What everyone needs is a good mechanic. This is definitely one of the most difficult things to find when you move into a new town. Because there are a lot of bad mechanics out there. The worst are the good guys who've learned they can rip people off. I've had people swear up and down convincingly that a necessary job is expensive, then driven down the street to have it done at 1/3 the price.
Today I went to Dupont Tire & Auto in Warren, RI to patch a flat tire. $8 and 30 minutes later I was done. There is no way they made any money off me today. But I keep going back. They are an RI inspection station (surprisingly rare). Great prices on tires. Got a new muffler and catalytic converter recently. One hour from diagnosis (failed inspection, fairly blatant). Parts prices equivalent to sources available to me, plus one hour of labor. $330. If your time has any value, you cannot compete with that price. I'm considering getting my AC fixed (broken for two years) in my oldest car -- just because it won't be a $1000 job with them.
One of the owners has opened a performance shop next door (another usually sketchy business). I would go trust them in a heartbeat.
Note: Just counted up the 50 postings I did last year, 11 of which were in January. Welcome 2006!!