According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average car repair bill is between $500-$600. If you'd like to try to lower the cost of these expenses, there are several methods to consider.
Here are four ways to save on car repairs:
1. Search for a reputable repair shop
When it comes to finding a reputable repair shop, most consumers want the same things: honesty, reliability and fair pricing. Although these traits are somewhat different, they can each impact how much a customer pays for vehicle repairs.
If low prices are the only important variable in your search, you may also want to gauge your comfort level with the staff. As the consumer, you have the right to take your business wherever you feel appreciated. If the staff treats their customers with respect, it could indicate their emphasis on customer satisfaction and the importance they place on repeat customers.
Here are some tips to find a reputable repair shop:
- Ask people you trust - Talk to family, friends and coworkers and see if they have any personal endorsements. It can be helpful to start your list of potential repair shops based off the recommendations of people you trust.
- Research reviews on the internet - The reviews of perfect strangers can be useful as well. One rule of thumb is to disregard reviews that seem biased (whether good or bad) and build your opinion off the general consensus of the group.
- Ask if the shop and staff are certified - If you want an idea of the shop's professionalism and training, ask what certifications they have. Examples of national certifications and associations include the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the Independent Auto Body Association (IABA) and the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS).
2. Shop around for estimates
Although this tip can be applied to any item or service for sale, it can be especially important when dealing with car repairs. Even if you've found a reputable garage or mechanic, it doesn't hurt to ask for a second, third or fourth opinion from other trustworthy competitors. The more shops you contact, the more chances you have to find the lowest price for repairs.
Whether you share the estimates with each shop is up to you. On one hand, you could give the shops a chance to match or beat the price of their competitors. On the other hand, you're giving them all a base price that could be higher than what they planned to offer you. In the end, do what's most comfortable for you.
Some additional tips include:
- Get estimates in writing - Before you leave the shop, have a mechanic write down or print out an official estimate for you. Also, make sure the paperwork is signed by a manager.
- Ask about warranties - In addition to price, warranties may also be a deciding factor in which repair shop you choose. Ask whether they offer a warranty on parts, labor or both.
- Research repair estimates online - If you prefer gathering quotes over the internet, there are several websites that can help you. For example, RepairPal and YourMechanic offer free estimates based on your ZIP code, vehicle info and repair requests. Some websites may also provide lists of recommended shops in your area.
3. Educate yourself on vehicle repairs
Knowledge is power. When it comes to vehicle repairs, the power of understanding how your vehicle works can potentially save you money.
For example, if you tell a repair shop that your steering wheel vibrates when you drive, the power is in their hands. With no clear direction, they can now diagnose the issue and create an estimate on their terms. However, if you tell them that your alignment feels off, they'll know where to start looking for problems. Most important, you'll send a message that you understand the situation and what services may be required.
Here are some ways to inform yourself:
- Read your vehicle's owner's manual - If you want detailed information on your exact make and model, read the owner's manual. This booklet may not offer guidance or advice regarding repair work, but it can help you get familiar with the inner workings of your vehicle.
- Search the internet for your specific issue - No matter what issue you're having, there might be online articles and videos that can offer insight. Some amateur and professional mechanics also document their work and share the content for people to reference.
- Visit free auto education websites - If you want to learn everything about how cars work, websites such as How a Car Works and AutoEducation are excellent resources. Best of all, the information is free.
4. Buy your own parts
Depending on what type of repairs you need, parts can be expensive. A new brake rotor may only cost you $40, but one engine mount can cost you over $200.1 If you buy the parts you need elsewhere for less than what the shop is quoting, you could keep more money in your pocket.
However, it's important to note that not all repair shops allow customers to supply their own parts. Before you start to shop around, ask the mechanic what their policy is for customers supplying their own parts. If the answer is yes, compare prices of online warehouses and local auto part suppliers before making a purchase.
Some other considerations when buying your own parts include:
- Be 100% certain it is the correct part - The mechanic cannot perform the repair if you provide the wrong part. To be certain, ask the mechanic for the part number before you start shopping and verify that you purchased the correct part before your service appointment.
- Review warranty information - Some repair shops may not offer a warranty on parts that you provide. If this is the case, make sure the parts you buy come with a warranty from the manufacturer.
- Check shipping costs for online orders - When buying parts online, remember to look at the shipping costs when comparing prices with local stores. If the shipping costs are high, buying parts from a local store might be the less-expensive option.
The nuts and bolts
Repairs are inevitable for most vehicle owners. After all, your car depends on hundreds of parts to run smoothly and keep you safe. The good news is, if you find a reliable repair shop and educate yourself on how vehicles work, you could feel more confident in the process and save money over the life of your car.
1. YourMechanic. "How much does Engine or Transmission Mount Replacement cost?" YourMechanic.com. https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/engine-mount-replacement (accessed September 6, 2017).