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Dogs playing in the snow (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

It’s the Five and Five, where nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook provides five top-rated local businesses and five tips for getting great service and prices. ARLnow readers can access all of Checkbook’s ratings of local veterinarians until Jan. 15 at Checkbook.org/ARLnow/vets.

The following veterinary practices are best bets for Arlingtonians, according to the Washington Consumers’ Checkbook.

These five received a top rating for quality (as reported by their customers in Checkbook’s surveys).

Arlington Animal Hospital
2301 Columbia Pike #G-1
Arlington, VA 22204
703-920-5300

Caring Hands Animal Hospital
2955 S Glebe Rd #C
Arlington, VA 22206
703-535-3100

Elpaw Veterinary Clinic
33 S Pickett St
Alexandria, VA 22304
703-751-3707

Northside Veterinary Clinic
4003 Langston Blvd
Arlington, VA 22207
703-525-7115

NOVA Cat Clinic
3838 Cathedral Ln
Arlington, VA 22203
703-525-1955

Checkbook’s Top Five Tips for Getting Great Vet Care for Less Scratch

  • Size up veterinary practices. While you can’t assess all aspects of a veterinarian’s skills and expertise, you can judge many factors central to good medical care: Can you arrange to quickly get an appointment? Does the vet listen and communicate well? Spend enough time with you?
  • Look for a vet who will provide thorough advice and comprehensive materials to help you avoid future office visits. For the health of your pet—and your wallet—the vet should offer advice on disease prevention, ways to spot health problems on your own, and taking care of sick pets.
  • Shop for price. Checkbook’s undercover shoppers collected prices from local vets for six different procedures and found big price differences. To spay a seven-month-old, 25-pound dog, area practices charge fees ranging from $235 to $1,404.
  • Don’t put much weight in American Animal Hospital Association accreditation. Veterinary hospitals can become accredited by the AAHA by meeting certain minimum standards. Interestingly, among the veterinary practices evaluated by Checkbook, AAHA accreditation seems to have little relationship to service quality.
  • Think twice before buying pet insurance. Checkbook recently analyzed pet insurance policies and found that in most cases, even the best plans ended up costing more in premiums than they paid out over a pet’s lifetime.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. We are supported by consumers and take no money from the service providers we evaluate.

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A woman looks at X-rays of her teeth in a dentist’s office (via Caroline LM/Unsplash)

It’s the ARLnow Five and Five, where nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook provides five top-rated local businesses and five tips for getting great service and prices. ARLnow readers can access all of Checkbook’s ratings of local dentists until Dec. 5 at Checkbook.org/ARLnow/dentists.

These dental practices are best bets for Arlingtonians.

They all received Washington Consumers’ Checkbook’s top rating for quality and price, meaning they deliver great service (as reported by their customers in Checkbook’s surveys) and charge reasonable fees, per undercover price shopping conducted by Checkbook’s research team.

Gruntz, Richard D.
1600 Crystal Square Arcade #L
Arlington, VA 22202
703-412-1122

Lobo, Mignonette
2946 Sleepy Hollow Rd #2-G
Falls Church, VA 22044
703-536-4900

McIntire, Michael K.
1515 Wilson Blvd #103
Arlington, VA 22209
703-524-0221

Ozturk, Serdar Cavit
2522 Langston Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
703-243-1166

Roca, Adam J.
3138 10th Street N. #301
Arlington, VA 22201
703-522-2600

Checkbook’s Top Five Tips for Getting Great Dental Care

  • Keep in mind that you don’t have to forsake quality to use a dentist who charges low fees. Checkbook found many dentists who receive high ratings for patient care also charge below-average fees.
  • Be sure your dentist fully describes the condition of your mouth and any corrections needed. It’s good practice for the dentist to provide a written treatment plan (though there may be a fee). If the proposed treatment is extensive, consider getting a second opinion from a specialist.
  • If a dentist recommends a treatment, always ask for alternatives. The dentist should be willing to describe the pros and cons of all of them, so you can make your decision based on cost, discomfort, and inconvenience.
  • Be aware that because various treatments require more or less of the dentist’s time — and therefore higher or lower charges — the advice may be colored by self-interest. Be suspicious if a new dentist recommends far more treatment than your previous one did.
  • Check your health plan for dental benefits, especially for dependents younger than 19; the Affordable Care Act mandates pediatric dental coverage on individual and small-group medical plans. Some Medicare Advantage plans include dental coverage, and many “consumer-driven” and “high-deductible” health plans let you set aside funds for dental work.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. We are supported by consumers and take no money from the service providers we evaluate.

