4 Great Ways to Keep Your Car from Becoming a Money Pit
Is your car turning into a pit that consistently requires more and more money be thrown into it? Most vehicle owners have experienced the nightmare situation of saying, “I get one thing fixed another falls apart. It’s costing me a fortune!” If this sounds familiar to you, don’t get too frustrated - there are steps you can take to make your vehicle not such a hassle or strain on your budget. After all, a vehicle should make your life more convenient, not more stressful.
Taking matters into your own hands
First off, performing general maintenance is an essential part of owning a vehicle. A well-maintained vehicle will simply need fewer repairs. Not a do-it yourself type person, you say? Fear not! Even if fixing your own car is not an option, there are a number of useful resources to help make your car less expensive to maintain.
To begin, it can be as simple as taking your car in for routine checkups to a trusted mechanic so that your fluids and tire pressure can be checked periodically. If you’d rather undertake basic repairs yourself, comprehensive repair manuals are available for every make and model of vehicle. These guides give simple instructions on how to do routine maintenance - changing the oil filter or the air filter, for instance - and describe telltale symptoms of trouble to watch out for. These manuals also include in-depth illustrations of the more complicated repairs, broken down into simple steps that anyone can follow.
Even if you cannot make the time to play mechanic yourself, it is still smart to read up on the repairs your car may need. It will help you understand better how your car works so that when you take it into the shop, you can ensure that you are not overcharged. Remember, knowledge is power - smart shoppers always find better bargains.
How do I find a mechanic that won’t rip me off?
The most effective way to prevent your vehicle from turning into a financial burden is to find a garage that you can trust. It is essential to find a reliable mechanic and build a business relationship with them. Many mechanics out there can fix your car, and they all want your business, but unfortunately not all of them are 100% honest. With a little research, you can find a trustworthy mechanic with a solid reputation of excellence in your area.
Many options exist to help consumers find businesses that they can trust. Review sites such as Yelp.com and Yahoo! Local are a great place to start. The mechanic with the best reviews will usually be your best bet. The responses from real people to the service they received is quite revealing to how they were treated in the business transaction. Do not rely solely on reviews, though. You should always check with the Better Business Bureauto make sure that the mechanic’s local reputation matches the description found in the reviews. A little bit of reading can make the difference between spending a fortune on pointless repairs and getting a reasonable price from a respected garage.
Also, it is important to know the going rate for repairs in your area. For example, if you need a new radiator, you can use Google or Bing to look up the make and model of your vehicle with the words, “repair cost for radiator replacement.” This will give a general idea of what mechanics are charging for these services in your area. Many mechanics will also perform a free estimate, so do not feel bad about shopping around. It is important to know who will give you the most reasonable deal.
Reducing the cost of those repair bills
Another way to reduce the cost is to order the parts yourself from a reputable auto parts store such as AutoZone or Napa Auto Parts. You can always get a free professional estimate from a garage and then order the necessary items yourself. Believe it or not, this requires practically no automobile repair knowledge or experience. A mechanic will normally order the parts for you and inevitably charge a fee for performing this service. Ordering the parts yourself only requires that you know the make and model of the vehicle and the name of the part that needs changing. This will allow you to supply the mechanic with the parts needed. By providing the parts yourself, you will only get charged an hourly labor rate for the actual work the mechanic performs. You make the mechanic’s life easier and save yourself a bundle at the same time.
You might also consider seeking the advice of friends and family. You may find that your cousin, brother, or father is knowledgeable about vehicle repair. You may be able to work out a deal with them that would be beneficial to you both to get your car the maintenance and repair it needs. Instead of paying $25 an hour (the going rate for a mechanic) you might offer to mow their lawn, pay them at a discounted family rate, or help them do something that they can’t do on their own.
The last resort
If all of these techniques fail, and you still find yourself pouring money down a bottomless automotive pit, then maybe it is time to consider a new vehicle. Eventually all cars will fail. It may be sooner or it may be later, but they are only machines, and they will wear out. Depending on the year and mileage of your vehicle, it might be time to consider if reasonable payments on a better car might be less than the money you continuously spend on repairs. It really is a question of math.
No matter what course of action you choose, you don’t have to live as a slave to your vehicle! There are ways to break free of the money pit.