Mobile technicians have been around since the 1920s. Back then, a mechanic would set up shop on a street corner or vacant lot and put up a sign. Today, mobile technicians put an ad on Craigslist or join an online referral service like Amazon, Otobots.com or YourMechanic.com. Other low-tech mechanics set up in the parking lot of the local auto parts store.
I am not against all mobile mechanics; I know some that do good work or offer specialized diagnostic services. What I do have a problem with are poorly trained and unethical mobile mechanics — which is the majority of them out there.
LACK OF REGULATION
Almost anyone can start a mobile mechanic business. Most of them do not register their business and do not carry insurance of any kind. If they run into trouble, they just change their phone number, ad on Craigslist and create a new Facebook profile. Some states have regulations in place to regulate mobile mechanics. These laws vary significantly depending on the city and state. But, the regulators lack the human resources to enforce the rules in the field.
It gets even worse when you start to look at some of the internet startups looking to change auto repair into the next Uber. They want to sign up mobile mechanics to be part of their network. These companies try to put a professional face on an unregulated industry. The standards to become a member mechanic for these companies are very low.
For example, these are the requirements to become a member of Otobots’ team:
• Mechanics must have their own basic work tools;
• They must have a minimum five years of work experience;
• Mechanics should hold a valid driver’s license;
• Mechanics need to own a working vehicle;
• They should have a clean background;
• They must have good references; and
• They need to offer professional services in a friendly manner.
Sites like Otobots don’t specify what a “basic set of tools” is, nor if that includes requiring them to own a scan tool? Also, the five years of work experience does not define what type of work experience. It is even more comical that they say the mechanic “should own a working vehicle.” Would they approve a mobile mechanic that rode a bus or pushed a shopping cart?
DRIVERS ARE NAIVE
Most drivers are very naïve when it comes to maintaining their vehicles. Some believe that shops are in the business of ripping them off.
When they see a shop with a nice waiting room, professional staff and clean bays, they assume they are about to get screwed. If they pull up to a shop that is dirty, unprofessional and run down, some think that they are getting a deal.
They assume that a rundown shop is an honest shop. They think a dirty shop means a technician has signed a vow of poverty and would never try to swindle them. Most professionals in the industry know that this is not true. Mobile mechanics take the building out of the equation. Some consumers probably think when they see a mechanic pull a floor jack out of a trunk, they are getting the deal of the century. This is what mobile mechanics are counting on.
But the reality is that most consumers are getting a discount because they are dealing with a discount technician. They are getting a “knock-off” technician who is not a real technician working at a real shop.