Get back to the shop in a timely manner.

There are two accepted practices for repair work billing: time and materials or flat rate. Each has its advantages. The flat rate will guarantee a “not-to-be-exceeded” price. However, many flat rate jobs can be completed in less time than flat rate book allows, especially with a highly skilled technician. So, a time and materials shop can save you money. But, that sword cuts both directions.

If parts are being replaced, make sure they give you the old ones. That keeps everyone honest.

Remember, you are paying for more than parts and labor. There is a lot of education, training and expertise. The shop with proper credentials, up-to-date equipment and a professional team of technicians may cost a little more, but they will give you great peace of mind.

Here is an article written from the point-of-view of a woman when visiting an auto shop. Hopefully yours will be better: Women Hate Auto Repair Shops