An anonymous body-shop owner shares helpful tips to keep your car running smoothly without draining your wallet.

By an anonymous body-shop owner, as told to Shivani Vora

“Getting ripped off is unfortunately all too common, so ideally see a mechanic who comes recommended by relatives or friends. No referrals? Be wary of patronizing a garage that offers discounted services to new customers. These businesses may provide a coupon for, say, an oil change to lure you in the door, then suddenly claim you need an expensive repair, like new shock absorbers, at $1,000 or more. Go ahead and use the coupon, but get a second opinion before agreeing to any other work. If you determine a repair is needed, compare the mechanic’s parts quote with, an auto-parts site, to ensure that you’re getting the best price.

“Also, don’t pay for regular maintenance if you can get it for free. When you buy a new car, some automakers offer complimentary service programs for five years or the first 50,000 miles, which may include oil changes plus basic repairs, such as replacing brake pads. Check with your dealer to see if you qualify. Finally, bear in mind that sometimes paying more does make sense. Installing brand-name safety parts purchased directly from the manufacturer (like a bumper) will cost you about twice as much as aftermarket ones, but they’re of a higher quality—and won’t affect the ability of the vehicle to maintain its original safety rating.”

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