5 Tried and Tested Methods to Save Hundreds on Auto Repair Bills

by Allison Martin · 4 comments

There are two primary reasons to visit your local dealership: either to buy a new car, or have your current car serviced. Do you dread the latter?

A few years ago my answer would have been “Yes”. Visits to the service department used to make me nervous. Each time I took the car in for a basic oil change or routine maintenance, the customer service rep would come back with a laundry list of repairs that needed to be done.

Sometimes, the figures on the page would be in the high hundreds. And I don’t know about you, but I have a ton of other items on my list that I would rather spend my money on.

One day, I grew tired of the anxiety attacks, and frequent drains on my wallet, and decided to see if I could solve my high auto repair bill once-and-for-all. Here are five actions I took to get my car repair bills under control:

1. Ask for Coupons or Deals

When those flyers come in the mail from service departments, instead of tossing them in the nearest trash bin, stash them away for future use. Then when your car needs to be serviced, take the flyer with you to the service department. Since implementing this tip myself, I have been able to score an oil change for only $5.95.

Don’t receive coupons often? No worries. Ask the auto repair representative if they have any lying around, or if they have any other offers or deals available. See if there’s anything they can do to help offset the costs.

If they give you a tough time about it, kindly mention that you are a loyal customer and enjoy doing business at their location. This simple reminder has done the trick for me on several occasions.

2. Get a Second Opinion

I’m not suggesting you venture to the smaller service shops, but instead shop around at other dealerships. Getting a second opinion from another dealership’s service department in your local area will do 3 things:

  • Help you know the exact problems that need fixing
  • Give you a ballpark figure on what you should expect to pay
  • Ensure you get the best deal possible

It also pays to do your homework online using cost estimators. Before heading to any dealer you want to make sure they aren’t taking advantage of you (and your wallet). So check out sites like Repair Pal, or Auto MD, before committing to any car repairs. This alone could save you a good chunk of change.

3. Don’t Ignore the Warnings

Are the lights flashing all over the dashboard? Are you hearing a strange sound coming from the engine? Don’t keep driving down the road hoping these things will go away. I’ve tried that, and trust me, they just keep worse!

Take a minute to refer to the owner’s manual and see if you can’t troubleshoot the problem yourself. Ask a friend or family member to do a quick spot inspection. They may be able to spot a leak or find something that needs attention right now.

You’re better off paying a couple hundred dollars now, than thousands later. Don’t ignore the warnings and let a relatively minor issue turn into a major one.

4. Only Deal with Reputable Mechanics

I learned this valuable lesson the hard way, and after countless headaches and thousands of dollars it’s a strategy I stick with today.

Many years ago, I met a charming mechanic who promised to install a new transmission at a fraction of the cost. It wasn’t until a year, and a dozen breakdowns later, that the truth came to the light. Another, more reputable, mechanic inspected the vehicle and quickly noticed the culprit of the problem — low quality parts and incorrect installation.

Yes, I saved some money on the front-end of the transaction, but I had to spend even more time and money later to, not only have the original problem fixed, but have the side affects dealt with as well. Basically, the previous mechanic — who offered an amazing deal — was setting me up for failure.

Here is my suggestion for finding a reputable mechanic: ask around for recommendations, read online reviews, do research, and confirm certifications. These steps will ensure you don’t get ripped off like I did.

5. Remain Firm on Negotiations

No matter how pleasant the customer service representative is, keep your game face on at all times. My service department rep has known me for the past 3 years, so it’s not always easy to remain firm on my negotiations. When I walk through the door for my appointment, he knows I mean business and that I always gets straight to the point.

Stand your ground with the mechanics and repair shops so they know they won’t be able to take advantage of you. And at the same, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars in auto repair bills.

What method do you use to save money on your car repairs? Have you used any of these tips in the past? What was your experience?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Tina Roy says:

    Thanks for sharing the article. It is not about the type of vehicle you own, it is about the quality service you gives to your vehicle. Proper maintenance is very important for the long run of your vehicle.

  • Jen Bonanno says:

    These are all great ways to save. Since auto repairs are a regular expense for any of us who own a car, it’s important to think about these kind of things BEFORE our cars need maintenance. I especially agree with #4 in making sure you’re dealing with reputable mechanics. For someone who doesn’t know a lot about cars, I could be easily taken advantage of. Looking at reviews and recommendations is an important factor!

  • M Meagher says:

    I own a honda, i get it serviced at the dealership most of the time because they have the parts on hand and I can wait for the service to be done. The dealership gives a “report card” on my car, with pictures of parts that it might need such as inside cabin air filters and wiper blades. Also they show the picture of the color of the fluids to show if they are dirty and need changing. For the little parts like filters I replace them myself buying parts at an auto parts national chain. A car owner can save hundreds reading the owner’s manual and just replacing the small parts that will keep a car running a long time.

    • David Ning says:

      Great job doing the small stuff yourself. If you can replace filters, you are likely savvy enough to find a local mechanic to service your vehicle too. Just find one who will use genuine parts and do a thorough job. After all, even service guys at the dealership aren’t guaranteed to be good mechanics!

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