The Best Auto Repair Shops in Orange County, CA
Nobody likes having to go to the mechanic, but finding a shop you can trust takes some of the sting out of the process. Since moving to Orange County, California four years ago, I've had a total of three separate used cars. I admit I buy "junkers," but that's part of the fun - I like learning about auto repair and for me the experience of finding out what went wrong, and why, is part of the experience.
Needless to say, I think that makes me pretty qualified to judge the best auto repair shops in the area. I've been to several, and talked to many more, and the list below constitutes what I consider the best of the best. I based my decisions on the following four factors:
1) Prices (of course)
2) Communication. This one is key! I'm female and (relatively) young, so finding a mechanic who doesn't talk down to me, or try to rip me off, is pretty difficult. I also look for mechanics who clearly tell you what they're doing and why, and who get your understanding and authorization before performing work.
3) Availability. Are appointments easy to book when you need them? Bonus points for the shops that let you book appointments online (I can't be the only phone-phobic person around!)
4) Quality of work. Did the car run afterwards? Was the repair done correctly, completely, and on time?
Bake Auto Care, Lake Forest CA
In business for 25 years, this strip-mall storefront location packs a customer service punch. The owner, Lazarus, is straightforward and efficient while still managing to be approachable and friendly.
When my beloved Volvo sedan started sputtering and stalling at stoplights, I brought it to these guys, and Lazarus found the problem. Actually, he found one big problem, and one smaller, semi-related problem. Before fixing the second one, he came out of the garage area and explained it all to me in detail, then got my approval for the second unexpected job before going ahead with the work. The extra cost was less than $20, but, like any good mechanic, these guys won't spend your money for you.
Also a fantastic place to go for your smog check. They know their stuff and their pricing is fantastic.
Just Tires, Tustin CA
Just Tires is a chain of shops, and just like any other corporate-owned franchise, there are good locations and less-good ones. The location on Edinger Avenue in Tustin is a hidden gem.You show up for a cheap oil change and you leave in the blink of an eye with your tires inflated, your fluids checked, your attention brought to any potential issues (WITHOUT the pressure of upselling), and your wallet barely dented. That's my kind of mechanic.
Oh, and you can book your appointment online!
Scott's Automotive Repair, Lake Forest CA
Known for a reoccuring coupon in the Penny Saver for a $12.95 oil change, Scott's isn't just bargain-priced. It's also a really great repair shop. Quick, efficient, friendly service with stellar results. This place is family-owned and operated, and it reminds me of going to the mechanic in my childhood hometown (which numbered less than 15,000 people). They know you, remember you, and treat you decently. Imagine that.
OC Auto Care, Lake Forest CA
Side note: what is it about Lake Forest and great mechanics?
OC Auto Care is dependable and honest. This is the kind of place where you go in worried that the clunking noise in your car is going to cost your first-born child, and you leave instead having paid $10 for a cheap wire replacement. In other words, they actually look for the problem. They don't just replace the biggest, simplest, most expensive thing to get you out the door. That's no exaggeration- I have personally heard of that exact scenario happening to two separate people who swear by this place.
Super Smog, Irvine CA
Not exactly a full auto repair shop, but a smog service place. Super Smog has glowing Yelp reviews, and for good reason. Affordable smog servicing that seems to take an average of 10 minutes per appointment, and you're out the door. This place also gets points for being easy to locate and drive into and out of, which is a bigger deal than you might think in the labyrinth-like strip malls of Irvine.
Harbor Auto Service Center, Costa Mesa CA
Another shop with great Yelp reviews and a large and loyal fan base. Harbor Auto Service Center is in the heart of Costa Mesa and is also the home of Car Bros., a weekly Sunday radio call-in show for vehicle repair advice and conversation.
This place is great for their accessibility; they open at 7 am weekdays, and are open basically all day Saturday, too.
South Coast Auto Clinic, Costa Mesa CA
These guys do a great job with appointments. Somehow, they're always able to get you in when you need something done, and they're friendly and professional about it, too. What's more, once you're there, your appointment actually starts on time and is over in a reasonable period. I'm not sure how they do it. They're like the clown car of appointment schedulers, just cramming an impossible amount of things into a tiny space!
The Auto Clinic, Irvine CA
The Auto Clinic's services are limited to Japanese and German cars, but if you have one of those, man, you'll find your niche here. Professional, informative, and competitively priced. What more could you ask for, other than, well, not having had to go to the mechanic in the first place?
Top-End Motorwerks, Costa Mesa CA
This is another repair shop limited to imported cars. Then again, this is Orange County, so that's not much of a limitation at all in terms of customer base... imports are pretty common.
If you drive one, come here. Top-End does a good job living up to their name with specialized services and devotion to your car. They're known for their huge, clean, comfortable waiting area, too (not that you'll be likely to have to wait too long).
Honest-1 Auto Care, Costa Mesa CA
With a name like Honest-1, you might be a bit suspicious. But there's no tongue-in-cheek meaning intended here. This shop is family-owned and operated, has a great waiting room with free refreshments, offers fantastic warranties on their work, and is the only chain in the United States certified by the Ecological Society of America, meaning they put effort into environmentally-friendly, green processes and materials. How very OC... and impressive.
While the list above isn't in any particular order, I will say that the two first shops listed (Bake Auto Care and Just Tires) are the ones I personally go to again and again. The others are ones with whom I've had great experiences, or heard great things about from trusted friends. Next time you need a mechanic, do your research, check out the internet, and give a few places from this list a call to see what you think. Chances are you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that mechanics who treat you poorly aren't actually as common as you might think.