If I didn’t do my own repairs, I don’t think I could afford to own a car. It seems like every time I heard about someone going to a shop, they walk away paying $400+ dollars. Here are some tips to help ease that pain.
Never go to the dealship. There is a reason that they are known as the stealership. That friendly person at the service counter is a sales person. Make no mistake, they are trained to sell you the whole ticket. Maybe they throw you a bone here and there either to get you back next time for the big sale or because you’ve already spent thousands there in the past. There is no reason to pay top dollar for parts or repairs. A good mechanic can diagnose and repair any make of vehicle.
Find an independent repair shop that has a good reputation. Their labor rates are sometimes half of a dealership and if they know what they’re doing, they can fix your car.
Buy your own parts. If you let the shop source the parts for you, they are going to mark them up sometimes over 100%. I’ve even seen them as high as 400%. Do not let this happen. Before you deal with a shop, as them if they will let you bring your own parts and if they said no, find one that will. This could be the number one money saver. Most shops deal with one parts distributer and they certainly aren’t going to price shop for you. They might tell you that they won’t warranty the work if you bring your parts because they can’t confirm that they are quality, but that’s ok. Warrantys are for suckers, not you.
When buying parts, make sure you shop around. The prices very greatly based on brands and stores. If I’m not in a hurry to do the repair I nearly always buy online. RockAuto.com has stupid low prices and even when shipping heavy parts, still beats the pants off of anything you can get locally. The downside is that if you get the wrong part or for some reason have to ship it back, you will lose money and time, so take that into consideration. I prefer the smaller storefront style places like PartsPlus. They typically have people who know what they’re doing and aren’t trying to upsell you garbage at the register that you don’t need. I’ve been a long time customer of BanD Auto locally and the manager jokes saying, “if you want car parts you come here, if you want air fresheners you go to AutoZone.” The bigger chains are usually a breeding ground for parts-jockeys who love giving advice in an area they know nearly nothing about. It can be embarrassing. So the next tip…
Don’t take repair advice from the parts person at the store. They either don’t know or are selling you something.
Never, ever, buy snake oil that you put in your gas tank or mix with your oil to “unlock your engines true potential.” Nothing sold in a bottle can fix your car. It’s nonsense and those parts people love selling it. Fuel injector cleaner that you put in your gas tank is a total waste. I have a professional injector cleaning machine and flow tester and sometimes even that doesn’t work. No way will that diluted can do anything.
Find out what repairs are needed now and what can wait and ask for an explanation why. Your dirty air filter can wait.
Educate yourself. If you have some basic knowledge of how some systems of the car work, it will be harder for you to be scammed. I’ve heard some ridiculous expainations on why someone “needed” a repair. http://www.aa1car.com/library.htm is a great resource. As trouble comes up, read a little about it and see if what you are being told makes sense. If it’s questionable, you can always get a second opinion.
Try fixing it yourself. This seems really scary but with YouTube and some basic tools, you can do a lot on your own. If you’ve ever seen someone do a brake job, you’d wonder why you pay $400 for it. It turns out you can usually get the parts for $50-100 and find a video that shows you how to do it on your exact car.
For those of you who like to tinker, I’d recommend downloading the Torque Pro app on your phone for $5 and purchasing a bluetooth adapter like this one. This set up with allow you to read and erase codes as well as do some serious diagnosing with live data. To learn more on that topic see these videos. This is where the real saving begins – with knowledge. This guy will get your better equipped than plenty of pros.