Ultimately, you may have to hire someone to straighten things out. Our ratings of local shops will help you find help.

We asked area consumers to rate shops they had used as “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior” on several different aspects of service: “doing work properly on the first try,” “starting and completing work promptly,” “letting you know cost early,” “advice on service options and costs,” and “overall quality.” For companies that received at least 10 ratings, our Ratings Tables show the percent of each company’s surveyed customers who rated it “superior” (as opposed to “inferior” or “adequate”) on each survey question. Our Ratings Tables also report the percent of surveyed customers who rated each company “adequate” or “superior” (as opposed to “inferior”) for “overall quality.”

We primarily surveyed Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers, but we also invited other randomly selected consumers to participate. Click here for further discussion of our customer survey and other research methods.

Some of the shops listed on our Ratings Tables received very high ratings, but there are several others you’ll want to avoid. In fact, of the many types of services we evaluate, computer repair shops yield some of the highest percentages of strongly dissatisfied customers.

Most of the listings on our Ratings Tables are for individual shop or store locations. For Apple Store, Best Buy/Geek Squad, and Dell, we also report the combined ratings submitted by consumers in the seven metro areas where we publish Checkbook.

To help you find a shop that both performs high-quality work and charges reasonable prices, our undercover shoppers contacted the companies listed on our Ratings Table for price quotes on six computer equipment upgrade and repair jobs. The price comparison scores reported on our Ratings Tables indicate how the prices quoted to our shoppers compared to the prices all other shops quoted for the same jobs. Price comparison scores are adjusted to a base of $100. This means a shop with a price comparison score of $110 quoted prices that averaged 10 percent higher than the average of all quotes for the same jobs.

There were substantial shop-to-shop differences in price comparison scores—the scores range from $70 to $137. The figure below indicates that the prices on specific jobs varied even more than the price comparison scores. For instance, we found prices ranging from $115 to $375 to replace the battery in a MacBook Pro laptop.

 

If you know exactly what work you need the shop to perform, call several for price quotes. You’ll have to push some businesses pretty hard to get a firm price, and some will simply refuse to quote prices over the phone. But at least a few will provide quotes, with the understanding that the price might rise if the work that needs to be done is different from what you’ve described.

If you don’t know what’s needed, you’ll have to take in your equipment for a diagnosis and estimate. Our Ratings Tables show shops’ charges for written estimates. Almost all shops apply the estimate fee to the cost of the repair if they do the work. Estimate charges at the surveyed shops ranged from $0 to $75 or more. It’s better to avoid high estimate fees. If a shop that charges a high estimate fee also offers a high estimate, it will be costly to take it elsewhere.