Your car breaks down and you need to take it into the mechanic. Your wallet starts to worry. As you probably know, automobile mechanics and technicians are infamous for gouging unknowing drivers. Fret not though; turns out there are many ways to save money on repairs. We turned to Tom Cirignano, a former auto mechanic and shop owner in South Boston, Mass., plus auto insurance expert Frankie Kuo to compile the following money-saving tips.
Three Ways to Save Money Yourself
1. Do Simple Fixes Yourself
Changing out a cabin air filter, for example, can be done easily and cheaply without returning to the dealership. You can buy one at AutoZone or another major retailer instead of being charged for more for the part and the labor installing it. Even if you have no experience with cars, the Internet is full of helpful tutoritals from Youtube or Wikihow on how you can do simple fixes like this one.
2. Personalize Your Treatment
Unlike a mechanic, you can personalize your maintenance to your specific driving habits. One example is Transmission fluid. You don’t need to be replaced as often if you don’t commute in your car. Cirigano says, “Leaving your car at the dealership, saying, ‘Do all the scheduled maintenance,’ is like giving them a blank check, most people just can’t afford to do that.”
Consider Cirignano’s anecdote from an autoshop in Massachusetts. They were going to charge him $90 to change his oil. Instead of paying them though, he spent $35 on a high-quality synthetic oil and STP oil filter and changed it himself. “Still pretty expensive, but much better,” he said. “It took me 15 minutes to save $55.”
3. Make Your Car Smarter
If you’re willing to make a $100 investment, look into CarMD, a device that connects to your car and can diagnose many typical auto problems. Just remember to keep all of your receipts for purchases and to record the date and mileage of every service. Your car’s warranty won’t prevent you from working on your own car, but it will require documentation that you performed the work at all.
Three Tips at the Shop
1. Ask questions
It is your car you are dealing with here. It could be the difference between getting and not getting to work, make sure you ask your mechanic the important questions.
It’s their job to know what your car needs to run well, and it’s likely that it takes them less time to tell the truth than it does to come up with a lie. This should particularly be the case if you’re make and model is a unique one in need of a specialist — a mechanic or technician at a shop who works exclusively on (or is an expert in) your vehicle type.
2. Be skeptical
Always take mechanic’s diagnosis with a grain of salt. Ask more questions. Then do your own research. Even get a second opinion. You could go so far as to take a quote from one auto shop to another and see if they can beat it. Whatever you do, “don’t tell a mechanic to go ahead and do what they’re suggesting,” Cirignano said. “Say, ‘OK, thank you, I’ll call back and make it an appointment.’”
3. Control your cost
If your car does require at-the-shop service, remember that your collision and/or comprehensive auto insurance coverage can be your best friend, Kuo advised. By choosing the right auto insurance deductibles, you essentially cap your out-of-pocket repair cost before insurance coverage takes care of the rest. The lower the deductible you choose, the less you need to pay on your own.
Just be aware though a lower deductible means a higher premium. You’ll have to compare how comfortable you are with greater monthly payments over a higher one-off payment. For example, in a study on affordable car insurance in New York, sample motorists saw rates of $1,593 a year with a deductible of $500. If the benchmark drivers switched to a $100 deductible (saving $400 each per visit to the shop), they would be adding either $478 onto their annual premiums. Nevertheless, drivers should understand what collision and comprehensive coverage each covers before hiring a mechanic.