One of the most frustrating un-planned-for expenses that can come up is automobile repairs. They are often very costly and come at the worst possible times. Having an Emergency Fund to help with these repairs is essential. Dave Ramsey suggests $1000 for an Emergency Fund.
There are also some things we can do to lower our cost for automobile repairs. Here are a few we regularly practice:
- Do the repairs yourself.
- Buy the parts yourself.
- Keep your vehicle properly maintained.
- Use local mechanics who work from home.
Do the repairs yourself.
You might think this only works for those who are mechanically inclined. My husband can do many simple repairs by reading the manuals published by Chilton or Haynes. Some repair manuals are even available online or through your local library. My husband has learned how to replace break pads, do oil changes and tune-ups, as well as replace headlights, taillights, and other interior minor repairs. We still need major repairs diagnosed by a mechanic, but saving money on little repairs has saved us hundreds of dollars every year.
The absolute BEST auto repair manuals are Enthusiast Workshop Repair Manuals. They are far more detailed than Chilton or Haynes.
Buy the parts yourself.
I discovered that repair shops buy their parts from O’Reilly’s, Checker Auto, or Autozone then mark-up the parts by around 20%-50%. I have purchased my own parts from O’Reilly’s and taken them to Pep Boys to have them installed. I saved over $100 by doing this when our steering needed to be replaced. A $900 job turned into an $800 job simply by me purchasing our own parts. Pep Boys didn’t mind at all. This also gave me more control over what level of parts I bought, I could choose performance parts or the basic ones.
Also, if there was a warranty issue, I dealt with the auto part store directly rather than the mechanic shop. Many mechanic shops tried to charge us again for the parts on the second repair. I was able to exchange the part for a free one at O’Reilly’s.
Keep your vehicle properly maintained.
With the economy tight and gas prices soaring, it is easy to skip regular maintenance due to budget restraints. However, this can lead to more costly repairs in the future. Regular oil changes, tune-ups, proper tire inflation and other routine maintenance keeps our vehicles from breaking down more often. Again, learning to do these maintenance items ourselves makes car ownership a little cheaper.
Use local mechanics who work from home.
Over the years we have found a few mechanics who work out of their home who are fantastic mechanics. Typically they charge less per hour for labor and will gladly accept our parts from wherever I purchased them. Instead of paying $60 per hour, our local mechanic who works from home charges us $20. Also, many repair shops charge hidden fees like “sublet” charges to their mechanics. One place we used in the past charged us an extra $70 for this fee.