Get a Deal on Your Car Tune-Up or Repair

May 7th 2016

Your car will need regular maintenance and the occasional repair, but there's no reason to overspend when you visit a mechanic. The key to saving money on your next car tune-up or repair is to develop a relationship with a reputable mechanic's shop long before you need their services. However, even if you don't have time to do a lot of research, you can still use some basic rules to save on your repair costs.

Ways to Keep Car Repair Costs Low

Image Courtesy of Kurt Trew

No matter what mechanic shop you choose, there are a few savings tips that are almost universally applicable. 

  • Check your owner's manual for mileage recommendations before bringing your car to a shop for routine maintenance. Newer cars need far less regular maintenance than their older counterparts. 

  • If you're soliciting a second opinion, be sure to tell the mechanic. Don't share the first estimate or diagnosis with the second mechanic, however. Instead, wait for the second mechanic's analysis and quote before making any decisions.

  • Unless your car has 100,000 miles or more on the odometer, skip the coolant and power steering flushes. It's a common gimmick that mechanics use to inflate the final bill. Your car probably won't ever need a transmission flush either.

  • Avoid double labor charges by verifying the time required for the total job, rather than using a time estimate that is itemized. Once a mechanic begins working on your engine, some jobs can be completed concurrently.

  • If you really need to stretch your budget, consider hunting for the repair parts you need at a local junkyard. While some mechanics refuse to work with used parts, others will be willing to install the part you found.

  • Make small repairs yourself. Even mechanically inept car owners can change windshield wiper blades, clean a car battery or install an air filter.

If your chosen mechanic insists on selling you a service you don't need, it's time to look for a new mechanic.

When to Visit Your Car Dealer for a Repair

Car dealers tend to charge more for simple repairs than independent mechanics. However, there are some instances where you'll want to take your car to the nearest dealership. Always take your car to the dealership in case of a recall as the dealer will be required to fix it for free. You should also talk to your dealer before consenting to have emissions parts replaced or repairs made on a catalytic converter. Free replacements are often legally required and emissions parts have long warranties.

Find the Right Repair Shop

Many car owners start looking for a mechanic only when they need a repair. Instead of waiting, try to find a mechanic you trust as soon as possible. Below are some tips to help you begin your search:

  • Browse Yelp, but don't stop your research there. Yelp may be a good way to begin your research process, but never pick a new mechanic solely by their reviews online. 

  • Don't be afraid to visit the shop before you need their services. Go during the late morning hours, and ask to speak to the owner or shop manager. When you're there, ask about their certifications and the qualifications of their team. If you see a customer, ask why they've chosen this particular mechanic.

  • Look for a shop that is an AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility. Not only are these shops required to have the latest diagnostic and repair equipment, but AAA regulators interview recent customers before granting certification. If AAA uncovers unhappy customers who received inaccurate quotes, bad repairs or other problems with the shop's service, AAA won't grant the certificate.

  • Consider other certifications in lieu of AAA certification. Membership in the Automotive Service Association or the International Auto Technicians Association indicates that the shop is concerned about service standards. Shops that receive high ratings from the Better Business Bureau are also preferable.

  • Size doesn't matter in most cases. Both small and large shops can offer great deals to new customers. Pricing between differently sized shops should be competitive, so you should pick the shop where you feel most comfortable.

Saving money on repairs isn't always about the cheapest price. A good mechanic may charge slightly more but would never try to oversell or make unnecessary repairs. Once you have a working relationship with a shop you trust, you won't have to worry about overpaying.

Summary

  • Visit your dealer only when repairs or tune-ups are covered under warranty. 

  • Don't be afraid to get a second opinion and a written quote before committing to a repair.

  • Cultivate a relationship with a reputable local mechanic with national certifications.

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