How To Save Money On Car Repairs

by Mike Holman

Welcome to Money Smarts! If you're new here, please read the "About" page to find out more about this site. If you would like to receive updates by email then sign up here or you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

As much as I love owning a car, I absolutely hate paying for maintenance and especially repairs. I bought my current vehicle brand new so I decided that for the first few years I would get the regular maintenance done at the dealership since it probably won’t need any repairs. After that I wanted to stop going to the dealership since they always seem to find problems with the car – more so on days when they are not busy. My plan (for the past year) has been to find a small repair shop in my area to work on the car.

Blower resistor malfunction

Recently the blower resistor in my car stopped working correctly – what the heck is that you ask? Well the blower is what I call the fan – it “blows” the hot air from your heater and the cold air from your air conditioner into the passenger portion of your car. In my case the fan has 4 settings and only the highest setting was still working. I found out what part was causing the problem by doing a Google search – I didn’t expect to find the exact problem but I did and it told me that I needed a new blower resistor.

Do the repair myself?

Apparently it is an easy part to replace so I thought I would try to change it myself. First step was to get the part – easy enough since the dealership had it for $28. Then I took a good look at the existing part (right behind the glove compartment) and decided that although I could probably get the old part out, it would be a big hassle and I decided to see how much the dealership would charge to replace it. Much to my surprise the dealership would charge 1 hour of labour or $135 including tax. I’m sure it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes for them to do the job.

Small local car repair shop

My next step was to walk down the street to a small car repair shop and ask how much they would charge for the job. The guy checked out the car specs on his computer (or pretended to at least) and then quoted $50. This was still quite a bit for the work involved but it was a lot cheaper than the dealership quote of $135. I got the the small repair place to do the work and the repair worked great! For checking out the price down the street I saved $85.

Lessons learned

  • Do some research on your car problem – it’s possible other people have posted similar problems/repairs/costs on the internet.
  • Beware of doing your own diagnosis - had the problem been different than what I thought, I would have been out $28 and some time.
  • Shop around – one mistake I’ve made MANY times is that when the dealership says something needs fixing, I’ve always let them do the work. If it’s a big job or if you are suspicious of their intentions then tell you don’t want to do the work right now and then shop around. You can use their estimate documentation to easily get other quotes.
  • Beware of the lies - sometimes they will tell you that your brakes have “only” 20% left and make it seem like you can’t drive the car out of the shop. In reality if it took you 40,000 kilometres (or 25,200 miles) to wear down 80% of the brake then you have another 10,000 kilos (or 6300 miles) to go before it’s a real problem. I’m not suggesting that you wait until your brakes are completely worn out to get them fixed but rather that you probably have quite a bit of time before they actually need it.
  • Don’t assume expertise – unfortunately I’ve had problems in the past with small repair places that didn’t know what they were doing and couldn’t fix the car. Sometimes you are better off taking it to the dealership (I wish I knew when this was the case).
Be Sociable, Share!

Want to learn more about RESPs? Buy The Book:

Resp-Book

The RESP Book: The Simple Guide to Registered Education Savings Plans

Everything you need to know about RESPs.

See it on Amazon now

Welcome to Money Smarts! If you're new here, please read the "About" page to find out more about this site. If you would like to receive updates by email then sign up here or you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jim of Blueprint for Financial Prosperity

Having a mechanic you trust is one of the most important things you can have. You can avoid a lot of the concerns you list, all of which are entirely valid, if you have a trusted mechanic.

2 Nicolas

135$/h for labour? That is a lot of money.

One thing to keep in mind is that having some work done on a new (recent) car still on warranty, but not at the daelership, may cause issues with the warranty.

Shopping around mechanics for prices remains a good option. Also getting used parts can save a lot of money.

3 Four Pillars

Jim – you are absolutely right! Only problem is how do you find that trusted mechanic? That’s what I’m working on.

Nicolas – yes, a big ripoff! Good point about the warranty – my car isn’t on any warranty anymore.

Mike

4 Mark

Regarding regular maintenance, sometimes dealers give you a service schedule stating more frequent service than what is in the owner’ s manual. In addition to that, the owner’s manual has “normal” and “severe” conditions. Most Cdns are advised to follow the “severe” schedule but if you live in a warmer part of Canada then “normal” is probably OK. What’s the difference between operating a car in Niagara Falls NY vs Niagara Falls ON?

5 Mr. Cheap

jim & mike: The ideal would be if someone in your family married a mechanic.

6 telly

Mike,

Did the small repair shop allow you to purchase your own part for replacing? Most places won’t allow that and that’s another area where you get screwed. The dealers seriously overcharge for car parts compared to what you can get them for in retail stores (especially in the US…Autozone, etc.).

7 Four Pillars

Telly – yes, I bought the part from the dealership. It was only $28. I called Cdn Tire but they didn’t have the part.

8 HIB

Nice article. Fortunately, my step-father has been a mechanic and has always helped me with my sweet array of vehicles (74 Monte Carlo – real eye catcher). Fortunately for him, he is no longer a mechanic. I’ll ask him if he has any suggestions for finding a good mechanic.
-HIB

9 MoneyGrubbingLawyer

I’m very much a DIYer when it comes to auto problems, but for those times when a shop is necessary your tips are right on the money.

Having a basic knowledge of car maintenance and systems is the first step to avoiding being ripped off. If you know what you’re talking about (and if you know when the mechanic is bluffing you), you’re much less likely to be overcharged or dinged for unnecessary work.

I find the hallmark of a trustworthy mechanic is his willingness to return any replaced parts to you. This lets you know that the part was indeed replaced and lets you see what condition it was in. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take the busted sensor home with you, but you can at least have an idea of what was done and if it was actually needed.

10 Four Pillars

Mark – I haven’t been very good at doing the maintenance but I definitely will follow the owner’s manual rather than the dealer schedule.

HIB – Any suggestions are welcome – 74 Monte eh? Sounds like a cool pimp machine!

MGL – I need to learn more about these car thingys!

Leave a Comment

Current day month ye@r *

Previous post:

Next post: