How to Save on Auto Maintenance
It’s a commonly held belief that auto shops and car mechanics can’t be trusted – and you’re especially likely to be swindled if you don’t know much about cars. But despite this general mistrust, there are plenty of shops that provide high-quality service at a fair cost.
If you do your homework before scheduling your car for service, you can be sure that you’re getting the right service at a good value. Start with these 10 tips to save money on auto maintenance:
- Read the manual: This seems a little too simple, but if you read through the owner’s manual – and especially the scheduled maintenance guide – you’ll know what to expect and when your car should be serviced.
- Know the cost: Websites like AutoMD.com and DriverSide.com provide price estimates for auto repairs, so you’ll know the fair price for an oil and filter change, brake pads replacement, wheel alignment or other common services.
- Ask around: Ask your friends, family and coworkers to recommend a shop or mechanic in your area. Referrals are key in this business.
- Check their certifications: Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is an important indicator of a good shop. You’ll want to find a shop with certified technicians on staff.
- Stay on top of preventive maintenance: Once you find a mechanic you trust, get in the routine of preventive maintenance. This will include changing your oil on a regular schedule, topping off your fluids, checking your filters and replacing them if necessary, checking your tire pressure and treads, and rotating your tires as needed. Regular maintenance checks will also alert you to services and repairs your car may need in the future.
- Don’t ignore the maintenance indicator: It seems to light up at the most inopportune times, but it’s best to pay heed to the “check engine” or “maintenance required” indicators as soon as they come on. This is especially important if your check engine light is flashing, as this may signify serious problems. If you ignore the indicators and continue driving your car, you could cause severe damage – and incur a much heftier bill for repairs.
- DIY: Learning to perform basic maintenance on your car can save significant money each year. There are dozens of DIY videos and instructional articles online for changing your oil, air filter and wiper blades, or even touching up paint and repairing small dents.
- Wash and wax: Wash and wax your car on a regular basis to remove grime and residues and protect the finish over the long haul.
- Shop around: If your car needs a serious repair, get estimates from a few shops to make sure you’re getting the best value. If you need a new part, consider buying it from an online parts shop, as this may prove cheaper than your local parts store or maintenance shop. And if you need new tires, check prices at warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, as they often include installation, flat repair, rotation and balancing – services that cost extra at other tire shops.
- Don’t be afraid to dispute: Before you pay for service, check your bill closely. If the final cost is higher than the estimate, or if repair prices are much steeper than the average costs on AutoMD.com and DriverSide.com, don’t be afraid to dispute the charges.