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6 Smart Ways to Save on Car Repairs

Save on Car Repairs | Save Thousands on Your Car | Cut Cost on Car Repairs | Cut Down Car Expenses | Car Maintainance Saving Tips

Few expenses are more annoying to pay than car repairs, especially when something goes wrong that we could have possibly avoided.  But sudden car trouble–and the costs associated with it–can be far more devastating than just an annoyance.  Most of us can’t go long without reliable transportation, which means that no matter how high the repair bill, we often have no choice but to pay.

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This is definitely one reason it is important to maintain an emergency fund, but even so, there are a few smart things we can all do to help keep those car repair expenses to a minimum:

Save on Car Repairs | Save Thousands on Your Car | Cut Cost on Car Repairs | Cut Down Car Expenses | Car Maintainance Saving Tips

1.  Choose a Reliable Vehicle

Perhaps this seems obvious, but I had to learn the hard way that sometimes our emotions override our good sense.  Several years ago, against my husband’s better judgment, we bought the pretty minivan I really, really, really wanted.  I was swayed by the heated leather seats, wood-grain accents, and dual screen entertainment system and cared nothing about boring details like reliability and consumer reviews and my older, wiser husband’s own personal experience with that particular brand.  It was pretty!  And had a purse holder!  What more did I need?

Well let me tell you, it was the first lemon of a vehicle I have ever owned, and I learned just how frustrating (and expensive) car repairs can really be.  In the year and a half that we owned it, that vehicle was in the shop no fewer than ten separate times, which was hugely inconvenient.  At the end of our rope, we finally traded it in for a much more reliable sedan, only to total that car in a bad accident six months later.

For the past year have relied on our trusty 2002 Tahoe to get us from point A to point B.  It may not be the newest or shiniest vehicle in the parent pickup line, but 150,000 miles later, including 4 cross-country road trips, it is still going strong.

If you are in the market for a different vehicle, it definitely pays to do your research and get one with a great track record.  Check out Consumer Reports for reviews of a particular make and model, then also be sure to ask for the service record of the vehicle you are considering.

Save on Car Repairs | Save Thousands on Your Car | Cut Cost on Car Repairs | Cut Down Car Expenses | Car Maintainance Saving Tips

2.  Find a Mechanic You Trust

I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but not all mechanics have your best interest at heart.  There are even a few who might charge you for services you don’t actually need.  That said, there are also plenty of decent, hardworking, and honest mechanics out there too.  The trick is finding a good one, then establishing a genuine and long-term relationship.  Even if your car is under warranty, don’t assume that you need to take your car to the dealer where prices are often significantly higher.  As long as your maintenance is performed on time with quality parts, your warranty is still covered under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

To find a great mechanic, ask friends and family referrals or try RepairPal.com, then check out online reviews on sites such as Yelp.com, YellowPages.com, or Google.com.

3.  Learn How to Do It Yourself

While it might seem a little daunting at first, there are actually quite a few basic car repair and maintenance tasks that are simple enough for even a novice to take them on.  At the very least you should know how to change your windshield wiper blades, replace your fuses, replace your air filter, replace your battery, and replace your headlights or brake lights.

Furthermore, you might also want to consider buying your own diagnostic reader.  For around $20 you can find out exactly what is wrong when the check engine light comes on, possibly saving you a trip to the shop.  Most auto parts stores keep common parts in stock and are happy to order any other parts you need.  Plus, if you’re not sure how to fix something, you can check out free how-to videos at AutoZone or Advanced Auto Parts, or search for tutorials on YouTube.

Save on Car Repairs | Save Thousands on Your Car | Cut Cost on Car Repairs | Cut Down Car Expenses | Car Maintainance Saving Tips

4.  Find used parts

Taking advantage of salvaged parts can save you hundreds or even thousands in car repairs, especially if you are able to do the work yourself.  Use a nationwide directory at Car-Part.com or LKQCorp.com to search salvage yards for the make and model of your car and the part you need.  You can also limit your search to salvage yards within driving distance, though most will ship the parts.  All parts are graded according to the shape they are in.  Once you’ve located the part you can have it shipped or go directly to the salvage yard to pick it up.  My husband has used this option several times, once for a side view mirror, once for a bumper cover, and once for a new trunk lid.  It is also a great way to get new taillights and headlights, which can be very expensive to replace if broken or cracked.

You may also be able to find parts on Craigslist or eBay.  Last year my husband and I were considering purchasing a larger vehicle with a 3rd row seat.  Instead, we found a used 3rd row seat that would fit our Tahoe for sale locally through Craigslist.  We then ordered some used brackets on eBay, and then watched a YouTube video to learn how to install it.  In the end, the $400 or so dollars we spent on the seat and brackets was way cheaper than buying a new car, or even than having a 3rd row seat installed by the dealer.

