Owning a car is much more expensive than you might have thought as a teenager. In high school, you drove the “kid’s car” and filled up a few times, and in college you hardly drove at all because your roommates had nicer cars. But the costs of owning a car start to build once it becomes a necessity instead of a luxury. Car payments, insurance, gas, and repairs add up fast—sometimes too fast for the budget. Unfortunately, some of these costs are unavoidable, like monthly payments or how much gas you use to commute back and forth to work.
Other costs are somewhat negotiable. It may not seem that car repairs are one of these, but in many situations the costs of repair can be prevented or, at the very least, reduced.
Prevent and Protect
It might be a pain in your side to take your car into the shop every 3,000 miles (or however often your owner’s manual suggests) to get that oil change taken care of, but it will be worth it. Your car might not give you problems if you wait until 3,500 miles to change the oil, but that doesn’t mean that your car isn’t being damaged internally. And even if your car seems to be in fine condition, it’s always better to prevent than repair.
Make a habit of taking your car into the shop regularly just to get a quick check-up and make sure that everything is working properly. It might cost you a few dollars to have the mechanics look it over, but you’ll save money in the long run if you can catch major problems before they happen.
Small and simple repairs can turn into nightmares if they are not treated promptly. It might seem that you’re saving yourself time and money by putting off repairs like a small oil leak or the laundry list of minor problems the mechanic gives you when you go in for a larger repair, but the exact opposite is true. Small, relatively inexpensive problems will turn into much more extensive, expensive repairs they longer you put them off.
When the mechanic reads you that list of maintenance items, take care of everything you can while you’re there. If your budget won’t let you fix everything they recommend, take note of what you didn’t have them do and figure it into the budget over the next few months. The sooner they get done, the better chance you’ll have of avoiding larger-scale problems.
Choose the Right Mechanic
Don’t settle for the nearest auto shop out of convenience. It can be hard to find a mechanic you know and trust, but take the time to look around. Once you’ve found a business that you feel treats you fairly, make yourself a regular customer. If they get to know your face and car, they might be more willing to offer you deals and advice.
Finding a trustworthy mechanic will not only reduce expenses—it will reduce stress. Knowing you always take your car to the same auto repair shop in Vancouver, even if the drive is farther than the place around the block, will save you the stress of wondering if the mechanics are going to treat you and your car fairly.
Buy Discount Parts
Many car shops will let you bring your own parts in to fix car problems. Find out your repair shop’s policy before you green light the repair. If you can bring in the parts yourself, all you’ll have to pay for at the shop is the labor. There will be a cost for the parts, of course, but you can usually find them cheaper than the high prices a repair shop often charges.
You can often find cheap parts at discount auto stores, online retailers, and salvage yards. If you’re getting body work done on your car, check salvage yards first for bumpers, side mirrors, and even doors or hoods. Go online to find engine parts and belts. Do your research, and with a little bit of extra time you’ll be able to keep the budget balanced and your car in good condition.
Do Simple Work Yourself
Even if you’re not car savvy, it will be worth it to take the time to learn how to do some simple maintenance. Replacing windshield wiper blades, doing oil changes, replacing air filters, and filling your fluids are all easy enough to do once you know how. Find a friend who knows what they’re doing and ask them to give you a few pointers—the money you save will more than compensate for the time and effort you spend doing your own repairs.