Need a good mechanic? Here are 44 of the best auto-repair shops in the Chicago area.
by Robert Krughoff
"They didn’t fix it!” That’s the simple reason Northbrook resident Kathy Johnson gave for ditching a north sub-urban auto shop that flubbed a recent repair to her 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee. For Johnson, the last straw was paying for a shop-recommended replacement of a tie rod, then finding that her steering problem—the reason she had sought help in the first place—had gone unrepaired.
The most common source of frustration with auto shops is an unsuccessful repair, reports Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit magazine that collected 15,000 ratings from area automobile owners over a five-year period from 2000 to 2005. But those surveyed also reported plenty of other kinds of problems: “tried to sell services that weren’t necessary using scare tactics”; “incredibly over-priced”; “treated me rudely and like I am an idiot”; “misdiagnosed the problem”; “low-balled quote and raised costs several times after work started”; “doesn’t seem to care.”
In the six other major metro areas where Checkbook rates auto repair shops, complaints were similar. Surveyors found, however, that Chicago-area drivers experienced an additional jab when it came to getting their vehicles fixed: the price of repairs. Shops in the Chicago metro area reported prices 2 to 11 percent higher than those reported in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Seattle, Boston, and San Francisco. Only prices in the Washington, D.C., area were higher, by nearly 5 percent.
Although the list of complaints runs long, many Chicago-area auto repair shops boast a customer base that is loyal to the point of adoration. The list on page 111 includes 44 of the shops that rated highest for overall quality of service among the 538 shops evaluated. All 44 received positive ratings from at least 92 percent of their surveyed customers. And, in the past three years, none had a single complaint on file with the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois—in stark contrast with the area shops rated lowest by surveyed customers, some of which also had 20 or more complaints on file at the BBB.
Another factor for making the list: all the shops listed on page 111 reported prices that averaged substantially below the all-shop average of $100, with a few beating the all-shop average by $20 or more. In fact, shop-to-shop price differences are striking. For example, to replace the water pump, timing belt, and balance shaft belt on a 1997 Honda Accord LX, shops’ prices ranged from $325 (Golf Mill Auto Center, in Niles) to $912 (Fletcher Jones Imports, in Chicago).
Which raises a final, resounding point: in the auto repair business, there is no relationship between quality and price. That’s good news, since choosing the right shop can mean top-quality work at below-average prices.
The 44 auto repair shops that appear in the list were selected for both high customer-satisfaction ratings and comparatively low prices. They are taken from the 538 shops rated by Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit, advertising-free magazine published by the Center for the Study of Services. The Center’s purpose is to provide information to consumers that helps them find ser-vices of high quality and value. Visit them at www.checkbook.org.
In analyzing Chicago-area repair shops, Checkbook asked area consumers to rate several aspects of their experiences as “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior.” Close to 15,000 surveys were compiled. Each of the 538 shops listed by Checkbook was rated by at least ten customers. The percentage of customers who rated the overall performance of a shop as “adequate” or “superior” is given in our list.
Checkbook also considered complaints on file at the Better Business Bureau and the Illinois Attorney General’s office. None of the shops in our list have any complaints on file with either office.
To compare prices, Checkbook researchers, without revealing their affiliation with Checkbook, contacted repair shops and requested price estimates for specific repairs. Prices were then compared among shops. Our list shows how each shop’s estimate compared to the average, which here is scaled to $100. For example, a shop with a price of $90 on the table quoted estimates 10 percent lower than the average quoted price.
McCormick Auto Care is one of the TOP 44 Auto Repair Facilities in the Chicago area. Here is how they were rated:
name and location
|% of customers rating shop adequate or superior for
|What you would expect to pay for repairs that would cost
$100 at the average shop
|McCormick Auto Care||96||$91|