7 Quick and Easy Ways to Save Money on Car Repairs

how to save money on car repairs

Most of us operate a vehicle on a daily basis, driving from home to work and back again, along with running errands.  We usually don’t take much time to think about the maintenance that is involved.  As long as the vehicle starts and has fuel, then we’re good, right? We only seem to take note when something starts to sound funny, or our vehicle shows us the warning icons.  When this happens, it is usually too late and we will be in need of car repairs.

No matter how you slice it, car repairs are usually never really in our budget.  It’s probably because we have no idea how much car repairs will cost. The big issue with car repairs is that the average cost of repair is different depending on what state you live in.  You might think California and the other big states are at the top, but it’s actually Rhode Island, according to data collected by Audatex.

No matter where you live, you can expect to pay some money on necessary car repairs. Preventative maintenance is very important, but it can still be pricey. Here are some quick and easy tips to make sure you get the most out of your money. The key here it to remember to be strong when talking with auto shops and use the power of the internet to your advantage!

Do NOT Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles

We have all heard over and over again that we must change our oil every 3,000 miles.  While this might have been true back in the 70’s, this is not true today.  With the newer standards in car manufacturing, engines are built to withstand the pressures of use along with the better oil products out there.  You should always consult your vehicle manual, but most vehicles can go to 5,000 or 7,500 miles, as is the case of my Hyundai Sonata.  Most oil change places will place the sticker on your car for 3,000 miles, but they do this in order to keep you coming in.  When you stop changing your oil every 3,000 miles, then you save money.

If you have an older car, then make sure you check often to see how much oil your vehicle is using.  As cars get older, they tend to “burn” more oil than usual.  This can cause your oil to get low more often and you will need to change it more often, along with a new filter.  Older engines will cause oil to lose its viscosity faster, so you have to be vigilant.

Do NOT Pay for High-Mileage Oil

This is another tip based on changing your vehicles oil.  This is the most common expense that people incur, and they can be expensive depending on where you get your oil changed.  Many oil change shops will tell you that you NEED high-mileage oil in your car if you have over 100,000 miles on your odometer.  This is simply not true.  High-mileage oil is not really superior to conventional oil, but it costs a lot more.  It might only be a good idea if you’re leaking or burning oil. In oil change shops around my area, you can get a regular oil change for about $39.99, but if you get high-mileage oil, it will cost you $54.99.  This is just an unnecessary expense that will not benefit you.  If a shop says that they are required to put in high-mileage oil into your vehicle, tell them you want conventional, or just walk out.  This is just a profit driven recommendation.

Shop Around for Prices

This tip can be applied to anything you purchase, but it is rarely exercised when dealing with car repairs.  If you have the ability to take your vehicle to different shops, then do it.  It won’t hurt anything, and it is always a good practice to shop around.  Most cities and towns have a few car repair shops.  Some are better than others, but if you are looking to save money, you need to shop around.  There are many local shops that will price match their competitors, along with others that will beat their prices.  If you don’t shop around, then you are potentially losing money.

If you have to tow your vehicle to the shop, it will be harder to shop around.  The one thing you can do is get the quote from the current shop, and then call others asking about the same service.  There are instances where the other shops will give you a competitive quote along with picking up your vehicle from the completing shop.  When competition is involved, only the consumer wins.

Use Local Shops Instead of National Chains

 

Everyone probably has a shop that they frequent, usually because it is convenient for them or because they like the mechanic.  Most people tend to use national chains, like Jiffy Lube, Meineke, Midas, Discount Tire, and Pep Boys, when it comes to the small mechanical jobs and services.  While these places might be ok, they tend to not provide the level of service that many local shops will provide.  I am a big advocate for local mechanic shops because I believe in small business and entrepreneurship.  Local shops tend to provide a better service, get the job done right the first time, and are competitive on price.  Along with these factors, most local shops will continue to take care of you in the future.  They begin to know your vehicle, and can provide preventative care before large issues occur.

One of the best reasons to use a local shop is because you will be supporting a local business.  Your money is cycled back into your community and you are creating jobs.  You also have better control over how your money is spent.  Local Shops listen to their customers better than any national chain, so you will only spend on services that your vehicle need.

Educate Yourself Before You Take Your Car To The Shop

This tip is the most important one that will save you money every time you go to any mechanic.  When you take a little bit of time to educate yourself about how your car works and what might be causing your issue, then you have the power.  Mechanics love people that come in and have no idea to what is going on and cannot describe their problem.  When this occurs, they can charge you a higher price in order to “diagnose” the problem.  You can end up getting charged upwards of $100 per hour in order to have your problem diagnosed.  This price does not even include the work that will need to be done and the time it will take to do it.

