Nothing is worse than being hit with thousands of dollars in car repairs unexpectedly.
Luckily, there are many ways to save money on car maintenance, and even a method to get free work done. How much you can save depends on the mechanic too, and whether or not they’re trustworthy.
In this post, I’ll tell you exactly how to find a trustworthy mechanic so you can save more money on car repairs.
Take Advantage of Free Installations & Tests
Wondering how to pay for car repairs with no money? One great trick is to take advantage of free services offered by your local auto parts stores.
They offer a surprisingly long list of complimentary services, so make sure you aren’t paying for any of these jobs.
I’ve heard of people paying $125 just to get a check engine light test done on their vehicle, when it can be done for free at major auto parts stores.
This is just one way to save money as an adult, but perhaps the most trendy thing people are doing today is living with parents to save money.
Ask for a Discount (I’ve Personally Saved Hundreds)
You might be surprised to hear that asking for a discount can eliminate hundreds of dollars off expensive car repairs, but I can tell you it works from first-hand experience.
Most car work has large profit margins, and the salesperson you’re working with knows this.
Which is why they’ll reduce your bill by $25-$200 if you just ask politely, because the business would rather give up some profit if it means keeping a customer happy long term.
Although it might surprise you to hear that asking for a discount works, I’m here to tell you it’s worked on multiple occasions for me.
In both cases, I was faced with a bill that was more expensive than I expected, and so I said: “I wasn’t expecting to pay that much, is there any way you can help me out on the price?”
And they did, because smart mechanic shops will give up a little profit to earn a returning customer! Give this quick way to save money a try during your next visit.
Tactics for Success
- Most mechanics shops have specials going on year round. Do a quick check online before going in, and make sure you aren’t missing out on active coupons.
- No matter what, always be respectful and professional, no one is going to help someone who is disrespectful or rude.
Learn Basic Installations
If you are a DIYer at heart, there are lots of simple automotive repairs you can do yourself to save money on car maintenance. One of the easiest projects to handle yourself are air filter installations.
Engine air filters and cabin air filters usually need to be replaced every 12 months. Mechanics will charge anywhere from $40-$50 to replace each air filter, which only costs about $12 for the part on Amazon.
It’s an easy project to tackle yourself (might take 10 minutes at the most), and can save you $60+ a year.
Other common maintenance tasks people handle themselves include: oil changes, spark plug replacement, and brake pads.
For more expensive jobs, some car owners will pay the bill over time or get a high paying second job to help offset the expense.
Learn Basic Indicators
Many parts on vehicles have indicators that tell you when it’s time to be replaced. Most vehicle owners don’t know the basic indicators, and as a result often pay to replace parts when they don’t actually need to.
Tires are notoriously replaced prematurely, but fortunately they have a feature built in called a Tread Wear Indicator that shows when it’s time to be replaced.
There are occasions when the repair costs more than the car is worth, and so you have to make a decision if you want to sell your car to a junkyard or see if you can get a few more miles out of it.
Ask for Recommendations from People in Your Area
Even the most trustworthy review websites online probably have some fake reviews mixed in.
However, asking for recommendations from coworkers or neighbors is usually the safest bet for how to find a trustworthy mechanic.
In fact, this is exactly what I did when I moved to a new city several years ago. I asked a few coworkers if there were any mechanic shops in the area they trusted.
Funny enough, the same shop was named repeatedly, and I ended up giving them a try.
The service exceeded my expectations, and I’ve gone to them countless times over the years.
Use Your Vehicle Manual
All vehicles leave the factory floor with an owners manual included. It covers all sorts of helpful information from warranty details to safety policies.
But what’s even more important, at least for the purpose of this conversation, is the maintenance schedule included.
Here’s an example of a maintenance log for 60,000 miles.
For most vehicles, the maintenance schedule is the source of truth for routine maintenance work since it comes directly from the car manufacturer.
This maintenance schedule can help you sniff out bogus repairs unethical mechanics recommend.
Tactics for Success
- If you misplaced your vehicle’s manual, you can easily find it online by searching the “[year] [make] [model] maintenance schedule”
- There is all sorts of helpful information in vehicle manuals, such as explanations for every light indicator on your car and when the oil actually needs to be changed
Go to the Same Shop Repeatedly if Possible
What many people don’t realize is that by going to the same mechanic shop consistently, they become on the hook for work previously done. Let’s say, your mechanic shop replaced your starter during your last visit.
A few weeks go by, and you have trouble starting your car again.
If you go back to the same mechanic shop, and explain the issue they supposedly fixed has returned, they should work on it free of charge, because they are on the hook for completing the job you already paid for.
If instead, you went to another shop and said you just got the starter replaced a few weeks ago and it shouldn’t need much work to fix it. I would be willing to bet, another issue would be found that is causing the problem, and this time you will be on the hook for the bill.
If you bounce around to different mechanics, you’re almost guaranteed to find yourself in an endless cycle of car repairs, because you didn’t put one repair shop on the hook.
Keep Organized Records of Work Done in the Past
When getting vehicle work or repairs done, you’ll receive paperwork detailing the work done. Unfortunately many car owners discard this paperwork or let it turn into a jumbled mess, which can be a costly mistake.
Vehicle maintenance reports offer numerous benefits, including:
- Protects you from paying for maintenance work more frequently than needed, as some repair shops will “suggest” fixes that have already been done.
- Gives you leverage if/when mechanics “fix” something that ends up breaking in the future. Oftentimes, they’ll claim they didn’t work on that part, but if you have the paperwork to back you up, they cannot dispute it and will be expected to fix it on their dime.
- Helps you sell your vehicle for more money, since you have a clear record of work done, which can increase sales value of vehicle
Keeping maintenance paperwork organized and accessible is one of the best ways to avoid getting ripped off by a car mechanic.
Considering Doing the Work Yourself
If you’re on a shoestring budget, and need to save every penny when it comes to saving money on car maintenance, consider doing some of the repairs yourself.
Common projects vehicles owners tackle themselves include: oil changes, brake pad replacements, and exterior parts installations.
Completing these tasks yourself can be tough work, but can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on the repair.
Obviously, some work will need to be handled by professionals; however, in the age of YouTube a lot can be done by you if you possess high incomes skills like persistence and a willingness to learn.
When it comes to saving money on car repairs, you have tons of options at your disposal.
Vehicles are one of the biggest expenses people have, and so being smart with vehicle maintenance can result in hundreds if not thousands in savings.
John-Paul Cody has been an avid online seller for years, across platforms including eBay, Mercari, Craigslist, and more. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from UNC Chapel Hill, and works in data analytics and marketing.