On top of all the costs of owning a car- gas, insurance, and maintenance- paying for auto repairs is a costly thorn in Americans’ side. In fact, 27% of Americans report being dissatisfied with repair services they’ve gotten from a mechanic, and estimates of the money lost are in the tens of billions, with some estimates as high as $40 billion annually. What can Americans do to cut back on spending money on unnecessary car repairs?
On average, maintenance in 2013 cost Americans 4.97 cents per mile, or $750 a year. These repairs tend to come from the same parts of your car over and over again. Your engine is the most important part of your car, so it needs to be fixed more often, and your tires’ lifespan is only 2-4 years (less if you drive on bad roads). Some tire pressure monitoring systems in newer cars need repairs for bugs and malfunctions, and brakes have a short lifespan and need regular changing.
While these types of repairs are common, they’re not necessarily the most expensive fixes. A blown motor costs up to $4,000 to repair, and a transmission replacement can cost between $1,800-$3,500. Your car’s head gasket may be small, but the labor to fix it can cost between $1,200 and $1,600, and even your air conditioning compressor can cost between $200-$600 to replace.
While you can’t avoid many of these auto repair costs- after all, you want your car to run smoothly- you can avoid common scams so that you don’t pay more than you need to. Ask for written estimates rather than verbal, and make sure you aren’t getting charged for parts covered by a warranty or advertised as free. Choose a mechanic that your friends and family have recommended and that has no complaints with the local Better Business Bureau. Ask questions for clarification on the parts and labor they’re charging for, and get a written invoice that details exactly what repairs were made and what parts were replaced, including itemized costs. Finally, pay in full only after the repair is completed.
Remember, although an untrustworthy mechanic is a common stereotype, most mechanics are honest and hard-working. Make sure to recommend mechanics that you trust and have had a positive experience with to others so that they earn business over dishonest mechanics.