Photo via Caroline LM/Unsplash

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An old-timey car repair shop (AI generated image via Midjourney)

It’s the ARLnow Five and Five, where nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook provides five top-rated local businesses and five tips for getting great service and prices. ARLnow readers can access all of Checkbook’s ratings of local auto repair shops until Oct. 15 at Checkbook.org/ARLnow/auto-repair.

The following auto repair shops are best bets for Arlingtonians.

They all received Washington Consumers’ Checkbook’s top rating for quality (as reported by their customers in Checkbook’s surveys), and charge less than most other shops, per undercover price shopping conducted by Checkbook’s research team.

Baird Automotive
3427 Washington Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
703-527-1770

Chesterbrook Excel
6268 Old Dominion Dr
McLean, VA 22101
703-356-5259

D & V Auto Service Center
5201 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22205
703-525-0440

Herb’s Auto Repair
802 S Washington St
Falls Church, VA 22046
703-532-3455

Liberty Gas & Ahmed’s George Mason Auto Service
4211 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA 22204
703-892-0510

Checkbook’s Top Five Tips for Auto Repair Success

  • Don’t assume that you have to pay more to get good work. In fact, Checkbook found low-priced shops were more likely to receive high ratings from their surveyed customers than high-priced ones.
  • For out-of-warranty repairs and regular service, choose an independent shop. Checkbook’s surveys of area consumers consistently find that, on average, independent shops outperform dealerships on repair quality — and charge lower prices for it.
  • If you know what repairs you need, compare prices by calling several shops for quotes. If you don’t know what’s wrong with your car, call one or more shops and describe the symptoms. Shops might be able to tell you over the phone what’s likely to be wrong and give you a price.
  • Give the shop a detailed description of your car’s problems, and 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.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. We are supported by consumers and take no money from the service providers we evaluate.

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Well-known plumber Mario in an ambiguous pose (Photo by Cláudio Luiz Castro on Unsplash)

It’s the ARLnow Five and Five, where nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook provides five top-rated local businesses and five tips for getting great service and prices. ARLnow readers can access all of Checkbook’s ratings of local plumbers until Oct. 15 at Checkbook.org/ARLnow/plumbers.

The following plumbing companies are best bets for Arlingtonians.

They all received Washington Consumers’ Checkbook’s top rating for quality and price, meaning they deliver great service (as reported by their customers in Checkbook’s surveys) and charge less than most other shops, per undercover price shopping conducted by Checkbook’s research team.

  • Star Plumbing (703-569-1800)
  • Denver’s Plumbing (703-533-2287)
  • Dawson’s Plumbing (703-354-9358)
  • Duvall’s Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning (703-368-8746)
  • Dick Chandler’s Plumbing Service (703-370-9433)

Checkbook’s Top Five Tips for Plumbing Success

  • After you have identified reliable companies, call several and request price quotes for your job. Prices vary dramatically for the same work, especially large remodeling jobs.
  • For remodeling jobs, get a contract that include a fixed price for all work; exactly what you want done, including makes and model numbers of all fixtures, whether the contractor will secure required permits and inspections; start date and estimated completion date; warranty information; an arbitration clause; and payment schedule.
  • Clear the area. You don’t want to pay a plumber $150 an hour to clean out junk from underneath your sink.
  • Stick around but stay out of the way. Remember that the plumber is on the clock until he or she writes up the ticket.
  • If possible, make all payments by credit card. If you are dissatisfied, you can dispute the charge.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. We are supported by consumers and take no money from the service providers we evaluate.

Photo by Cláudio Luiz Castro on Unsplash

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