Save on Car Repairs | Save Thousands on Your Car | Cut Cost on Car Repairs | Cut Down Car Expenses | Car Maintainance Saving Tips

5.  Do Preventative Maintenance

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is never truer than with proper car maintenance.  I recently had the opportunity to ask an Allstate auto maintenance analyst a few questions regarding this topic, and he happily shared with me a few of the best preventative maintenance items you can do to keep your car running well:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated. Apply the manufactured suggested air pressure found on the inside panel of the driver side door or in the owner’s manual. Improperly inflated tires effect gas mileage, wear & tear on the tire, and also wear and tear on the suspension.
  • Replace brake pads at the manufacturer suggested interval. The longer you go without replacing the brake pads once they require replacement, damage to additional brake system components will occur. The longer the wait, the more expensive a brake repair becomes.
  • Keep your wheels properly aligned. The alignment of your vehicle should be checked routinely. If your vehicle is out of alignment, you will feel a “pull” on the car, either to the left or right. When a vehicle requires an alignment, tires will begin to wear unevenly. Too much operation of a vehicle with poor alignment will cause premature tire wear.
  • Check your owner’s manual for the proper gasoline. There are usually 3 options of gasoline to choose from when filling up your vehicle. Putting in more expensive gasoline can be a waste of money if the owner’s manual doesn’t specifically state your engine requires it.
  • Have glass chips repaired immediately. Auto glass companies will repair the chip, which is usually fairly inexpensive. Additionally, check your auto insurance policy – many policies will pay for the repair with no deductible or out of pocket expenses to the auto owner. An untreated chip in a windshield can lead to a larger crack from the fluctuations in temperatures. Bumpy roads will also cause the windshield to crack from that chip. Waiting too long to repair the chip will be cause for a much more expensive windshield replacement.
  • Check your fluid levels periodically. Low fluid levels can increase the stress to the part or systems the fluid is servicing. Low fluid levels can also tip you off to a potential fluid leak you may be unaware of. By catching fluid leaks early, you can avoid part or system failures and ultimately costly repairs.

Save on Car Repairs | Save Thousands on Your Car | Cut Cost on Car Repairs | Cut Down Car Expenses | Car Maintainance Saving Tips

6.  Do Your Research

When faced with a substantial car repair bill, it never hurts to get a second opinion.  First, make sure you understand every single line item of the work that is being proposed.  If you don’t, look it up!  There may have been extra tasks added in that aren’t absolutely necessary.  Look up free online diagnostics using sites such as AutoMD.com to make sure you are being charged properly, and also be sure to research whether there are any current warrantees or recalls for your vehicle on the work that needs to be done.  According to Allstate’s analyst, it also pays to research the warranty programs that were available when your vehicle was new. For example, some automobile manufacturers have increased their power train warranty from the traditional 3-year, 36,000 mile to 6-year, 72,000-mile warranty and some include a lifetime powertrain warranty. If a repair is under warranty, you will not have any out of pocket costs.

Save on Car Repairs | Save Thousands on Your Car | Cut Cost on Car Repairs | Cut Down Car Expenses | Car Maintainance Saving Tips

This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.

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27 Comments

  1. April 4 at 09:13AM

    I totally agree on having a go yourself, if in doubt start with youtube.

  2. April 4 at 12:02PM

    We are blessed to have a mechanic that always looks for used parts. He reduced our last major repair bill by $1000.

    • Ruth Soukup
      April 5 at 09:51AM

      That’s awesome Rene!

  3. Darlene
    April 4 at 02:14PM

    These are great tips. I agree with #1–we had one car that gave us nothing but trouble and then got a used Yukon that has never given us a moment’s worry! My husband will be excited about the 3rd row seat idea!

  4. Meg
    April 4 at 09:36PM

    We own an auto shop, and this is great advise, with one small exception. Spare yourself the misery and don’t buy electronic parts used, and for expensive parts, always make sure that they come with a warranty. Remember that if you bring an engine to your trusty mechanic, and he spends 12 hours pulling your old one and putting in the one you brought and it doesn’t work, you’re out 12 hours labor! Also if your vehicle is well known for having “x” go wrong with it, skip that particular used part (example, certain year chevy trucks are well known for the dash console going out, trying to find a used one that doesn’t have that same issue is near impossible!). 🙂

    • Ruth Soukup
      April 5 at 09:48AM

      We have always used the salvage yard for non-electronic parts (with great success) but those are some really great points! Thanks Meg!

