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How to Save Money on Auto Repair

Auto repair can be a costly proposition, even for routine items such as oil changes and tire rotations. But the need for such work is often unavoidable, particularly as cars get older and drivers tend to keep them longer than in the past.

Auto-related spending is expected to grow over the next decade, reflecting increased vehicle complexity and an aging driver population, according to a study by JP Morgan Chase & Co. At the same time, there are fewer trained technicians in the field than in the past. Almost 733,000 automotive technicians were employed in 2021, a decline of more than 5% from the previous year, according to TechForce Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for technical careers. That means many repair shops may be stretched thin.

Keeping your car in good shape can help you avoid costly repairs. But if you do need to visit an auto shop, it’s important to understand what the bill should cover so you don’t end up overpaying for the work.

Start by checking with local mechanics to see what they charge for the type of repair you need. Prices vary, but a well-established shop with a solid reputation is likely to be reasonable. Ask about warranties, too. Many shops offer a limited warranty on parts and labor.

Then, once you’ve found a shop that appears to do quality work at a fair price, take your vehicle there for smaller repairs and maintenance items, such as oil and filter changes. It’s a way to establish a relationship with the shop and its staff. If the work seems to go well, consider bringing in your vehicle for a more expensive repair or a major service like engine or transmission work.

When the work is completed, always check the shop’s invoice to make sure it lists each item of work done and its cost, including labor. Also make sure it identifies which replacement parts, if any, are used, remanufactured or not original equipment, and whether those parts have any warranty coverage. Your state may require repair shops to disclose this information.

Also check that the odometer reading on your Hemlock auto repair vehicle is accurate. Some repair shops create their own maintenance schedules, which may call for servicing more frequently than the manufacturer’s recommendations in your owner’s manual for your type of driving. Compare those schedules with the ones in your manual and ask the shop to explain — and document — why it recommends more frequent maintenance than the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Finally, if you’re not happy with a repair or with the customer service from a particular shop, talk with the manager or owner. Often, such disputes can be resolved by discussing the issue with the shop and coming to a compromise. If that fails, you might try using an alternative dispute resolution program or filing a claim in small claims court.

It’s important to have your car in working order, both for safety and to minimize wear-and-tear on the vehicle. But if the repair costs are going to be too high for you, it may be worth the investment to upgrade to a newer car.