Personal Finance

5 steps to save money on auto repair

As a new survey finds auto repair costs varying widely, a consumer group shows five ways to keep those costs down.

5 steps to save money on auto repair
Shutterstock
SMS

Driving is a major expense. From insurance to gas and repairs, AAA estimates owning a car costs around $12,000 a year.

Worse, auto repair is getting more and more expensive, up almost 20% in the past year, according to the consumer price index.

At Samaritan Car Care Clinic, the repair techs are feeling the impact of inflation. The nonprofit repair facility helps low-income families get auto repair at a deep discount.

But even here, "The costs just continue to go up," shop director Bruce Kintner said. He says a good independent shop can save you big bucks no matter where you live.

"This is nothing against dealerships," Kintner said. "The reason why you are able to be in a nice tile-floored lobby and have coffee is they have to charge for it."

AAA says 1 in 3 drivers have to go into debt to pay for unexpected repairs. That’s why it’s so important to be strategic.

Auto expenses we often pay for that often we don't need
Auto expenses we often pay for that often we don't need

Auto expenses we often pay for that often we don't need

Many of us pay hundreds of dollars a year for extras on our cars, SUVs and trucks, that in many cases, we really don't need.

LEARN MORE

Kevin Brasler, the executive editor at Consumers’ Checkbook, says, "Some shops charge more than double what others do."

His undercover shoppers, checking over a dozen repair shops, reported massive price differences for the same repairs. Unfortunately, it's often difficult to know whether you're being overcharged.

5 steps to saving money on auto repair

So, what can you do? Brasler has a 5-step solution to saving money.

Step 1: "Get a written estimate from any repair shop," Brasler says.

Step 2: "Ask a few other shops to quote their prices to do the exact same work."

Step 3: Once you pick your repair shop, be firm about any surprise add-ons.

"Tell them, if it's going to cost more than this estimate, I need to authorize that in advance," Brasler says.

Step 4: Make sure you get a warranty on both the parts and labor in case a mistake was made.

Step 5: Don't put off small repairs, because that will cost you more down the road.

At Samaritan Car Care Clinic, Kintner showed a car that now needs hundreds of dollars in extra repairs due to negligence.

"It needed brake pads nine to 12 months ago," he said. "But the person did not have the money and kept driving. But then you destroy the brake rotors, and this will cost much more to repair."

Samaritan is seeing a surge in applications for discount and subsidized auto repair because repair costs are so high these days.

They hope more people can donate to shops like theirs to help families who otherwise can't afford repairs.