There are many wonderful benefits to having a car: freedom, convenience, fun road trips and so on. On the flip side, being a vehicle owner also comes with a lot of headaches, maintenance being the chief concern. Unfortunately, the gradual wear and tear of vehicle parts is just a fact of life we all have to deal with, no matter how time-consuming and expensive it may be. Even so, the experience doesn’t have to be terrible. There are ways to make the whole process both easier and cheaper. Read on to learn the proven ways to save time and money on car repairs.
Find YOUR Mechanic
What does it mean to find YOUR mechanic? It means finding a local mechanic or repair shop that is trustworthy and respectful of their customers. It means finding someone who deserves your business and rewarding their hard work by remaining loyal to them. Really good mechanics are uncommon so if you find one, stick with them like glue.
Contrary to popular belief, the “good guys” aren’t restricted to only mom and pop shops. You can find reliable mechanics that provide their services at a fair price at dealerships or even a gas station garage. Rather than relying on negative blanket statements or misconceptions, use the following criteria to distinguish the good from the bad:
- If you’re an AAA member, consider going to an AAA Car Care Center or an AAA approved auto repair shop.
- Be wary of mechanics that aren’t ASE Certified.
- Check online review sources such as Yelp.
- Swing by the shop and get a feel for the place before you get work done.
- Search car hobby forums and websites for recommendations.
- Of course, word-of-mouth is still very valuable.
That said, just because you found a good mechanic doesn’t mean you have to stick only with them forever—nor should you. Always keep your options open. Different mechanics may offer better deals on certain types of repairs. Shop around often, get second opinions, and you’ll be sure to save money.
Run Your Own Diagnostics
Thanks to the introduction of OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics) scanners, DIY car diagnostics is now possible. When a light goes up on your dash indicating an issue with your car, there’s usually an OBD code associated with it. OBD-II scanners basically take those codes and translate them into language that even an amateur can understand. Think of them as vehicle health apps that help you discover and identify problems before they become serious issues.
Try Pick and Pull
Buying replacement parts at a conventional auto parts store can get real costly real fast. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, then you can get the replacement parts you need at a fraction of the price they retail for. This is known as the “pick and pull” method.
This is how pick and pull works: 1) find a salvage yard, car wrecker or auto recycler where they allow pick and pull, 2) bring your tools to that place and 3) find the part(s) you need, extract them using your tools, pay for the parts and take them home. This method is way cheaper than buying at a store, plus there’s the convenience of finding all types of vehicles all in one place. The downsides are that selection and quality varies, and the method requires a little bit of mechanical knowledge on your end.
To find a pick and pull spot in your neighborhood, search for “pick and pull parts near me.”
Finally, Don’t Get Fleeced
Do some research online or ask a mechanical friend to find out how much repairs usually cost for the issue(s) your vehicle has. If the estimate a mechanic provides seems suspect, get a second opinion. Before repairs begin, make sure the mechanic specifies both in word and on paper exactly what will be involved in the repairs, how long it will take, what parts will be bought, and how much all of it will cost. And after repairs have been completed, don’t just hand your credit card over. Check the bill for duplicate charges, unnecessary parts, unasked for repairs and so on. The more information you have documented, the better.
At the end of the day, it’s all about self-education. The more you know about how car repairs work and how much they cost, and the more you can rely on yourself, the more comfortable you’ll be about the whole car repair process. Even just a few hours of research will help you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars over the life of your car. So, stay smart and engaged, and don’t be afraid to work with your own hands every once in a while.