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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

How to find a good mechanic

Women are generally quoted higher prices than men at the shop

By Clark Howard

Women are generally quoted higher on car repairs than men, according to a new study out of Northwestern University.

It seems old habits die hard. There may have been a time in the past when men generally knew more about the workings of automobiles. But the technology in cars today has been an equalizer between the sexes; nobody really understands what's going on beneath the hood, unless that is your field of training!

In general, the best time to find a mechanic is before you have a car problem. Get to know a repair shop and develop a relationship over time by having them do routine maintenance like oil changes. That way when the chips are down, you know where to take your vehicle.

If you're at a loss in picking a shop, consult websites with user-generated reviews like Yelp and Kudzu for guidance. Or if you're an AAA member, use one of their recommended shops. For foreign nameplates, I suggest you go to single-brand independent shops that are not affiliated with a dealer.

You always want to talk with the mechanic doing work on your car. I am not a fan of the traditional dealer service model where you only talk to the service ticket writer, not the mechanic actually doing the work.

When dealing with a service writer, be sure they note the symptoms you're seeing in your vehicle, not the remedy. Too often they'll just write "do a tuneup" when you're saying the car is intermittently losing punch while driving. The problem then becomes that you sign your name to authorize "do a tuneup" while the true nature of the problem remains undiagnosed.

And, of course, if you get an estimate that's very high, go elsewhere for another quote. And if you're a woman getting a quote over the phone, have a male friend call up and see what story they get.