Owning a car is expensive enough. With a basic sedan costing an average of $9,122, plus gas and insurance, it’s no wonder that unnecessary auto repair is consistently ranked one of the highest causes of consumer complaint annually in the United States. While exact estimates of the amount of money lost vary, the number is generally agreed to be in the tens of billions, with some estimates ranging as high as $40 billion. Even worse, 27% of Americans report being dissatisfied with repair services they’ve gotten, with most of the dissatisfaction stemming from high costs. So how can car owners cut back on spending on repairs?
First, realize that most of your repairs (which cost Americans an average of $750 in 2013) come from the same few parts of your car. Your engine, for one, is the most important part of your car and therefore must be fixed more often. Your tires and your brakes also have short lifespans and need regular changing. Tire pressure monitoring systems in new cars are subject to bugs and malfunctions that require repairs, and your car’s suspension and timing belts also need regular replacement.
These types of repairs may be common, but they’re not the most expensive. A blown motor can cost from $1,000-$4,000 to fix, and a transmission replacement can cost between $1,800 and $3,500. Even a small head gasket costs $1,200 to $1,600 to replace.
To minimize your spending on car repairs, you can do a few things. Avoid verbal estimates and make sure that you’re not getting charged for repairs that are covered by your warranty or advertised as free. Visit mechanics that your friends and family have recommended, and check with your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints. Ask for details on the various parts and repairs and if your repairs are guaranteed, and get a written invoice that details exactly what repairs were done and what parts were replaced, including itemized costs. Finally, pay only after the agreed-upon repairs have been completed.
Remember, though- most mechanics are hard-working, trustworthy people. If you find a mechanic that you have a wonderful experience with, make sure to pass his name on to friends and family so that reputable mechanics get more business.