There are plenty of referral sites for car buyers. Now there is a Web site that steers consumers to auto repair shops.
GreatMechanics.com, launched in August, is designed to provide consumers with a trustworthy referral service. Though it makes money by charging referral fees to the shops promoted on the site, GreatMechanics.com lets consumers rate and recommend shops online.
'If all you had to do to be listed (on the site) was to have a checkbook, this would be no more valuable than the Yellow Pages,' said Jim Christopherson, CEO of Great Mechanics Inc., the Denver company that created and administers the site.
Before a repair shop is listed on the site, Great Mechanics requires that:
Sixty percent of the technicians must have at least one Automotive Service Excellence certification
The shop cannot have outstanding consumer complaints with the local Better Business Bureau
The owner and manager must go through a criminal background check to make sure there are no current warrants or felonies related to the business
The shop must have a business license and liability insurance.
Moreover, a repair shop that wants to be listed on the site has to provide the site with 25 work orders no more than two weeks old. Great Mechanics sends a nine-question survey to each customer. Customers rate the shop using grades A, B, C, D or F. At least five customers must respond to the survey, and the shop must earn at least a B average to be eligible for a listing.
The start-up cost for repair shops, including a page within the GreatMechanics.com site, is $299. A shop pays a monthly fee of $2 for each visitor to its page on the site.
Automotive Service Association members get a 25 percent discount on monthly fees because of an alliance the association has with GreatMechanics.
The site is concentrating on independent shops for now, but it could be opened to dealerships later, Christopherson said.
The site's traffic and shop participation are limited because service is so new and has not been promoted heavily. GreatMechanics.com has 50 shops online, mostly near Denver, but it is close to deals with garages in 14 states. The goal is to be in all states by the end of March.