Wait till you see these simple tips on how to save money on car repairs.

By Kristine Gill
Updated September 12, 2018

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by car maintenance and repairs. And sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you’ve been quoted a fair price for a service that’s truly necessary. That’s when it becomes important to find a mechanic you trust and to develop a relationship with that mechanic, says Amy Mattinat, shop owner and president of Auto Craftsmen Ltd. Here’s her insider tips on how to save money on car repairs.

Develop a relationship with your mechanic.

“It’s really like going to the doctor,” says Mattinat. “A mechanic is your car doctor and everybody out there is different.” Mattinat recommends looking for auto shops that have been certified by AAA or the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). “If a customer is looking for somewhere they’ll be taken care of, those techs have experience, skills, and pride in their work,” says Mattinat. AAA-approved shops are subject to regular inspections and must pay dues to be a part of the association. ASE certifications are awarded to technicians with specialties in engine repair, transmissions, or heating and air conditioning.

Get a second opinion.

If you have yet to find a regular mechanic, Mattinat says it’s fine to shop around. When you get a repair estimate, make sure to get the cost breakdown for parts and labor in writing. Then, bring that estimate with you so the next mechanic can review it before evaluating your car and delivering a second opinion, says Mattinat. It’s not always as easy as looking at a sheet of paper because each car requires different parts based on its make, model, and manufacture year. Allowing a new mechanic to lay eyes on the car will ensure you’re truly getting a fair opinion. And if it turns out the second opinion is cheaper, you saved some money.

Ask about used parts.

Once you’ve agreed to go forward with a repair, ask about getting used parts. “Once in a while, a headlight gets bashed up and gets water in it, or you break a side-view mirror,” says Mattinat. “Sometimes we can replace those parts with used parts, and that definitely saves a lot of money.” As with any used product, make sure you aren’t choosing the cheapest option; look for the best quality. Paying for a used part that will break soon after you buy it will end up costing you more money down the line.

Save money for sudden repairs.

Car repair headaches are usually associated with unexpected costs. Saving for eventual repairs will ensure you’re always ready for an emergency. “That way when your car needs, say, a new battery it's not such a big deal,” says Mattinat. Once you’ve paid your vehicle off, start setting aside half of what you would have paid toward your loan on a monthly basis. Don’t use the money for gas. Instead, use it for things like new windshield wipers or tires. “Parts wear out, they just do,” says Mattinat. “And a car will never stop costing you money.”

Maintain your vehicle.

The best way to save on costly repairs is to have it serviced regularly, including having your oil changed and your brake line checked, says Mattinat. And make sure to follow your owner’s manual when it comes to the type of oil your car needs, as well as how often you should get it changed. If you live in a Vermont or another place where the winters are harsh, you might need to service your vehicle more frequently than recommended in generic owner’s manuals. But spending $50 on an oil change now, can possibly save you hundreds down the road.