  5. Kat
    April 4 at 11:50PM

    We have paid extra for tyres that last longer – so it cost us twice as much as the cheap ones, but last for around 70,000km instead of 10,000km. Plus, because we did all four at once, our tyre guy rotates them for free every 5,000km, which means they wear evenly and don’t need replacing sooner.

  6. kristen
    April 5 at 10:39AM

    Awesome post! I need to learn how to fix minor car repairs on my own!

  7. April 21 at 11:48PM

    Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
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  8. October 10 at 07:47AM

    Remarkable! Its in fact remarkable post, I have
    got much clear idea on the topic of from this article.

  9. Harvey Ward
    December 19 at 06:45AM

    I agree with all the points listed above.But still sometimes we land up in situation where repairs are inevitable and we will not be able get the repairs done because of high costs or lack of time.Under these circumstances,in order to save money I recommend Auto extended warranty as an alternative option.Third party brands like Warrantech provide wide range of plans at reasonable costs.Look more info on https://twitter.com/Warrantech_Corp.
    Extended Warranty will only save money and time but with it you will also buy peace of mind.Company itself will get the repairs done without you trying to find a mechanic. Ain’t it wonderful option?

  10. Caroline
    January 15 at 07:35AM

    While I agree about finding a good mechanic, newer cars are becoming increasingly difficult to diy. My minivan engine is basically a computer. I would be very hesitant to touch anything for fear of messing something up. My husband’s auxiliary port was broken in his car (still under warranty) and they had to replace the entire radio.

  11. February 17 at 08:51PM

    I like your advice to learn how to do repair yourself. It seems like there would be at least a few easy maintenance items that you could learn to do yourself. I didn’t know that you could help to reduce your repair costs just by doing a few simple tasks such as keeping your tires inflated and your wheels aligned.

  12. March 9 at 05:01PM

    Thanks for the information. I’m always looking to save money, so I think it’s a great idea to learn how to make repairs yourself, like you suggested. I was involved in a small car accident a few weeks ago and I’ve been needing to fix my car. I suppose I’ll try doing it myself. Well, I’ll be needing to find an auto parts store to get the supplies I’ll need.

  13. May 18 at 01:02PM

    You’ve given some very helpful tips on avoiding pricey car repairs. Unfortunately, I need to find a mechanic to repair my transmission. I wish I knew how to repair my car, but I don’t have the time nor ability. I wonder how much they’re going to charge me.

    Alex Jennings |

  14. October 7 at 04:19PM

    This is great information and I agree that automotive repairs are an area where many people can save a significant amount of money. Car service is often way overpriced and you can do some of the major repairs on your own with a few simple videos and tools. Most of car repairs are labor when you go to the mechanic.

  15. December 4 at 07:11AM

    These are all great ways to save. Since auto repairs are a regular expense for any of us who own a car, it’s important to think about these kind of things BEFORE our cars need maintenance. I especially agree with #4 in making sure you’re dealing with reputable mechanics. For someone who doesn’t know a lot about cars, I could be easily taken advantage of. Looking at reviews and recommendations is an important factor!

  16. June 8 at 03:53PM

    I agree that you should find a mechanic you can trust. I’m sure most of them are trustworthy, but it only takes a few bad ones to ruin it for everyone. I think doing your research and asking around is the best way to find who you’re looking for.

  17. July 26 at 04:30AM

    May I share your article? It’s not only helpful for me, but also for my family members. My younger brother spent 50k for his Chevrolet in a small accident last year. He even doesn’t know how to change the windshield wipers or clean his car.

  18. October 6 at 04:55PM

    I should say that it’s an awesome article and have the exact info that anyone who has confronted any accident or something. I am someone who went wrong on one of your point ‘get a good mechanic’. The last time I met with an accident on my bmw g310r, the mechanic literally looted me. Blame myself as I don’t have that much knowledge on the prices of car’s mechanical parts even though I own a good one. A good write up, Ruth.

  19. February 13 at 06:38PM

    I really enjoyed that your very first piece of advice was to choose a reliable vehicle. You made a good point about how sometimes our emotions override our good sense and maybe push us into buying less reliable options. I would imagine that it would save you money in the long run to spend a little more money initially on a vehicle you know will last.

  20. April 3 at 02:49PM

    Thanks for the suggestions on how to save on car repairs! One thing that I always forget to think about is whether or not my current car is worthy of a repair. Is it more cost efficient for me to repair my car or invest in a whole new one? My wife got into an accident this last week and it made me think about this question. Thanks for all the great help!

  21. May 23 at 05:28AM

    Using something other than the manufacturers recommended grade of motor oil will lower your gas mileage by about 1.5%-2% because of increased friction in the engine.

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