Car Repair: What Should It Cost?
Something has broken on your car and you were just quoted what you think is an insane price for a car repair. Is it a fair price? Should you ask your friends if they “know a guy”? What repairs can you skimp on and what car repairs need an auto mechanic and a licensed and insured auto garage? Compare.com has tips for getting your car fixed safely and at the right price.
My Car Repair Will Cost What?
You’ve just been hit over the head with an expensive repair bill for a dislocated passenger-side flange bolt (we’re making that up, but you get the idea). Your first thought is that the price seems very high. Your second thought is, “What the heck is a flange bolt and how did I dislocate it?” Don’t panic. Follow these steps to ensure that you’re not going to over-pay for your car repair.
- Ask about the severity of the problem. Can you drive your car like it is, or would it be unsafe to drive? If you can drive it away, tell the car repair shop that you’re going to wait.
- Get the specific name of the problem or part to be repaired. Be careful here, mechanics will often give you an over-simplified explanation to appease you. It’s not because they think you’re stupid, it’s because the exact explanation can be lengthy and hard to follow. Write down the exact car repair they claim you need, then check for information about the repair online.
What to Look for Online
- Pay attention to your sources of information when it comes to car repair. Avoid DIY forums and websites. Instead, look for forums designed for use by your vehicle maker’s technicians, if one exists. Use your best judgment. Don’t believe everything that you read. If a member of an automotive repair forum seems to have answered your question, find out more information about that user. Confirm their credentials if possible. There’s lots of armchair mechanics out there, so be careful and always double-check any information you get online.
- Check the price of the part. Try the online store for your local auto parts retail stores. Also look for used parts shops or junk yards to see if you can get it even cheaper. Some places stock “dead” cars that still have good parts and will let you remove a part yourself or may offer to remove the part for you for a small fee. Be aware, buying a used car part may not include a warranty on the part. It’s generally a good idea to use this as a last resort.
- Check the average time it takes to make the repair. If you know the price of the part and the hourly rate for your auto mechanic, you can tell if the price you’re being quoted for the car repair is reasonable.
- Get quotes from other car repair shops or garages. As with everything, comparison shopping is the best way to find a price that will work for you. It will also let you know whether or not the shop you’re currently at is giving you the best price.
A Warning about Car Repair
It’s not usually a good idea to have a friend fix your car for you. Even if they are a certified mechanic (unless you’re bringing it to their shop, during regular business hours and are paying the shop directly to perform the car repair, rather than paying a friend under the table) it may still be a bad idea. The reason for this is liability. If your friend fixes something and something else breaks, it makes the problem worse, or you have an auto accident due to an improperly installed part, your friend will then be personally responsible. If any of these things happen after a car repair shop fixes your car, they are covered by a special insurance. In short, it’s safer for everyone involved to go through a licensed, certified, and insured mechanic or car repair garage.
A Final Word about Car Repair
As a general rule, the dealership charges more for repairs on your vehicle. Why is that? When your get your car repaired at the dealership they only use what are called Original Equipment Manufacturer (or OEM) parts. This parts are often much more expensive than what are called “aftermarket” parts.
Aftermarket parts are car parts manufactured by someone other than your car’s auto maker. These parts are typically just as good but in some cases your car’s warranty may require OEM parts (otherwise voiding your warranty if OEM parts aren’t used). The dealer uses OEM parts because it’s the recommendation of most, if not all, auto makers to use OEM parts for all car repairs. Ultimately, it’s your call. It is, however, important to be able to make that distinction. Ask your current or potential car repair shop if they use OEM or aftermarket parts. If they use OEM, ask if they’d consider using aftermarket parts to reduce the cost of your car repair. They may say no, but it’s worth asking as it can shave down your price considerably.
Car Owner’s Guide
What to do in a hit and run? What steps can you take to prevent auto theft? What can I do to lower my auto insurance payments? Car owners get faced with a lot of questions. Read our Car Owners Guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of your car.