Simple Ways to Keep from Getting Gouged for Routine Maintenance

No one looks forward to vehicle repairs or maintenance; often because owners often feel they do not know enough to prevent them from overpaying at the dealership or mechanic.  Most of us try our best to find an honest, reputable repair / maintenance shop to keep our vehicles functioning well, and we just hope we are not taken advantage of in the process. What car owners need to know is that there are a few important facts that will help them make informed decisions and prevent the uncertain feeling and overly high costs that sometimes are the end result of what should have been a simple trip to the mechanic.

One of the most common maintenance must for every car and truck is an oil change at the proper intervals. There seems to be a quick-type, inexpensive lube shop around every corner advertising fast and cheap oil changes with no appointment. These businesses are not making much of their profits on the actual oil changes; they count on getting you in for the oil change and then upselling more expensive services like filter changes, transmission maintenance and other services that add substantially to your end price. You may need these services; the mechanics are not necessarily being dishonest, but the fact is that it’s very simple to change your own air filter at home. The same goes for windshield wipers and other small tasks that just require you to check your manual and buy the right product for your car or truck, and simply install them yourself for a fraction of the maintenance shop price. Check the maintenance schedule for newer vehicles; often the newer vehicles do not require an oil change as frequently as the shop might suggest.

Many car owners also end up paying much more than the advertised price for a tune up. Instead of simply requesting a tune up at the shop, ask what services are included for the price listed. It varies from place to place, and it is a very smart idea to ask for an evaluation of your vehicle rather than using the blanket term of “tune up.” Ask the mechanic which specific services he or she feels your car requires and why, and ask for an estimate which includes all charges, including labor and taxes. Sometimes businesses will give an estimate only including parts, which is misleading and can leave you with a bill quite a bit larger than you were prepared for.

It is important to be sure your vehicle’s fluids are at the proper levels, and this is an easy maintenance procedure to do for yourself as well. If you agree to let a mechanic “top off the fluids,” you could end up paying top dollar for a simple fill of your windshield wiper fluid. All the fluids for your vehicle are sold at auto parts stores for a fraction of the price that a dealership or mechanic might charge. Again, check your manual and ask for help choosing the right product at the store.

Brakes must also be checked and serviced at proper intervals for your safety. This should be a simple task for any mechanic, but understand that this should be a job that takes an hour or a little less. You will pay for a full hour of labor, though, even if the job takes 45 minutes, which is standard. However, if other services for your car are suggested by the mechanic other than, for example, the brake pads you thought you needed, take the time to get a second opinion. Extensive brake work can be costly, and it will serve you better to take the time to do a little homework rather than just agreeing to services that might not be necessary.

Lastly, be careful when considering a repair contract from your car dealership when purchasing a new vehicle. This may sound like a smart idea, but “MoneyWatch” considers this type of contract something to avoid, because you are adding to the total price of your vehicle. In doing so, you are adding interest paid on the contract, which makes it less of a value to you. In essence, you are paying in advance for services your vehicle may not even require. Simply putting money aside in an account to pay for maintenance will likely end up costing you much less than a contract.

It all comes down to making wise choices when having routine maintenance done for your vehicle. Owning one is expensive enough; simply educating yourself about some simple things you can do on your own to avoid extra costs. Ask trusted friends who they use for vehicle maintenance, and check for AAA approval. The more information car owners have, the less they pay to keep their vehicles running safely and efficiently.

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