Owning a car is one of the most expensive aspects of many Americans’ yearly spending. According to AAA’s 2013 “Your Driving Costs” study on the costs of owning and operating a sedan, the average cost for sedans was $9,122 per year. The same study found that maintenance and repairs for sedan owners went up by 11.26 percent from 2012 to 2013. Insurance and fuel costs are certainly a big part of the total cost of owning a car each year, but car repairs can be extremely costly for car owners, and everyone faces them. Car repairs can be particularly detrimental to a budget when they are unexpected; it can help to budget ahead of time and plan for common repairs. Thankfully, there are many ways you can save money on repairs, even if you don’t see them coming.
1. Fix it yourself
The most obvious way to save money on car repairs is to do them yourself. Although you probably won’t be able to do everything yourself (unless you have specific training), there are many problems you can fix yourself. If you are new to fixing cars, start off slowly. Almost anyone should be able to change their own wiper blades, for instance. According to the staff of Car Talk, you also can probably replace your air filter, change your oil, replace a headlight, change a batter, or even replace belts.
In order to fix many issues yourself, you will probably need some specific tools. Once you have completed a few basic repair tasks, and you have the right tools, you can move on to more advanced repairs. YouTube is a great resource for finding videos that explain how to repair many car issues.
2. Compare prices
Just like when you shop for anything, you should compare prices for multiple different places that can fix your car. Although it will take time, call around to see how much it will cost you to get a certain repair. Once you have an initial idea, you can pick a particular place to get a more solid estimate, and have them write down the price before they actually fix anything. Then, if you want to get a second opinion, you can bring your car somewhere else. Especially if you have a written estimate, you may find that you can convince another mechanic to go down in price if you can show them the estimate, and if you feel more comfortable at a particular place, this can be a great bargaining tool.
Comparing prices will do more than just allow you to bargain though; if you go to just one place and get one estimate, you risk being ripped off by someone who tries to convince you that your car has more problems than it really does.
3. Have a mechanic you trust
If you are lucky enough to have a car repair shop near you that you have had good experience with in the past, try to go the particular garage or mechanic each time you need something fixed that you can’t fix yourself. Not only will you build a rapport with the staff, but you will show that you value their expertise when you become a regular customer. Showing loyalty to the particular people working might even help you to get a good deal later.
If you don’t know of a good mechanic, try asking friends or family for a recommendation. Many people fear getting a large bill for repairs that they don’t actually need, and having a trustworthy mechanic will help you avoid that problem. Make sure that the place you choose is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
4. Skip maintenance that you don’t actually need
This step is tricky because if you are under warranty, you may need to complete regular maintenance at specific place in order to keep your warranty valid. However, you should look into the specific requirements of your warranty to be sure what is actually required.
While regular preventative maintenance on your car will actually save you money, not all maintenance needs to be done as often as some service centers will tell you. According to Bankrate, you should follow the manufacturer’s advice about when to change the oil in your car; it usually doesn’t need to be changed every 3,000 miles. Spark plugs also don’t need to be changed very often (usually for at least 100,000 miles)
5. Purchase necessary parts yourself
Purchasing the parts necessary to repair your car is one of the easiest ways you can save money on your overall repair bill. Even if you can’t fix the problem yourself, searching for a good deal on a car part will save you a lot of money, especially on repairs that require expensive parts. Often the cost of parts can be marked up significantly when going through a mechanic or garage. Most mechanics or repair shops will allow you to purchase your own parts, but you can ask if you are worried about it. Stores like Advance Auto Parts sell parts you can buy yourself, but you can also look online.
Although you will have to do some work yourself to really save money on car repairs, you will probably find it’s worth the research and labor. There are many things you can repair yourself, and even if you can’t, you can still save money by shopping around.