We all know that knowledge is power, but many don’t want to learn about the vehicles or don’t realize that they can save a lot of money by understanding their issue.  If you walk into a mechanic shop and tell them your issue, they will have a hard time up-selling you on other services that you don’t need.  If you are going in a shop to just get your oil changed, don’t let anyone sell you on flushing all of your fluids.  This will cost you more money and won’t help.

Buy Your Own Parts

This is a tip that will not work at all shops, but if you can do it, you will save a lot of money.  Mechanic shops can sometimes charge you very high prices for parts that you can buy at your local parts store, such as Auto Zone, Advance Auto Parts, or O’reilly.  I can buy a set of brake pads for my Jeep for only $30 per rotor, but if I take it to a brake shop, I will usually see prices of around $50 per rotor.  You can save $80 instantly if your car has all disc brakes.  You will usually find cheaper prices at the auto parts suppliers.

I’ve even seen many manufacturers starting to sell their products on Amazon and why not? You get instant access to their millions of customers with ease. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get your parts quickly with free shipping. They even have a parts finder section. If you want to use Amazon and want to save even more money, check out these tips.

You should ask the shop you plan on taking your vehicle to if they allow you to bring your own parts.  Most will say yes, but say that they will not provide a warranty on those parts.  It doesn’t matter about the warranty, because the parts manufacturer has one.  The mechanic should still provide a warranty on the service, so make sure they do that.  Don’t be afraid to go to another shop if they won’t allow you to bring your own parts. Local shops are more likely to install your parts for you.

Decline Add-On Services Offered

Add-on services are the bread and butter for auto mechanics.  They use the lack of automotive knowledge to up-sell unnecessary services.  This up-sell process is particularly noticeable at most national chains.  Every team member are salespeople, required to sell additional services that most consumers do not necessarily need.  One of the most oversold services is the full vehicle fluid flush.  This is an expensive service that is usually unnecessary.  Most cars do not need a complete fluid flush.

If you come in as an educated consumer as indicated above, then you can easily decline these services with confidence.  The mechanic will continue to try pushing these high profit margin services, but you don’t have to give in.  Always have a mechanic provide the services that you asked for.  If they understand that you know what you want, they will pull back on their up-sells.  You can save a lot of money by sticking to your guns.

The RoundUp

The above list are simple tips that will allow anyone to save money on car repairs without taking dangerous shortcuts.  I am not an advocate of ignoring major car issues, but I do understand that anyone can save money if they take the time to educate themselves.  Instead of car repairs making your cringe, ensure that you will get to keep your hard-earned money in your pockets.  There is nothing we can do to fully prevent unexpected car repairs, at least we can save money when they do come up.

If you have some good tips on how people can save money on car repairs, share them with us below.  We always love to hear how creative people get when trying to save money!

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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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4 comments
Rachel @ The Latte Budget says July 25

Great ideas. Luckily, I know a good bit about cars so I can stand up for myself without being taken advantage of. Educating yourself is key to saving big bucks! A lot of maintenance can easily be done at home.

Reply
Annette S. Gallant says July 26

Thank you very much for these car maintenance tips. I’m trying to be a little more handy when it comes to my car, so your advice was very helpful. I’ll be sure to remember your instructions on changing oil.

Reply
John Willcockson says July 27

Your last paragraph mentions “there is nothing we can do to fully prevent unexpected car repairs” …but you can avoid a LOT of them. 1) Get out the owner’s manual, find the schedule of recommended maintenance, and follow it. 2) Drive more like grandpa than Speed Racer: go easy on the gas pedal when the light turns green, stick to the speed limit or lower, and let off the gas earlier when approaching a stop or turn. 3) Keep that Driver’s Ed scan going, use your mirrors and signal those lane changes: a fender bender is typically much more expensive than any routine maintenance visit. When it comes to routine maintenance I try to know all the recommended items before I get to the shop. I don’t do much of my own maintenance, but on my car it’s so easy to change the engine air filter and the cabin air filter than I have my 11-year old daughter do those tasks with parts we buy at O’Reilly or AutoZone. Added bonus: my pre-teen daughter already knows how to check the tire pressure, check fluid levels, check the battery level, and replace filters and fuses.

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    Grayson Bell says July 27

    You added some good information, but as I noted, there is nothing we can do to “fully” prevent unexpected car repairs. Even with regular maintenance and driving cautiously, there are times when you still have unexpected car repairs.

    Reply
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