The only thing worse than damaging your car is paying exorbitant prices to fix it. But you don’t have to be an expert on cars to find ways to save on repairs. In fact, with just a little research, you can end up saving yourself tons of money down the road. Keep reading to learn how to avoid overpaying on a car repair.
Start with the Owner’s Guide
Before needing to take your car into a mechanic, flip through the owner’s manual. No, you don’t have to read the entire book, but take a look at the “Scheduled Maintenance Guide” section. That will give you a good sense of when and how often to take your car in for repair, which can save you money in the long-run with preventative checkups so you’re not left paying huge sums when small problems become big problems.
Sticking to the maintenance guide will also ensure that you don’t get your car serviced too frequently, which can also put a strain on your budget.
Finally, when a warning light goes off, look in the book and see if it’s a major issue or something you can tackle yourself. Being able to change a headlight (the instructions are in there) or add air to your tires can avoid the standard consultation fee.
Know the Standard Rate of Repair
If you’re not used to getting your car serviced, a dishonest repairman could swindle you or you’ll end up paying way more than you need to at the dealership. Don’t let that happen. Instead, prepare by looking at the relative rates for specific repairs in your area.
You can do this by visiting RepairPal or AutoMD (links below). Both resources can tell you the standard costs in your region, so you can call-out overpricing when you see it. And know the hourly rate charged by your mechanic because they vary significantly. Dealerships are often more expensive than quality independent shops.
Follow the 3 R’s of Good Mechanics: Ratings, Reviews, Referrals
This is one of the most essential pieces of homework that will lead to big savings. Sites like Angie’s List or YourMechanic.com can suggest a business, and while the reviews are legitimate you’ll be getting quotes from mechanics who have paid to either be listed on the service or show up higher in search results.
Yelp, Google, or the Better Business Bureau are all good places to start your search. These days, it’s pretty likely that a customer who had a bad experience will go online to write about it. At the same time, many auto shops encourage happy customers to publish their thoughts as well. Either way, online review forums will help you find the garage with the best reputation.
It’s also smart to ask your friends for referrals. You likely have at least one person in your circle who knows of an affordable, trustworthy mechanic.
Seek a Model Specialist
Not everyone lives near a model-specific auto shop. But, if you do, it’s your best chance to get excellent service that will last. Additionally, if your car needs particular parts, you’re more likely to find them from a model specialist than a general repair shop. Specific parts, especially on foreign cars, can be expensive to order. But a model specialist will likely already have them at their disposal, saving you money and time.
Do It Yourself!
No, you don’t have to learn how to replace a battery or take apart an engine. But small repairs, like replacing wiper blades or an air filter, are actually quite simple with a little training.
The best place to start is at your local auto parts shop. Employees there can look up which part your car needs and might even help you make the replacement. After all, if they help you make a successful repair, they can count on you to return in the future. There are also plenty of YouTube tutorials for every kind of car that can help. All of these options will save you the cost of labor you would otherwise pay a mechanic.
Alternatively, you can find discount parts online. Websites like PartsGeek, Autobarn, and eBay are all dependable resources for less expensive auto parts. Cross-compare with your local shop to get the best price.
Remember, the best way to love to your car and your budget is to stay on top of repairs. If you wait too long to get something fixed, you’ll only end up spending more money.