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Your car is one of your biggest assets. Aside from a car payment and insurance, you can expect to spend some amount of money each year in routine maintenance and occasional repairs. If you want to know how to save money on car repairs, it’s important to plan ahead. Some repairs you can do yourself, but you can still save money even when you need to take your car to an auto body shop. Here’s what you should know about reducing your car repair expenses, no matter your skill level.
You Can Save Money on Auto Repairs If You…
No one wants to pay more than they need to for auto repairs. Want to know how to save money on car repairs? Try these easy strategies to prevent unnecessary repairs and lower the cost of your mechanic’s bill.
1. Stay On Top of Maintenance
Parts will eventually wear out, no matter how well you take care of your car, but proper maintenance is the best way to prevent premature wear and tear and the expensive car repairs that come with it. Check your manual and know what your car needs and when. At a minimum, be prepared for the following.
- Replace your air filter. This keeps dirt out of the engine. Replace every 30,000 miles. You can change the air filter yourself very easily.
- Change the oil. Depending on your car, you will need to change the oil every 3,000 to 10,000 miles. You can also do this yourself as a novice.
- Fluid levels. Routinely check your fluid levels to make sure they are where they should be. When needed, the brake and transmission fluid should be flushed and replaced.
- Replace the serpentine and timing belts. This is usually needed around 40,000 miles for the serpentine belt and 60,000 miles for the timing belt.
2. Buy Your Own Parts
When you take your car in for repairs, there are two costs: labor and parts. Mechanics charge a premium on the parts, but you can buy them yourself at a sizable discount. Some repair shops will install parts purchased by a customer, which may save you $100 or more.
If you decide to do this, you should always call around first. Make sure the mechanic is willing to install the parts you buy; not all will. Some body shops require that you buy parts from an approved supplier if you want a warranty on the work.
3. Research Car Repair Costs
When you want to know how to save money on car repairs, knowledge is power. It will be hard to know if you’re paying a fair price if you don’t have any idea of what the repairs should cost. Once you know what’s wrong with your car, do a bit of research.
You can use websites like RepairPal and AutoMD to investigate how much repairs should cost, in general, based on where you live and your car’s make and model. You can even get a breakdown of the cost in terms of labor and parts. With some repairs, buying your own parts won’t save much at all as they are labor-intensive.
4. Get Multiple Estimates
Don’t feel compelled to accept the first estimate you receive when something goes wrong with your car. It’s a good idea to do your homework and research at least three auto shops in your area. Get an estimate from each shop that includes labor and parts.
You may need to take the car in for an inspection, but this can be done over the phone if you know exactly what’s wrong. Prices for even basic repairs can vary by hundreds of dollars so it makes sense to shop around.
5. Avoid Duplicate Charges for Labor
It’s not uncommon for a mechanic to remove several parts just to get to the part that needs to be replaced. If your car is getting older, it may be a good idea to have several repairs performed at the same time.
This can save you from duplicate labor charges later as these components must already be removed anyway. As an example, if your belt drive needs to be replaced, you can save money on repairs by replacing the water pump and radiator hoses at the same time.
6. Do Your Own Diagnostics
You can buy a code reader for very little money to do your own basic diagnostics on your car. This is how to save money on car repairs by reducing labor costs, and potentially fixing simple issues yourself.
When your car acts up or you see a light on your dashboard, there is likely an OSB code associated with the problem. A code reader translates the error code to help you figure out what’s wrong. From there, you may perform the work yourself, order the parts you need at a lower price and have a mechanic fix it, or shop around for estimates.
7. Stop Hard Braking
If you’re an aggressive driver, you can be hurting more than just your gas mileage. Easing into stops instead of slamming on the brakes can extend the life of your brakes to up to 30,000 miles instead of just 10,000. Over the life of your car, this can save you anywhere from $600 to $1,000.
There are other ways to extend the life of your brakes:
- Only use your right foot on the brake pedal. If you simultaneously press both pedals by resting a foot on each, it wear down the brakes quite fast.
- Don’t speed. Want to know how to save money on car repairs by avoiding unnecessary brake pad and rotor replacement? Stopping at a high speed is the fastest way to kill your brakes. Even stopping at 65 mph instead of 55 mph reduces the brakes by one-third more energy.
- Change your brake fluid. Your brake fluid should be changed occasionally to make the internal components last longer. Your brakes will also work better.
8. Change Your Oil When Needed
While a mechanic will probably tell you to change the oil every 3,000 miles, the truth is most new cars only use synthetic oils and can go until 10,000 miles without needing an oil change. Check your manual to find out when you should get an oil change.
You can expect to pay $40 to $70 for a professional oil change (depending on whether you get synthetic), but doing it yourself can cost just $15. It isn’t difficult at all to change your own oil.
If you want to know how to save money on car repairs, doing anything you can yourself is a good place to start. When a mechanic is needed, get several estimates and buy your own discounted parts if possible. Do you have any suggestions to share on saving on auto repairs? Please let us know!
Bonus read: How to Re-shop for the Best Car Insurance