We list many top-notch Washington area auto repair shops on our Ratings Tables. Many of the listed businesses were rated “superior” for the overall quality of their work by 90 percent or more of their surveyed customers. Unfortunately, many car repair customers get steered in the wrong direction: Dozens of other shops were rated “superior” for the overall quality of their work by fewer than 60 percent of their surveyed customers.

Our undercover shoppers also turned up dramatic shop-to-shop price differences. For example, to replace the water pump for a 2016 Ford Focus SE, we found prices ranging from $330 to $873 among area shops. Hourly labor rates range from less than $100 to $250 or more. The price comparison scores reported on our Ratings Tables show which shops on average had the lowest prices for several repairs in our survey.

Good work doesn’t need to cost more. In fact, we found low-priced shops were more likely to receive high ratings from their surveyed customers than high-priced ones. And don't assume that new-car dealerships offer better quality work than independent shops. Our surveys of area consumers consistently find that, on average, independent shops outperform dealerships on repair quality—and charge lower prices for it.

Whatever shop you choose, use some care in dealing with it. Give the shop a detailed description of your car’s problems. If possible, speak with the technician who will work on your car. Insist the shop provide an estimate before doing any repairs. Pay by credit card—you can dispute the charges if things go wrong. If the car is still not right when you get it back, immediately inform the shop in writing.

Own an EV or thinking of buying one? Click here for special considerations and info on repairs.