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How to find an honest car dealership and repair shop

Three Signs of Who's Trustworthy and Who's Not

October 27, 2020



We’ve all been there. You remember the day you dove headfirst into buying your first classic ride. The one that still makes your heart race thinking about it. You stopped at the local auto parts store and purchased the most refined car wash soap and wax to lather and polish your baby. Squarely parking your treasure in the driveway, you dragged out the hose and bucket, proudly getting to work.

Within a few minutes, bubbles cascaded to the cement below. Everything was dreamy— until. Yes, you know where this is headed. You unearthed a rust bubble impeded. No big deal. Or was it?

You probably thought, there’s a body shop on the corner, you know the one—packed parking lot all the time—they must be good. You planned on rolling in there to get a quote. So you finished circling off the last bit of dried wax, grabbed your keys, pushed the gas peddle to the floor a couple of times, and twisted the ignition cylinder forward a notch. Nothing—your heart skips a beat. You quickly calmed your nerves and reminded yourself that you did buy an old car. As a savvy purchaser, you expected minor repairs and maintenance to occur.  No biggie, you jumped the battery and stopped by the mechanical shop on the way.

Thinking back, you remember struggling to get both the mechanical shop and body shop managers to show interest in caring for your baby. They treated you like poison ivy. The managers were itching to get away from addressing your requests. After several of the same experiences with other production-focused shops, you realized you needed to find a network of repairers who had a passion for classic cars. You thought, where and how do I find such a rare breed? When I do find them, how do I know I can trust them? You hoped for a miracle.

Well, I’m Marty with Auto Appraisal Network – Detroit, and I can help you get in touch with trustworthy car guys who care. Today, making such a claim sounds like I have a coral of unicorns. After thirty years in the automotive repair business, I can confidently advise you what to look for in choosing allies to care for your car correctly.

1.       Transparency – If your vehicle is due for minor to extensive restoration or mechanical work, the first thing you likely want to know is when, how much, and how long. Any shop that provides you with an exact answer to any one of those questions is not honest. If you’ve been around classic cars long enough, you know every project grows and grows and grows some more. An authentic merchant will tell you right away—I can’t answer that, but what I will do is keep you up to date and explain everything as we come across it.

Old parts become brittle, hard to procure, and require fabrication in extreme cases. Unless your mechanic is a psychic, you better relax, open your checkbook, and enjoy the ride even then the unforeseen arises.   

2.       Enthusiasm – A telltale sign if someone is trying to scam you is their level of interest—too much or too little are both red flags. Here’s an example: you’re buying a car from a dealer and decided to do the right thing and have a certified appraiser inspect it first. The appraiser arrives at the dealer and requests the vehicle be put on a hoist to verify engine and transmission numbers. The sales manager is quick to refuse the request with a litany of reasons why the dealer can’t do that—Our liability insurance doesn’t allow us to; our hoist is for staging vehicles only. You know that salesman—quick with answers, slow with results. A respectable dealer will do backflips to fulfill your requests.

3.       Word of mouth -  Last but most definitely not least, referrals are by far the best tool in your toolbox in getting the job done right. Before Google and Yelp, people talked to one another about good and bad service. Neighbors would meet for coffee on their driveways and yap about their cars. They still do this in the form of car clubs. True enthusiasts regularly meet and greet to show off their prized chariots. You can find a variety of local car clubs on Facebook. These guys and gals will quickly refer you to the pros and deter you from the cons.


 Auto Appraisal Network – Detroit dealer referral of the week is:

Michael’s Auto Sales in Mount Clemens, MI

I had the chance to complete a finance appraisal (including a prepurchase condition report) for a client purchasing a newer model Mercedes from General Manager – Matt Zelond at Michael’s Auto Sales. Heading up North Gratiot in Mount Clemens, I almost drove past this hidden gem, and the parking lot was difficult to traverse. I was promptly greeted by Matt and escorted inside to the showroom. Wow! The difficulties of getting there immediately disappeared. My eyes popped wide open at the sight of his impressive collection of rare classic automobiles.  

Matt was enthusiastic about assisting me and one hundred percent transparent about every little detail about the car. He offered every maintenance record, lower the convertible, popped the hood, and even offered to put it up on the hoist. It didn’t take me longer than three minutes after buckling my seat belt, to spread the word to a car buddy about this dealer and Matt.

If you’re in the market for a rare, quality car, I strongly recommend you contact Matt Zelond at:


Contact me for a complete list of qualified and quality referrals




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How to find an honest car dealership and repair shop