How to Avoid an Expensive Car Repair Bill

Money - Expensive Repairs
401(K) 2012, Flickr

If you’ve ever been hit with a shockingly expensive car repair bill, you’ll know there’s not a whole heck of a lot that you can do at that point – other than dig deep and pay for the damages so you can have your keys back. A lot of suspicious car owners cry “Ripoff!” at this, but the truth of the matter is, finding yourself in that position is most commonly the result of one thing: a lack of communication. Here are just a few things that you can do to avoid finding yourself in that situation.

  • Get an estimate. This is a no-brainer – at least it should be – but you’d be surprised at how many people automatically assume that the charges for a repair job won’t be too high to handle. Even if you’re only taking your car in for a routine oil change and the prices are posted on the wall for everyone to see, get the cost in writing and take a copy for yourself.
  • If the auto mechanic you’re talking to doesn’t know the extent of your vehicle’s problems and can’t give you an accurate estimate, at very least ask for a diagnostic estimate. When possible, find out if the mechanic can give you a “worst case scenario” estimate so you’ll at least have an idea of the extent of the financial damage if things don’t go as smoothly as you’re hoping they will.
  • Don’t authorize the mechanic to perform any additional work without getting your approval first. Far too many people take the “whatever it takes to fix it” approach and wind up having to fork over hundreds of dollars for something they thought would only run them a few twenties. Make it clear that you want to know the cost of everything ahead of time and make yourself available to answer the mechanic’s call if and when it comes.
  • Do your homework ahead of time. You don’t have to be a car expert to talk shop with an auto mechanic. But it does help if you’ve brushed up a bit on possible solutions to your car repair. If the issue is unidentified, it’s tough to do that. But if you know you’re bringing your car in for squeaky brakes, do a little research on what the causes and fixes are. This way, you’ll be able to avoid being “up-sold” on additional services you may not need.
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